Name of Union: Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), San Francisco – Northern California Local
Mission: From Fresno to the Oregon border, our local works to advance, foster, promote and benefit all local SAG-AFTRA performer and broadcast members; secure and protect their rights; and assist in securing equitable compensation and safe working conditions.
Current Leadership of Union: Kathryn Howell serves as president of the SAG-AFTRA San Francisco-Northern California Local. Howell holds a BFA in theatre and has gained numerous credits in theater, film and television throughout her professional career.
She first became involved in union service through joining the Actors’ Equity Association. In the early 2000s, she began serving on committees for the region’s SAG branch and was elected its president in 2006, a leadership role she has continued, following the merger of SAG and AFTRA in 2012 and formation of the SAG-AFTRA San Francisco-Northern California Local.
In addition to her work on local committees, Howell has also served on the SAG legacy and SAG-AFTRA National Boards as well as the National TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee.
Number of Members: 4,500.
Members Work As: Actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voice-over artists and other media professionals.
Industries Represented: Broadcast, film, television, online media, sound recordings, new media, streaming.
History: The Screen Actors Guild formed in 1933 during the heyday of the Hollywood studio system, when six actors came together to discuss forming a self-governing organization of film actors. One of the new organization’s first actions was protesting provisions in the U.S. government’s proposed code of fair competition for motion pictures that were objectionable to actors, including salary limitations, licensing of agents by producers and giving studios a right of first refusal when a contract ended, an act that severely limited an actor’s bargaining power.
In 1937, the American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA) formed and would eventually become the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or “AFTRA,” after the rise of television in the 1950s. San Francisco was designated as one of the first six locals in the country, with corresponding locations in Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Chicago and Cincinnati. That same year, SAG negotiated its first contract with 13 producers signing on; the following year, AFRA signed its first national contract.
By 1941, both unions began to move toward more actively expanding the rights of their members. That same year, AFRA engaged in its first strike against Cincinnati-based radio station WKRC. Over a decade later, SAG would hold its first strike against television commercial companies from 1952 through the following year.
In 1959, SAG’s governing body added National Board seats for local representation from branches around the country. The first group to participate in national affairs included members from New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and San Francisco.
During this time, a major shift for both unions was a stronger focus on battling discrimination, both in front of and behind the camera. SAG spent the remainder of the century dealing with the expansion of broadcast productions and the growth of new technologies that would continually change the industry well into the present day.
Talk of merging the various performer unions, including SAG and AFTRA (as it was known then), began as early as the late 1930s, but the eventually a combined SAG-AFTRA wouldn’t officially be recognized until 2012, AFTRA’s 75th anniversary year. The merger was overwhelmingly approved by the membership of each legacy union, and SAG President Ken Howard and AFTRA President Roberta Reardon became the first SAG-AFTRA co-presidents.
The national organization continues to advocate for members in the workplace, offering Diversity in Casting incentives for filmmakers and landmark industry standards and protocols for the use of intimacy coordinators. The union is also is actively ahead of the rapid changes in media distribution.
Current Campaigns/Community Efforts: On a local level, the SAG-AFTRA SF-NorCal Local now offers a Regional Commercial Code and a Corporate/Educational waiver with reduced rates and usage for projects shooting within our jurisdiction.
In addition, SF-NorCal Local business representatives serve the daily needs of members while identifying opportunities for outreach and organization. They guide local filmmakers through the process of hiring SAG-AFTRA members and work in concert with film commission offices to encourage productions to take advantage of filming incentives within the region, city and state of California.
This past year, local SAG-AFTRA broadcast members led campaign efforts to put pressure on Entercom Communications, the owner of local all-news station KCBS Radio 740AM /106.9FM and music station Alice 97.3 during negotiations of more than a dozen union contracts covering SAG-AFTRA members around the country. The members coordinated T-shirt days, held a day of action on Twitter and undertook other grassroots efforts from broadcast members and other unions on a national scale. The campaign, supported by the San Francisco Labor Council, led to SAG-AFTRA members winning fair contracts with their employer and led the way for other coordinated campaigns across the country.
Another initiative, The Bay Area Safety Summit, is a project of local broadcast unions SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, IBEW, NABET, local television and radio news stations, and local police departments. It is aimed at promoting the safety, security and well-being of field news crews working in the Bay Area. With news crews covering difficult stories in our community and facing security issues in the field such as robberies and unruly crowds, as well as major weather events such as wildfires and floods, this group meets biannually to discuss and share best practices, protocols and efforts to improve safety.
Here’s a link to a story and pic that features members from all four television stations at a recent safety summit: https://www.sagaftra.org/standing-safety
The Women in Broadcast initiative is an effort to forge connections and solidarity among women working in broadcast in the Bay Area. SAG-AFTRA’s local membership includes women working as anchors, reporters, editors, disc jockeys, sports announcers, producers and board operators, the focus of the initiative has been to promote women’s leadership, collectivize challenges and opportunities for women in our rapidly changing broadcast industries and to collaborate across workplaces.