Friday, March 24, 2006

Financial Core and the '82 Strike

"Financial Core." Those two words are not loved by labor organizations. They represent a status some members occasionally take to remove themselves from the embracing arms of a guild or union but allows them to continue to work under that union or guild's jurisdiction... The status was invented by the Supreme Court years ago as a way-station for individuals who felt they were forced to join a union against their will. It enabled them to work under the union's jurisdiction without being a member. Though they have to pay union dues and fees, they can't vote or participate in union activities. They also aren't subject to a union's disciplinary rules. If they cross the union's picket line, they can't be punished. If they work a "non-union job," no reprisals by the union can be taken against them. Now, I'm simplifying a bit, but this is essentially the way "Financial Core" works. Most Hollywood guilds and unions don't have huge difficulties with it because the vast majority of their members opt for full membership. Why? Because even in this age of rampant corporatism, there is a culture within the Hollywood labor movement that works against members opting for "financial core" status. (This is one of the big reasons, I think, that unions in the movie business are still relatively strong. And wages are still relatively high.) For a long time, The Animation Guild had a number of individuals who had taken "financial core" status -- more than any West Coast IATSE local. This happened because of a long, debilitating strike that the Animation Guild inhitiated against every animation studio in 1982. The central issue was...runaway production (sound familiar?). Vance Gerry -- one of the greatest story artists ever to work at Walt Disney Feature Animation -- and Laughing Boy (moi), in the first hour of the first day of a ten-week strike. (We're at the front gate of Disney's, on Buena Vista Street.) We weren't so jolly ten weeks later, but we both stayed out until the bitter end... A short job action (two weeks long) in '79 had secured a guarantee of employment for employed studio artists and technicians before work could be sent offshore; in '82, the studios were bound and determined to roll back that guarantee. A ten-week strike resulted -- the longest in West Coast Animation's history. Day after day, week after week, we plodded up and down the summer sidewalks in blistering heat while guild negotiators fought with the studios over the "runaway" clause. In the ninth week, a large number of Disney strikers, tired of no paychecks and little progress in contract talks, took "financial core" status, crossed the picket line and returned to work. Days later, the President of the IATSE ordered the Guild to call off the strike and tell the people still on the line to go back to their jobs. The contract was settled, minus the guarantee for jobs before work could be sent out of the country. So it ended badly. Bitterness against the guild, between members who stayed out and members who resigned and went back in, lingered for a long time. But twenty-three years have now passed, and most of the scars have faded. And a funny thing has happened: Over the decades, lots of people who took financial core status in '82 have returned to full membership. And many who are still resigned but continue working, think of themselves as full members. (I know because I've talked to a lot of them). They've pretty much forgotten about the resignation letter that sits in their files in the union office.


Kevin Koch said...

Which means this is probably a good time to remind those who are still on financial core status that right now would be a great time to come back into the fold. All it takes is a letter requesting reinstatement.

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