Before we begin: This information is not 'legal advice.' This information is researched and complied to help actors better understand "Right To Work" States.
Part of becoming a working actor is understanding your rights as well as limitations for working opportunities. As an actor, depending on which states you work in, there are different laws that determine what types of work and benefits you may receive.
These laws are directly related to the organization of unions within those states. States can be differentiated as being "closed shops" or "open shops". States that are identified as "open shop" states are also known as "right-to-work" states.
Let's differentiate between "closed shop" and "open shop" states for a second. A "closed shop" state is a state where there are no union prevention laws. What this means is that in order to work for a unionized project, the employees are required to pay into the union since the union is fighting for the workers' rights. An "open shop" state is a state where there are union prevention laws.
This means that an employee in a unionized project does not have to pay into the union to work, however that employee still receives all the benefits provided by the union. These states can also be defined as "right-to-work" states because they allow an employee to work even if they are not part of a union.
What does working in a "right-to-work" state mean for union and non-union actors? For union actors, there is not too much that is different than working in a "closed shop" state. Union members will still maintain all of the benefits that they receive for paying their union dues.
However, SAG-AFTRA has stated that union members must still be obligated to follow Global Rule One under their union membership which states that union members are not allowed to work on non-union projects. As for non-union actors, these actors are allowed to work on unionized projects in "right-to-work" states without having to pay into union dues.
However, these non-union actors will still receive the same benefits as a union actor working on the same project because they are protected by the states "right-to-work" laws. This is a huge benefit for non-union actors to make a living without penalty or disagreements from the unions in these "right-to-work" states.
Below is a list of the 27 "right-to-work" states:
Out of all of these "right to work" states Georgia is one that stands out the most due to the large entertainment hub in Atlanta. Atlanta is one of the largest on-the-rise entertainment hubs in the USA. The combination of the increased amount of work in Atlanta as well as Georgia being a "right to work" state allows for non-union actors to flourish in that environment where actors can make a sustainable living and benefit from the benefits provided by the unions.
For actors looking for opportunities to not only make money but also grow their acting resume and experience, Atlanta is a very desirable location to be in! And in my opinion and experience, additional desirable locations include Chicago, Virginia/DC, New Orleans, Florida and Utah.
Becoming more informed about your working rights as an actor will help you to create a sustainable career in the entertainment industry.
We hope that this article has been helpful!
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