What is Financial Core? Financial Core (fi-core) is a right granted by the U.S. Supreme Court and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rulings that allow workers in all unions (not just actors) to NOT join a union and still work union jobs. Basically, you become a dues paying non-member in the eyes of your union and you are entitled to work both union and non-union jobs. You can not be forced to join a union, but you must pay your fair share in the form of initiation fees and union dues. The History of Fi-core As states industrialized and made their own laws about whether they were to be a union state or a right-to-work state, union states supported legislation like the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which required workers to join a labor union in order to continue work under a union contract. Right-to-work states allowed unions to exist in their jurisdictions, but workers could not be required to pay anything to the union as a condition of employment and union membership is completely voluntary. Today there are 25 right-to-work states, including entertainment heavy Florida, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, Georgia, and Texas.California and New York are both union states. A problem arose within the union states in the late 1950s. Unions had quickly become a very strong political force in this country.What about the members who did not want their forced dues money to be spent on political causes? They had to join the union in order to work but that membership was essentially stepping on their constitutional freedom to vote. The answer was Financial Core, a concept defined by a 1963 Supreme Court ruling called NLRB v. GENERAL MOTORS. This ruling says: The burdens of membership upon which employment may be conditioned are expressly limited to the payment of initiation fees and monthly dues. It is permissible to condition employment upon membership, but membership, insofar as it has significance to employment rights, may in turn be conditioned only upon payment of fees and dues. Membership as a condition of employment is whittled down to its financial core. In other words, the union can make you pay for the costs of union business, but they cannot force you to pay for political or ideological activities. Another landmark Supreme Court case, COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA v. BECK (commonly called the Beck Decision, or Beck Rights), further solidified the definition of fi-core and said that workers who declare financial core status only have to pay the fraction of the dues that is directly related to contract negotiation, enforcement, etc. In the Beck Decision, the court ruled that only 21% of Mr. Beck's union dues were related to contract negotiation, so that is all he had to pay. SAG contends that approximately 98% of dues money is directly related to collective bargaining, contract negotiation, etc.. SAG and AFTRA themselves have a few court rulings to their credit: In BUCKLEY v. AFTRA, 419 U.S. 1093 (1974) where AFTRA violated the NRLA by coercing Buckley into becoming a full-fledged member, and the Supreme Court ruling of MARQUEZ v. SCREEN ACTORS GUILD, et al (1998) where the union was chastised for denying Ms. Marquez work because she had not paid SAG dues, but also for not informing her of her right to fi-core status.
These cases may bring to mind similar familiar stories in Florida and other right-to-work states where talent were coerced or misinformed that they had to join the union in order to work on union projects. On February 17, 2001, President George W. Bush signed an executive order that unions are obliged to inform all prospective members of their financial core rights or Beck rights before they join the union. How Financial Core Applies to SAG, AFTRA or AEA Financial Core is made possible through a Supreme Court decision which would forbid SAG, AFTRA or AEA from taking disciplinary action against any member who works on a non-union project.You want to act and the opportunities for union employment are slim. This is a legal way for you to work on both union and non-union projects without any hassles from the unions. This is how you can continue to work in your chosen craft regularly and not have to turn down job opportunities that you may desperately want.In a global economy where there are fewer and fewer union projects each year, financial core may be an option. How to go Financial Core with SAG If you decide that you want to go financial core with SAG, all you simply have to do is this: Send a certified letter to the SAG legal department, stating your wish to "enable your financial core status." Los Angeles address: 5757 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, Ca. 90036 Miami address:7300 N Kendall Dr, Suite 620, Miami, FL 33156 If you are currently a union member and live in a union state or a right-to-work state, you must first resign your union membership and then declare your financial core rights.
If you are currently a union member, live and work in a right-to-work state, and have no aspirations of working in a union state, then honorary withdrawal may be what is right for you. If you are not yet a union member, and you live in a union state, you would wait until you were a must-join and then claim your rights, rather than join. You do this via certified letter to the union, return receipt requested.You are never considered a must-join in a right-to-work state. A sample letter might include the following language: Dear Executive Director of Screen Actors Guild:
Since I object to that portion of my compulsory union dues which does not finance the contract process, I hereby resign full constitutional membership in the Screen Actors Guild and (declare myself a financial core status worker) or (declare and enable my financial core status) in all jurisdictions of your contracts with employers.I make this declaration within the meaning of financial core worker as defined in the series of US Supreme Court decisions culminating in CWA v. BECK. Please recalculate my financial core dues amount owed within the existing Screen Actors Guild policy and NLRB guidelines. Signed, Name, Address, Union I.D. or SS# The union should then send you a bill for the reduced dues. SAG generally sends a bill marked "non-member". You must pay the dues.Again, this is not Honorary Withdrawal. Another tip might be to carry your bill with you as proof that you have, in fact paid your dues, in case producers or casting directors get confused by the terminology. SAG will probably try to talk you out of it, but don't let that stop you. You will still have to pay SAG dues, you will still get all your health and welfare benefits, in essence, you are still like anyone else in the union. The reality is that you will still be categorized as a member on a traditional SAG Station 12 Confirmation so the only people who will know that you are fi-core is you, your agent and who ever else you decide to inform.What you won't be able to do is run for SAG office, vote in any SAG elections, or participate in some SAG-related functions. It's Your Decision You have a tough, personal decision to make.Do you want to vote for the next SAG president or increase your opportunities to work? There are an increasing number of non-union projects each year and a steadily decreasing number of union projects.Non-union projects often don't pay anywhere near the SAG rates, but some pay quite well. The financial payoff may not be as big, but you can still take those SAG gigs when they come along.You may not book any more than you do now but you'll have access to more employment opportunities. Ultimately, you're not giving up much.You're just enhancing the opportunity for potential employment. Many SAG actors have done it, many more Los Angeles and New York SAG actors are in the process of doing it, Charlton Heston, of all people, endorsed it, and it's your legal right to enact it. (Compiled from various sources.)
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