Okay everyone, I'm sure I can tick off a lot of people by opening up this pandora's box, but I really want to clarify a few things which I'm happy to expound upon later if asked.
Financial core = a dues paying "non-member" who's allowed to do union and non union work.
The only thing they can't do is vote on union issues and IMHO, the union doesn't ever consider it's members' votes anyway.
Yes you can join as Fi-Core even though many union peeps may try to tell you otherwise. It is not true that you have to join as union first and then go fi-core!

There has not been a talent agency union franchise agreement in place for quite a few years.. The agents got ticked at the union trying to tell them how to run their offices and denying the agents the ability to earn extra money by either teaching or co-producing projects and as a result, agents have nothing against you being Fi-Core and there's no stigma involved.

No clients will ever know you are FiCore. That is something the union wants to keep a secret because once it gets out how many people are Core, the union would have No Clout at all. When a client Station 12s the list of talent that will be used on a union project, they submit the talents' social security numbers and the union responds with either the words "Okay, Must Join, or Taft Hartley" beside each actor's name. Charlton Heston who once was the president of Sag was Core and there are tons of well-known actors who have gone that route.

Most talents do not know that a client has to pay 60% extra on top of the actual union wage to the payroll company to cover state and federal taxes, the Health and Retirement 15% and the 10% agency fee along with a signatory payroll fee averaging at least 6% of the gross talent pay.
These are the union rates for interactive VOs as of 4/1/10
1 voice 1 hour = $400.65
Up to 3 voices or 4 hour day = $801.30
Additional voice = $267.10 per voice ** but not for minor roles.
6-10 voices or 6 hour day = $1,602.65

***This is NEW---$800 is for an unlimited amount of minor voices. It's called Atmospheric
Not sure yet if it's for 4 hours but I think so. Unclear how many lines constitutes a minor role.

If you do a cartoon (that's direct to DVD) you only get the half day rate for the entire full first day. If you work beyond the first day, rates return to the above. Not sure if this is different for cartoons that are aired.

As FiCore, if you work a union gig, your 15% H & R is still paid and goes toward your possibly qualifying to buy your own health coverage. You have to earn a minimum of $15 K a year as a single actor to be able to purchase union health coverage. It's not free.

If you are already union and considering going FiCore, all you have to do is fax or mail your union office a letter stating that effective immediately you are going Financial Core Status and you wish your dues to be adjusted accordingly. You won't save more than about 90 cents on dues, but after they get your letter, someone will inevitably call you to try and talk you out of your decision. They will tell you how it could cost you over $1000 to reinstate yourself to full union status (why would you ever need to?) and they will try and tell you how you are hurting the union's ability to best serve you. That's BS. As I said, no one will ever know you are FiCore except the union and you. I was full union status for SAG and AFTRA for over 15 years and I went FiCore about 2 years ago. Never a problem.
You have to mail them back your precious membership card (Big deal--go to Kinkos, make a color copy and frame it if it's so dear to you.)
No one will ever ask to see your card.
If you go to a union job, you are considered union.
Agents can talk freely about FiCore now without thinking a Mobster from the union will slit their throat.

Here are a few issues I have about the union.
It's supposed to be a national union that we belong to. But instead of facilitating us being hired outside our locale, the union makes a client prove they've done an earnest local search for talent and couldn't find anyone with your qualifications before they are "allowed to bring you into their locale." Technically with everything being electronic nowadays, this seldom presents an issue, but when it comes to travel fees, it can cost the client more than your performance to pay for your travel anytime you go outside the 30 mile radius from the nearest union office......figured on $139/per hour and 39 cents a gallon for gas. Boy they sure don't pay well for gas. Anyway, your mileage is figured out using something like MapQuest from your door to the studio's door.  I am not sure they are still paying this high of a rate in 2011.  I have a feeling it's considerably less now.
Being that our union offices in San Diego closed years ago, LA is considered our office. But if we try and get the travel fees we are entitled to as union members, LA clients will either find a local talent or say, "If you want the job.....all it pays is scale...take it or leave it."
Yes the union will fight for you if you tell them to, but you will soon be blackballed in the industry if you do.

So even though we belong to a national union, it's rather discriminatory as far as making jobs universally user-friendly to actors in different cities.

Same thing goes if you have a problem getting an agent or a problem with the agent you have. The union will follow up on a complaint if you file one, but they will admit that if you stir up things, you'll soon be on the undesirable list.

I respect anyone who doggedly stays totally union, but I merely wanted to point out some facts which few people know to allow everyone to make up their minds based on truth rather than rumor. NO one will blackball you if you are FiCore. On the contrary, agents love it when they can send you out on every kind of job. And no clients talk to each other comparing notes about how much they paid a certain actor for different jobs.

I've had people think FiCore means we don't pay dues, but we pay 99.99% of the same dues as every other union member. We don't save $5 anymore either for belonging to both unions. Membership dues are also increased every time you earn more with each union job.

Here's the last thing many people don't know about collecting unemployment from a union job. Just like our normal unemployment works by being cumulative...once you reach a certain quarter, every union job you work for will allow you to go collect unemployment the day after you record for that client. Yes you can even do that as a FiCore member as long as the job was a union job. They say the LA unemployment office has a special side door for the big stars to collect after they finish their multi-million dollar movies.
What's bad about this is how this client you worked for, who may have several full time employees at their business that they pay unemployment insurance for........may be hit with a rate increase for their unemployment if they start getting a lot of claims by actors who may have only worked for them in a studio for an hour.

And here's the final question which few people can find an answer to;
Of all the Health and Retirement contributions we've put into the kitty over the years-----what can we expect to reap (dollar-wise) when WE retire?
If anyone knows that answer, please share.

Lastly---people have considered legal action against the union because it seems unethical to be a dues paying NON member. How can you pay dues to NOT belong to something?
But no one has followed up with that idea because the union is it's own CLUB and can have its own rules.

Best to all,

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Replies to This Discussion

Yeah, the unions could be a little more responsive to it's members. They have a long history of not listening. On the other hand, the union's Boards of Directors make the decisions, and these boards are made up of actors just like us. Maybe we are just too flakey for our own good :-)

As you know, .....one of the things you can't do as Core is vote, and I asked union officers if our popular vote is actually counted and honored when it comes to decisions. I was told, no, --that the board takes votes into consideration, but ultimately they make their decisions.......sounds like the same prob we have with the electoral college electing our President.
Regardless of who is flaky and who is messing up the works, the fact that SAG and AFTRA will never see eye to eye, even though their rates are the same, is just the tip of the problematic iceberg.
Thanks again for your input.
Wow. This is a great point. It certainly is one of the primary reasons to stay union. But keep in mind, security from a client continuing to use your work longer than you want is not a result of being a union member. It is the result of having a contract for the job. It is my general rule to not "give buyouts" even if the work is nonunion (that doesn't mean I never do it). All you need is an enforceable agreement between you and your client, an email or detailed invoice (I'm not a lawyer so your mileage may vary). Even the nonunion agents I work with these days are restricting use to 13 week multiples. I have certainly had many union producers use my work for longer than they paid, and I can't say the unions did very much about it.

Exclusivity is a real problem. And since it is no longer spelled out the same way in union contracts it is even more difficult to deal with. We no longer have to give exclusivity to our radio clients, but try working for two different car manufacturers at the same time and see what happens.

Great post Haneen! Wouldn't it be wonderful if no voice talent ever did buyouts?

My thoughts can be summed up in words like...how ridiculous, stupid, grasping for straws,etc.
I don't have time at the moment to write a diatribe, but I've been in the biz for decades both union and ficore so I speak from experience as well as having seen years of union propaganda against Fi Core.
Let me assure you, most spots will never air longer than their 13 week buyout and non-union jobs DO have those terms that state a time limit. No one would ever be sued and six figures! Paleeze! That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard.
The union cannot take any disciplinary action if you are FiCore because it's your right to work union and non union. So what's this jibberish about dodging disciplinary action? Go FiCore and you are not working "off card." Simple.
If you do a union job, it will definitely have a buy out time and even then, if the client doesn't ask you upfront if you have any current conflicts, that's their responsibility.
The other inane remark was about having a reputation of being FiCore. Nowadays there is no stigma about being FiCore and most agents welcome that, as do clients. No agents have a union franchise agreement so it's perfectly great to tell people you are ficore. Doesn't mean you have to sell yourself cheap...everything is negotiable....even the union rates...as you can go over scale etc.

If you prefer to remain anonymous (but most people wear the FiCore badge proudly since it shows they're smart and have had it with union BS)---the only people to know you are ficore are you, the union and your agent. The client can ask you if you're union and you can say yes or "I am entitled to work union."
But when a union job gets the talent approved for the job, the client station 12s the talent by the talent's Soc Sec #. The results will simply show "Ok,"(if you are FiCore or Union) or "Taft-Hartley" or "Must join," (if they have already been Taft-Hartleyed once before).The client will never know you're ficore if you're doing a union job. Why do you think the union tries to keep the Ficore list of talents secret? If we could see how many people, including celebrities, are FiCore, the union would disintegrate in a heartbeat. Or at least everyone would be Core.
Clients do NOT discuss you outside their own business. So this rumor about someone finding out you did a non union job cheaply so they won't want to pay you a good union wage....is rubbish.
From my perspective as a talent, director and casting director, I know it's very unprofessional and highly unlikely for one business to even know who the talent was for another company's spot....and even less probable that anyone would be amateurish or unprofessional enough to ask, "Hey what did you pay Joe Blow for that spot he did for you?"
Just not done.
Legally liable for 6 figures is the latest BS propaganda that is totally unfounded and meant to dissuade people from going FiCore. The union is desperate and despite them telling you that once you go Core, they may not allow you back as full union or it can cost you $2000 etc, I got a letter last year from SAG granting us amnesty to rejoin as full union with no penalty.
My question is, "Why would anyone need to?" If you are legally able to work union and non union as FiCore, unless you want to be a union officer or vote (they don't side with tallies though---the union will act as they wish despite your votes)---well then you can figure out the smoke and mirrors game.
Show me any legal document supporting that six figure hogwash. The industry doesn't pay anyone 6 figures unless you're a movie star. :)
Haneen, I just clicked on that link to that Chicago actor's blog, and it speaks about on camera jobs which may indeed pay a lot more than VO work and for national spots, when you're seen, of course it's different than when you are a voice. But his comment about being asked to go off card for a union job that paid only about $200 further shows me that this blogger is unaware of how union fees cost the client 60% more than the project fee, because to pay a union actor, you have to go through a union signatory payroll company and pay their fee, all the withholding, state and federal taxes, the 14.5% H & R fee which is assessed on top of the total which includes the 10% agency fee. So one reason FiCore helps your clients and you is by making the client only pay the actual project fee which you get in total and can figure out your own withholdings, but also he avoids a pile of time consuming paperwork. People talk about residuals which is good to go union to get.....but most spots aren't shown past 13 weeks. Residuals come more into play with movies, tv shows, cartoons, etc.
The actor writing that blog is in Chicago and the midwest is notorious union territory, stemming from the days of old with manufacturing unions.
You are never asked to show your union card anymore and every union job gets Station 12 pre approval like I said before, so you are highly unlikely to be sued unless you are stupid enough to knowingly do a conflict of interest spot without disclosing your position first and getting clearance from both parties. And this actor saying that he knows that people see you and recognize you and therefore other clients want to use you falls short when it comes to conflicts of interest. Ford isn't going to want the guy who advertised Chevy. But VO only--is a lot safer because no one will voice print you and the only people that have to "worry" about being fined are those union people who aren't FiCore.
Let me know what you think.
THANK YOU LANI SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS! This is EXACTLY the information I've been looking for and waiting to hear for a long long time. It's also going to help a fellow colleague of mine overcome her fears of doing "non-union" work and still retaining union membership. She's been on "in-active" status for a long time now. Does it matter if she's SAG...and not AFTRA? Or the the merging of the unions fix that problem as well?

I'm glad I popped over to this forum to see this!

May the "voiceover Gods" bless you for all the days of your life...

With sincere respect and great appreciation...

You are so welcome Tom and it doesn't matter at all which union. You can be FiCore for one not the other or both. Unfortunately since she's gone inactive, she may have to pay a thousand bucks or whatever she can negotiate to be reinstated. I doubt they would let her transition from inactive to FiCore. Always worth having her try and negotiate but not until she has a union job which might pay enough in case she has to be reinstated in order to go FiCore. I know a couple of years ago the LA union was offering to let people go back with no payment or penalty. I think they're in need, so to speak. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.
To address a previous post about radio, I started out AFTRA because I was at a union radio station. Those days are long ago and I hope unions protect jobs and don't gouge clients no matter what realm it's in.
Best of luck to you and yours and I hope every day is better and better.
Hi Lani

Thank you for taking the time to clarify this. I am fi-core and have been a little ashamed of this status fearing that it would impact me negatively but now you have taken away the stigma. Warm regards, Susan
Be proud of FiCore and spread the word. I'm still trying to help the union straighten themselves out but it's almost hopeless. Thus remember, be user friendly as possible and don't let anything or anyone stand in your way!!
You have the right idea. More and more people are wising up and I wish the unions would wise up too.
Have fun and never give up hope.
Great info., Lani. I have heard all these same points, but not to this amount of detail. Many thanks.

You replied below "you can be a member of AFTRA in good standing for a year and then get a SAG card". I didn't know this. If that's true, I'd like to join AFTRA asap, so I can go Fi-Core w/ SAG in a year. Thoughts?

Thanks again.

Why go union in the first place? There are not that many union jobs, but the initiation fees are super high for both and you probably won't make that money back quickly....not with AFTRA and unless you're on a hit TV show or doing National Spots, SAG may not pay for itself. You can join either union as FiCore but beware as I've heard stories how the union tries to say you can't. They used every excuse including, "We don't have those forms right now, but if you join as a regular member you can go FiCore later...but we warn you that it's up to the union whether or not we will allow you to return and it could cost you upwards of a thousand dollars to resinstate." Yeah right. I told them, "if the forms are in your NY office, can't they fax them to you, or how long do you think it'd take to mail them to the west coast?"
And about them deciding to let you back in, I got a yellow letter of "Amnesty" a few years ago, practically begging me to rejoin without any penalty. They're pretty desparate. Wait to be Taft Hartleyed before you join. With AFTRA you can do one TAFT HARTLEY every 5 years.


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