Hundreds of SAG-AFTRA Extras Have Lost Health and Pension Benefits Over the Past Decade

sag-aftra-logo
When people talk about how much actors get paid, they tend to either talk aboutthe actors who make millions of dollars per movie or the actors who make most of their money by waiting tables or bartending. While the huge salaries that some movie stars made in the 1990s are mostly a thing of the past, their wages haven’t been hurt as much as those of film and TV extras. According to a new report, wages for extras have declined significantly over the past 10 years, which means that fewer actors qualify for the union’s pension and health plans than ten years ago.

In 2003, 2782 actors who worked as extras regularly earned enough to qualify for benefits. In 2011 that number dropped to 905, a decrease of more than 67%. However, the reasons for the drastic change aren’t just for lack of work — in 2004 SAG raised the minimum earnings qualification for basic health coverage from $7500 a year to $11,000. By 2011 that requirement had been raised to $14,800, which kicked dozens of actors off the health benefit rolls.

Television extras have been hit hardest with the lack of work after SAG merged with AFTRA in 2012. As Deadline notes, according to SAG-AFTRA network television contract, “producers only have to pay union wages — $148 a day for SAG and 3% more for AFTRA – to the first 21 extras and one stand-in hired on the West Coast, and to the first 25 extras plus all stand-ins on the East Coast. After that, they can employ as many nonunion extras at minimum wage as they like.” In other words, producers tend to hire nonunion extras in order to keep production costs down. While this helps put more work in production, at the same time union extras often find themselves squeezed out of work they need to maintain their benefits. Since an increasing amount of films and television shows are now shot outside of union Background Zones (which only cover certain major west coast and east coast cities, their surrounding areas, and Hawaii), producers are increasingly not required to hire union extras.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that when the unions merged they did not merge their health plans. This means that if an actor gets paid $15,000 or more for acting work he or she still might not qualify for health benefits if that work is split across the two contracts. Although the qualifications are set to change on July 1 of this year, it isn’t clear how much this will help actors as long as the pension and health plans remain separate and force their earnings to be divided.

SAG-AFTRA will begin negotiating new film and TV contracts on May 5, and because of these issues hundreds of low-earning members will be hoping for a change in the way the minimum qualifications for benefits are set. It’s just one of many issues that the union still has to confront in the wake of its 2012 merging.

Leave a Reply

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Linnea-Berthelsen-Stranger-Things.jpg
Linnea Berthelse on Her ‘Stranger Things’ Audition and Keeping Her Role a Secret for a Year
“Sometimes when actors don’t get the part, it’s not always about an actor being a bad actor; it’s about connecting to the material.” – Linnea Berthelsen Stranger Things is back on our screens with its second season, something fans have been waiting for ever since season one arrived on Netflix in 2016. Returning to the […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/jonathan-groff-hamilton.jpg
Jonathan Groff on Playing King George III in ‘Hamilton’: “I rehearsed for about a day, and then went into the show”
Can you even imagine stepping into a role in one of the biggest Broadway hits of all time with barely any time to prepare?
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/lina-esco-swat.jpg
Lina Esco on Playing the Only Female Officer on ‘S.W.AT.’: “I have to portray her as someone equal to all of the guys on her team”
"The important thing for me when I read scripts is how much respect I have for the character and how far I can take her" - Lina Esco
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/sam-rockwell-three-billboards.jpg
Sam Rockwell on Typecasting and One of His Worst Auditions
"I’m kind of a workhorse. It takes a toll" - Sam Rockwell
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/rachel-bloom-crazy-ex-girlfriend.jpg
Rachel Bloom: “The way that I learned comedy was not rigid, but this very specific technique taught by the Upright Citizens Brigade”
"I went from being a person who was doing moderately successful videos online and working as a moderately successful TV writer and aspiring to do this to having a Golden Globe." - Rachel Bloom