Disclaimer: As I am not an accredited therapist or licensed medical doctor, I am not in any way telling you what to do with your life. I will only describe my personal experience as a financial core voice actor.
“Financial core,” or “fi-core,” is based on a Supreme Court decision that affects all labor unions in the United States. By legal definition, being fi-core is to be “a dues paying non-member.”
As a fi-core dues paying non-member of SAG-AFTRA, my arrangement with the union is mostly self-explanatory. SAG-AFTRA retains its typical percentage cut of every union job I do, just as the union retains a cut of every union member’s earnings. As a non-member, I have the freedom to take non-union jobs without penalty from the union. If a union member does a non-union job and is caught by SAG-AFTRA, the actor is subject to a fine penalty and possible expulsion, regardless of whether the actor is working in a right-to-work state.
As a non-member, here are examples of SAG-AFTRA perks I’m not entitled to:
- I cannot run for SAG-AFTRA office (President, Secretary, etc.).
- I will never be nominated for a SAG award.
- I cannot attend union meetings or vote in union matters.
- I do not receive union schwag such as DVD screeners, etc.
Fi-core non-members are eligible for SAG-AFTRA health and pension benefits just like union members, so long as they’ve earned at least $17,000 in union jobs during a calendar quarter, as of this date.
As a fi-core non-member I’m paid union broadcast residuals, as residuals are part of the union’s contract rates.
Personally, I only accept non-union jobs that offer union comparable rates because I’m then giving my time to a non-union job when I could have been available to accept union work (which goes towards my health and pension eligibility). The non-union job then has the burden of having to make itself monetarily worth my while. Since there is no non-union standardized rate sheet to point to, it’s up to the agent or the talent to set the boundary on an acceptable fee. The only kind of non-union job I will not do is a commercial that holds a conflict for a kind of product or service. These non-union commercials generally offer a “buyout,” a fee to make up for the year or two, or however long, the actor will not be permitted to audition for or work on commercials for similar products or services. The buyouts offered never make up for the potentially lost annual earnings, not even close. A non-union commercial buyout would benefit a non-union actor, but not a fi-core actor who is also participating in the union market.
In 2016, non-union work was 36% of my total income. In 2015, non-union work was 43% of my total income. In 2014, non-union work was 49% of my total income. For me, non-union work affords me the cost of living in Los Angeles and keeping up with all the expenses my job requires of me.
Becoming fi-core is a simple no fuss process. As so many templates available on the internet will suggest, simply state your desire to become financial core and send it via physical mail to your union. You will receive a notice via mail confirming the union has received your request and that you are now a dues paying non-member, and life will continue as before.
Note that while some might say going financial core is an irreversible move, the truth is that you can at least request reinstating full status, subject to fees and hearings and a subsequent decision by the union.