What is Financial Core (Fi-Core)?
Examining the “core” and the controversy
(By Tonya Tannenbaum)
(Photo: Sasun Bughdaryan | Unsplash)
Financial core, or Fi-Core, is a legal designation or status that allows some actors to work in both union and non-union projects. It’s a highly controversial option with huge implications for both actors and unions.
SAG-AFTRA members are only allowed to work in the union’s signatory projects. They are not allowed to work in non-union projects. Those are only available to non-union actors. A Fi-Core status allows actors to work in both.
In this classification, actors elect to technically become non-members of the union. However, they continue to pay dues as if they are members, as a so-called “fee-paying non-member”, thus, granting them the ability to work in a union environment.
Fact: Of the 160,000 active SAG-AFTRA fee-payers, 3,000 (around 2%) are Fi-Core.
It’s called “financial core” because these actors are allowed to work union jobs as long as they pay for “core” union services, such as negotiating employment contracts. But they forgo the right to participate in “non-core” activities.
The Fi-Core status stems from a 1963 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Labor Board vs. General Motors. In it, the Court ruled that workers can work in a union environment as long as they meet the core financial requirements of members.
By paying these “core” costs, Fi-Core workers can enjoy basic union benefits, such as collective bargaining and grievance adjustment. They cannot, as a condition of employment, be required to support union activities beyond these basic, core activities.
While Fi-Core actors are unbound by the internal rules and regulations of the union, they also lose their voting rights on the contracts they work under and forego the ability to hold elected office in the union, as they are no longer union members.
(Photo by JP Valery on Unsplash)
Weakening the Union
Financial Core is highly controversial. Many consider Fi-Core actors to be “scabs”, who weaken actor unions, since Fi-Core actors make their talents available to production companies that are not union signatories.
As a result, a union has less leverage in employer negotiations. It can also weaken the union’s financial health, long term.
Some union actors will also claim to be Fi-Core in order to work non-union jobs. These actors have not truly declared themselves to be Fi-Core, but they tell casting offices and production companies that they are, hoping to not get caught. This is known in the industry as “working off the card”, referring to a SAG card.
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