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,
Lani

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Replies to This Discussion

Lani, I am a member of all three unions, joined in the 1970s. Your discussion here is so relevant and informative. As a long-standing member who's dropped in and out of the business, I've had to do some serious soul-searching about membership - the pro's and con's. You provide some explanations in your posting that are difficult to get from the branch offices! Thanks. Whether I decide to hang with them or not, thanks for the succinct facts!
Hello Sharon and thanks for the reply. The thing you might ask yourself is what PROs are there about staying union only? If having a union card or even being a member actually guaranteed talent, we would all be better off. Since you can be a member of AFTRA in good standing for a year and then get a SAG card---and anyone can pay to join AFTRA, where's the talent guarantee?
If you can be an extra in a movie 3 times and get a SAG card--how does being a union member have clout? If you can get a speaking line in a movie because your brother directed it, and it was a union job, you can join SAG. Again, it's like the online casting places where you pay to get auditions in your inbox. These sites are a great resource and I am on them, but since anyone who pays the subscription price can belong to them and flood the auditions with their not-so-great recordings, it can be frustrating doing auditions all day with no feedback. Yet neither the union nor Voice 123 and Voices.com can effectively screen out all the "less talented" people. Too bad, but that's just the way things are, and it would be very subjective and the person playing God, deciding who is good and who isn't...would have to face severe scrutiny and probably not be perfect themselves.
Best of luck in your decision. I respect your choice, but also, remember that if you are able to support your voice habit by being union only, you are one of the few...and I congratulate you.
Going Core merely allows you to work those 85% of the other jobs that are non union while you wait for that great union gig to show up.
Can't thank you enough for your feedback. These are complicated decisions that many of us must make. There are few venues for me to argue my choices! Thanks for the opportunity to talk and actually be heard in a non-judgemental way! You are a very special lady. I'm sure I'll be bugging you about this a bit more later on.
Dear Lani,

Thanks for asking me to join this Forum: there's really good information here! And yes, I'd love to be considered for any animation / videogame castings you have :-)

In terms of Union vs. FiCore: I've been non-Union for the last six years, ever since I got into voiceover (character & commercial). I was a singer/songwriter before that and just kinda fell into VO. I'm absolutely loving it and having a blast! I'm in NYC, freelancing with a number of agents, as well as getting jobs on my own. After booking 4 national commercials (3 are playing on all the major networks right now!) and doing numerous guest-starring roles
on Pokemon, I'm about ready to go Union. Not getting residuals on national commercials is insane!!! Since I've booked these nationals and am constantly sent out on auditions by my agents, I believe it's time to consider going Union. It would be really stupid to even consider that without a Union agent, so my marketing plan is to start meeting those agents after putting together my new commercial reel (with only real bookings on it, not spots done in the studio), and then, hopefully, going Union. But if the Union thing doesn't work out for some reason, I've always believed there was a way out, and that was FiCore. Thanks for much for addressing that. I feel even more determined now!

Best,

Annie
Hold on Annie!!!!
First of all, as FiCore, you get all the union "benefits" if you think residuals are really going to be there for you (there are no residuals in games). If you have national commercials that are UNION---yeah the residuals might be nice, but I've done plenty of national commercials union and non, and haven't gotten residuals. It depends on the contract and where they air.
Don't go straight union if you insist....join as FiCore. There are no Union agents my dear. Of course some can choose to do only union work, but there hasn't been a franchise union agent contract for almost 2 years. No good agents will require you to be union and if you go FiCore you can do both with no loss. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't join as FiCore. That is a lie. But don't join at all until you have a union gig that will pay you over $2600 so you might end up with a couple hundred after you join and pay all the dues and assessment fees.
I had to take the SAG/AFTRA header off my resume years ago even when I was full union JUST TO GET PEOPLE TO TALK TO ME. It's an albatross you don't need around your neck.
No one will know you are FiCore except you and the union. You get all the contributions to your H & R (which few people qualify to be able to BUY) if it's a union gig, and the only thing you don't get to do is vote on union issues. That is no big, let me tell ya'.

And as far as putting real bookings on a demo---that is really not as good as putting totally national sounding spots on there. No one knows you didn't do them, and that is what agents look for.
Let's talk soon.
HI Annie,
Let me simply say that just by going union doesn't automatically get you residuals unless the commercial is a union commercial. Also, people who think they should get residuals on games don't realize that for their hour or two spent voicing a character, it's nothing compared to the countless hours developers spend making the game. They do get a salary, but the hourly is nothing compared to our rates and they don't get residuals. Only large publishers make royalties mostly on localization of games. So please note that there are no franchised union agents (no contracts have been in existence for ages, even though some agencies choose to do mostly union work)
And as far as putting real bookings on your demo......not the best idea. Unless all your reel is national spots. Better to make up things that sound national. No one will know the difference.
Never join as union. If you feel compelled for some reason to join, ONLY if you have a job paying double union scale day rates to pay for initiation, 6 mons pro rated dues and an assessment fee....WAIT. You can always work your first union job by being Taft Hartleyed.
Anyway, feel free to ask away and I'll try to give you as much info as I can from years of experience.
Cheers,
Lani
I think you might experience a feeling of freedom if you go Core, despite the fact you turn in your card and continue to pay dues. No one asks to see your card anymore. But don't lose hope. Being that we are closely connected with the internet, you don't have to live in LA to succeed necessarily.
Let's chat more soon!
Lani
How interesting Lani, I am represented by an agency that told me they wouldn't represent me if I wasn't Union and told me flatly not to go FiCore. They're a great agency but it's a difficult situation.....

James
It certainly can't be that agency starting with a "V" as I know they represent Core people.
I'd look into it and call them on it because that's a direct violation of your right to work.
hi, Lani. Thank you for that wonderful discussion. I would add one thing, and my facts are not entirely clear so please help me out here. From what I understand, Financial Core is not anything particular to SAG and AFTRA, but rather an AFL-CIO thing that came about as a result of rank and file union members NOT wanting a portion of their union dues going to support political causes and candidates. It was a way of holding back financial support from candidates that were supported by the union, but not the individual.
You are right in the theory of how fi core came to be, but I have never heard anyone speak about it with the Steel worker's union or retail clerk's union. I know we pay almost all the full dues of regular membership without saving more than maybe a dollar if we're lucky. I look at Core as a right to work especially since there are not that many union jobs and we don't get hired to work on million dollar movies so we can retire off one gig.
You are right about ficore starting in other places...here is a clip from Wikipedia:

The primary impact of the financial core issue has been in the acting industry. By joining the Screen Actors Guild or American Federation of Television and Radio Artists as a financial core member, an actor can pursue work in states such as California, where union membership is a prerequisite to work in the industry. Full members of these unions are prohibited from working non-union jobs, but financial core members are not restricted by the rules of the unions and so may work either union or non-union jobs. When working a union job, they would receive the same benefits as full constitutional members. Similarly, in the Writer's Guild of America, financial core members are able to remain working during labor strikes.

Proponents of the decision to declare financial core status note that it gives actors a wider range of choices since they can elect to take work that is not available to full members.

Opponents of the decision to declare financial core status note that it weakens the union which won the benefits enjoyed by all workers, even those not bound by union rules. Some claim that financial core members are essentially free loading the system.
Lani,
A wealth of information, especially to a newcomer like myself. As a resident of a non-union State..TX, and looking for local work, would it be best for me to look into FiCore in the future? I have read some on union practices and realize that union is not essential for beginners, however I'm hoping to expand in the future. I may be looking in California...considering a move there as my son will be stationed there for the next several years. So...does it make sense to eventually join up with FiCore while living in TX?
thanks, Kate

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