The Hollywood Actors Union's New Code Of Conduct On Sexual Harassment Reflects The #TimesUp & #MeToo Movements

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Hollywood has spoken: #TimesUp on harassment, abuse, and abuse of power. The fewer marginalized voices that have to say #MeToo, the better. And now, policies are going into effect that make this change possible. SAG-AFTRA, the Hollywood actors union, issued a "Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment" that reflects these new movements, and they changes they've made are encouraging. Change comes from the top, and SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris told Variety that she knows that.

“To truly change the culture we must be courageous and willing,” Carteris told the publication. “At its most basic, this Code will ultimately help better define what harassment is, and what members’ rights are in real world situations. We are going further, however, with the launch of our Four Pillars of Change initiative to achieve safe workplaces and advance equity.”

The complete Code of Conduct can be found on SAG-AFTRA's official website. In addition to a clear and concise breakdown of the official rules, the document ends with information on legal resources and professional hotlines. The code itself can best be summarized by its own introduction:

Employers have a legal and contractual obligation to maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment. SAG-AFTRA is committed to holding employers accountable for meeting this obligation. We are prepared to work cooperatively with employers towards the achievement of this goal, but are also 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.This SAG-AFTRA Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment (“Code of Conduct”) marks our rededication to upholding professional standards and addressing the toxic and often unlawful workplace culture that many of our members face on a daily basis.

This is best exemplified by the guild's "Four Pillars of Change" approach to combating harassment. SAG-AFTRA's new code of conduct has prevention, intervention, education, and legal protection built into it.

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White told Variety,

Our comprehensive approach ensures that we stay focused on providing members with clear information, making training available that is relevant and practical, and working with industry partners to expand our tools to intervene and support victims of workplace harassment and assault. We are very excited to engage in this effort.
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Cateris herself is a Hollywood veteran actor — she is best known for her role as Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills, 90210 in the '90s and she has been SAG-AFTRA president since 2016.

The 2012 merger between SAG and AFTRA meant that the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists came under one organization. The union now represents approximately 160,000 broadcasters, producers and performers, all of whom will be expected to learn and adhere to the official code of conduct.

As the new code states:

We expect our members to live up to these standards, including in their dealings with other members and employees.As a union that draws its strength from collective action, we also expect our members to uphold our collective responsibility, stop harassing conduct whenever possible, support those who speak up, and report the offensive conduct whenever possible. STOP. SUPPORT. REPORT.

Its language is plain and clear, and has the stated goal of educating and empowering members of SAG-AFTRA, while also condemning those who would abuse their power and ensuring the safety of survivors. It's as bold as it is admirable, and a big step Hollywood has taken since the #MeToo movement began in Fall 2017. When combined with the newly created #TimesUp legal defense fund, it appears that the film and television industry is truly on a path to change.

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The major actors guild, led by president and longtime actor Carteris, has taken a firm stand on harassment. #TimesUp on harassment and abuses of power, and SAG-AFTRA members will hopefully feel truly empowered by these changes.