In response to the numerous allegations of pervasive sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, SAG-AFTRA, the union representing performers, recently adopted a “Code of Conduct” for handling sexual harassment claims against producers. As the representative of performers across the country, it is only natural that SAG-AFTRA would seek to address the sexual harassment scandal that has pervaded the industry. The opening of this new front against sexual harassment may provide support for more performers to come forward and bring claims against producers.
The Code of Conduct provides a resource for performers to assist them in filing civil and criminal complaints against their employers, as well as processing claims under the collective bargaining agreements (CBA) between SAG-AFTRA and the Producer’s Alliance. It also ominously claims that the union is “willing to use the union’s enforcement powers to protect our members, including directing them not to work for employers who will not keep them safe.”
SAG-AFTRA, as a labor union, has certain powers and limitations in advancing the interests of its members. In terms of legal claims, the union can point performers in the right direction, or possibly pay for legal counsel (which is not mentioned in the Code), but it is unlikely that it could directly bring sexual harassment claims in court on behalf of members. Unions are typically bound by the grievance and arbitration procedures contained in their CBAs. In addition, the union is also subject to conflicts in terms of member-on-member sexual harassment, which could lead to inaction or delays on behalf of the accuser. Finally, like most unions, SAG-AFTRA is bound by a no-strike clause in its CBAs, which would likely limit its ability to carry through on its threat to direct members not to work for certain employers.