The short answer is no.
No, no, no!
How do I know? I called SAG-AFTRA months ago and had a long discussion with them.
If you receive an audition request or posting requesting talent who are only “union” talent, meaning SAG-AFTRA or Ficore, submit anyway even if you are not a union talent. A union talent is one who pays SAG-AFTRA for their membership on an annual basis.
What do you do if the production wants you but you are non union? You educate them. You tell them that depending on where the production originates, being a union member may not matter at all. If a union production originates in a Right to Work state then there is no need to have production write up a Taft Hartley Report.
If you are not in a Right to Work state, then you may have a Taft Hartley Report created and that means according to the union, you have one credit for working a union production. Does this mean anything? Yes. Despite our pandemic, SAG-AFTRA has refused to alter their rules to force membership on talent when they have worked 2 principal role productions and are considered a Must Join. If you are auditioning for a union project, there is a chance, if production wants you, that you will have to join the union in order to work that job. Unless this is in a right to work. There is no way to get around this situation unless you decline the job and only work non-union jobs.
What does joining the union require? The biggest thing it requires is a payment every year of at least $3000.00 US Dollars or more depending on various factors based on your income. There is no way to avoid these payments. If you avoid them and you book another union job, SAG-AFTRA could say you’re not a member in good standing and if that happens and you can’t rectify the problem asap, you will not get the role.
There’s only a few union products around, most projects are going non-union. True. If you can afford to pay the fee each year and want more work, the best way to do this is to become Ficore.
As an agent and casting company I can say the majority of my talent who are union have converted to being Ficore. That way they can work in the field they love without rules and limitations. They also succeed in the business more because they are constantly working a mix of whatever jobs they want to work. If you do not go Ficore, you cannot work any job that has video production in it unless it’s a union job. Ficore talent still pay their union fee though, don’t think that disappears.
The best way to get answers to your questions about the union is to call them. I highly suggest calling the NY or Los Angeles office, the small offices are not very responsive with their telephone skills.