Hollywood's Union Way
March 2nd, 2013 | R. Rados
Being the outdated and unnecessary entities that they are, unions continue to fortify the establishments and institutions that have kept us in shackles. Unions were designed to protect the rights of workers from the predatory practices of corporations and industrialists. Today, unions are nothing more than the stitches that keep the fabric of the status quo together. In this case, the status quo consists of incompetence, grossly inflated salaries, recycled myths, and the endless expansion of government and bureaucracy. The status quo feeds off of attitudes, trends, and values. The place that controls these things, and ensures the status quo remains fat and well-fed, is Hollywood. SAG-AFTRA's influence on Hollywood affects Hollywood's influence on America and the world.
If you're looking for incompetence, grossly inflated salaries, recycled cliches, and endless bureaucracy, you'll find it all in Hollywood. If you've ever wondered why actors get paid so much, wonder no more. Leonardo DiCaprio makes more than 10 million per film. He and others like him get their own dressing rooms, the best catering services, and fair, flexible contracts to compliment their exorbitant salaries. Pay less, expect less is the guiding principle of the real world. Add a few unions and that principle gets flushed into the sewer.
Leo DiCaprio isn't only wealthy because of the SAG – the free market still plays the largest role. He and other expensive actors make as much as they do because studios are willing to pay them as much as they think they're "worth". However, what most studios are unwilling to do is hire an actor who might be better and cheaper than Leo, but isn't a member of the SAG-AFTRA. This is a situation that has been created by the SAG's “Global Rule One”, which forbids any member to work on a non-union project and attempts to punish studios that promote or initiate non-union productions. In March of last year, the Screen Actors Guild merged with the American Federation Of Television And Radio Artists. The SAG's mission statement was kept in place and still promises “to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits, and working conditions for its performers”. “Equitable working conditions” in Hollywood means the right amount of space in a dressing room and top-notch catering. These superb working conditions that make time on grueling film sets more bearable were brought to fruition by a union.
One reason actors receive such high compensations for their work is because movies gross large amounts of money. There was a time when actors received far less than they do today, even when we take inflation into account. In the early 1930's, stage, film, and radio actors had stricter contracts and less compensation when compared to the revenue generated by major productions. Most of the money grossed by films and stage plays was taken home by studio executives and producers. This eventually pissed the actors off and resulted in the creation of entities like SAG. Now, actors and performers are reaping the benefits of “equitable” compensation and working conditions.
Since almost all of Hollywood's major studios have contracts or agreements with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA, the chances of getting your foot in the door are slim. Like most unions, the more experienced and tenured are often given top priority. “Join the union, kid. Then come back in a few years,” is what that fat, sweaty producer in a Hawaiian shirt will tell you if you haven't joined the SAG. Your best bet would be to join low budget productions that no one will ever see. Often, even low budget productions have contracts with some sort of Hollywood union. Even if they don't, if anyone ever notices you, you'll be required to haul your broke ass to the bank and fork over a hefty $3000 initiation fee to join SAG-AFTRA before anyone will hire you for a real job.
Your initiation fees and dues will be directed at certain political and social goals. A majority of American unions are direct financial donors to the Democratic Party, including SAG-AFTRA, which is directly and indirectly associated with the AAAA (Associated Actors And Artistes Of America) and the AFL-CIO (American Federation Of Labor And Congress Of Industrial Organizations).
SAG-AFTRA is indirectly affiliated with the AFL-CIO through the AAAA, which is directly associated with the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO is one of the Democratic Party's largest donors.
When it comes to election time, unions initiate campaigns across America. They directly fund the party of choice and make financial contributions to PACs. Encouraging union members to vote for a particular candidate or party is standard practice during an election year. That one candidate or party will be the one that has been recognized as the most union friendly. All unions around the world will affiliate themselves with the most union friendly candidates and encourage their members to vote in a way that would protect the interests of their unions.
Not every member of SAG-AFTRA is necessarily aligned with their union's political goals. Take Vince Vaughn and Bruce Willis as two examples. However, a staggering majority of SAG-AFTRA members are supporters of the Democratic Party. Given the strict policies of the union as well as an actor's inability to maintain a career without it, it can be assumed that fear and intimidation play major roles in Hollywood's obvious political biases. Few actors and members would dare to challenge this status quo by publicly supporting a Republican or third party candidate. When they do, it can result in ridicule, verbal threats, defamation, and character assassination at the hands of fellow unionized personalities and Democratic supporters. Take Clint Eastwood, Stacy Dash, and Melissa Joan Hart as examples.
No Hollywood union has ever ejected a member for supporting the wrong candidate or having the wrong political views, but the extraordinary amount of negative attention directed at such members has often been damaging to their careers.
With directors, producers, writers, actors, and production crews holding membership cards for some kind of union, it's hard to imagine how a majority of the film industry could be made up of anything but pro-union, liberal lefties. This political bias manifests itself in scripts, visions, and motives. We see it in our favorite television shows and films. The anti-conservative sneers and jeers written into films and programs are a part of the formula that has been submissively adopted by most SAG-AFTRA, WGA, DGA, and AMPTP members. This has made Hollywood one of the most powerful and influential union towns in America. In most industries, tradesmen and laborers can still find work without a union membership. In Hollywood, a certain political bias or anti-union sentiment could get you barred from ever realizing your dreams of being an actor, a director, a writer, or a producer. Unless you're willing to drink the left's bitter punch, you might have to find a new dream.