AIP038 | The Return to Work: The Coronavirus, SAG-AFTRA, and Some Uncommon Sense about Actors’ Rights and Safety

In this long-form episode and sonic journey, host Ben Hauck questions the logic that actors cannot always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while they do their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ben explains how the “common sense” SAG-AFTRA’s president Gabrielle Carteris and others hold that actors can’t always wear PPE runs counter to data and safety, two values that SAG-AFTRA expressly exalts in the creation of safety protocols for the return to entertainment-industry work. Ben points out the danger to actors such a belief is, because it necessarily means that actors won’t always be wearing PPE when they work, putting themselves and crew members at risk.

Ben argues that the pandemic has turned “common sense” upside down, as evidenced by the continued production of  late-night variety shows like Full Frontal with Samantha BeeThe Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Saturday Night Live, despite obvious creative constraints brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The late-night variety shows have also provided data to help gauge the economic successes of their new low-tech productions, which may indicate what other compromises productions might make in order to successfully produce a show — while also protecting actors from coming down with COVID-19.

While Ben provides ideas on how to move forward safely with actors, he also lays down reasonable skepticism that SAG-AFTRA can help the individual actor during the pandemic, citing the union’s furlough of many of its representatives, as well as that SAG-AFTRA reps are actually Teamsters. Ben ponders whether the Teamsters might fight against SAG-AFTRA as employer, should SAG-AFTRA try to unilaterally enact policies that the Teamsters would rather negotiate. Ben wonders if this might spell trouble for contract administration and grievance adjustment for actors.

Given this skepticism about SAG-AFTRA’s ability to protect actors amid the pandemic, Ben provides tips for actors to help themselves upon the return to work. Ben also provides a rundown of important rights actors have as employees under the National Labor Relations Act, touching on Section 7 rights, Weingarten rights, and retaliation by employers or unions. These tips and rights will help actors should they encounter safety issues at work in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Episode Sponsor

Stand-In Central: The Coronavirus Series

Since 2010, Stand-In Central has covered the topic of TV and film stand-ins. Not only has Stand-In Central provided keen insight into the mysterious behind-the-scenes entertainment job, but it has also run advice and advocacy to help stand-ins navigate the difficult world of set life.

The coronavirus pandemic is a time when stand-ins are largely out of work, and stand-ins’ concerns on the return to work are unique among cast and crew. Stand-ins fear being left out of safety considerations. That’s why Stand-In Central has run a series of articles on the coronavirus pandemic as it relates to SAG-AFTRA stand-ins.

The deep-dive articles in The Coronavirus Series on Stand-In Central are free and thoughtfully written. Read them all at

☞ Links

Ben references a few items of interest in this podcast episode.

SAG-AFTRA National President Gabrielle Carteris Saying That Actors Cannot Always Utilize PPE
SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White Expressing SAG-AFTRA’s Interest in Data
Press Release Announcing Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding Assisting SAG-AFTRA on Coronavirus-Related Safety Protocols
Notable Late-Night Variety Series Episodes amid the Pandemic
SAG-AFTRA’s On-Set Emergency Hotline
The National Labor Relations Act

The National Labor Relations Act governs the interactions in the private sector among employers, labor organizations, and employees.


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