How and When to Join a Union or Guild

Is it time for you to join a union or guild?

The United States media and entertainment (M&E) industry is a $703 billion market, comprised of businesses that produce and distribute motion pictures, television programs and commercials, streaming content, music and audio recordings, broadcast, radio, book publishing, video games and supplementary services and products. It represents a third of the global industry, and is the largest M&E marketing in the world. It is expected to reach $804 billion by 2021.[1] Overall, the U.S. film and television industry supports 2.1 million jobs a year.

However, it is not easy to work in the entertainment industry. It often means working many short-term jobs for different employers, and people often join unions in order to ensure fair working conditions, hours, wages, health and retirement benefits that people in more traditional occupations are afforded.

Statistics show union employees make an average of 30% more than their non-union counterparts. In addition 92% of union workers have job-related health coverage versus 68% of non-union workers, and union workers are more likely to have guaranteed pensions than non-union employees.[2] Most importantly, union members benefit from the union’s collective bargaining power to negotiate with employers on their behalf.  

When former President Ronald Reagan was President of the Screen Actors Guild he called union membership one of the most elemental human rights. Speaking to a gathering of Hollywood labor unions in 1946, he said, “Every one of us here realizes that the one hope for progress and a liberal outlook in America and social gains and social welfare depends on organized labor. Right here in this room for the first time is the one thing that the employers have feared most in Hollywood … here is all of labor shoulder to shoulder and side by side exactly the way it should be.”[3]

So how can one join a union?

Some entertainment unions or guilds require evidence of non-union work experience. For example, IATSE Local 700 requires its members to show 175 days of non-union work experience prior to joining the union.[4] Another guild, The Producers Guild of America (PGA), requires long, short, and feature film production experience, as well as references from industry leaders and PGA members.[5]

Another requirement for joining a union or guild are the membership fees that can range from $3,000 - $30,000. If you are thinking of joining a union, but don’t have the funds, consider the Union Initiation Loans* provided by First Entertainment Credit Union.

We currently service the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Art Directors Guild, Motion Picture Editor’s Guild, Producer’s Guild of America, IATSE Local 44, Local 695, and Local 80, and many more!

By Milena Khostikyan
Marketing Analyst


* Loan proceeds must be “Paid Directly” to the Union and/ or Guild. All loans subject to credit approval. Not all members may qualify for the preferred rate; other rates and terms may apply. Loan proceeds may not be used to refinance existing First Entertainment Credit Union loans. Offer may be discontinued at any time.