Monday, April 21, 2008

Financial Core

Financial Core is one of those things that unions and guilds are generally loath to talk about. (For the uneducated, "F.C." is a legal category where an employee working under a union collective bargaining agreement can resign from union membership and take "financial core" status. He or she will still be under the union contract for wages and benefits, and will still pay all or most union dues, but they won't be subject to union discipline or rules, and won't have to strike or honor a union picket line.)

I bring this up because during the recent W.G.A. job action, a number of Writers Guild members resigned and took "financial core" status. And on Friday last, the WGAw and WGAe pilloried them in a joint e-mail:

... In the face of enormous personal and financial hardship on the part of many, you sacrificed in the knowledge that your refusal to work would reap benefits not only for yourselves but countless others in the creative community, now and in the future. Your stalwart resolve paid off. Yet among the many there were a puny few who chose to do otherwise, who consciously and selfishly decided to place their own narrow interests over the greater good. Extreme exceptions to the rule, perhaps, but this handful of members who went financial core, resigning from the union yet continuing to receive the benefits of a union contract, must be held at arm’s length by the rest of us and judged accountable for what they are – strikebreakers whose actions placed everything for which we fought so hard at risk ...

The two guilds then go on to publish some of the strikebreakers' names*.

Ouch.

Screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August give their opinions about the e-mail on their respective blogs. They're not complimentary.

But you can go read them for yourself. My purpose here is to give you my take, and here it is:

People go fi core for a whole raft of reasons, but usually it's because they are under duress.

Like living check-to-check and on the verge of losing their house.

Or being thrown out of their apartment.

Or having children to support.

The point is, Verrone and Winship likely don't know, and certainly I don't know, what motivated each of these writers to break ranks and return to work during the strike. But I remember a lengthy strike in which I participated during the 1980s, and the desperation in a lot of people's eyes as the thing went on ... and on ... and on.

And some people finally couldn't take it any more, sent letters to TAG about their choice to go financial core, and returned to work.

And a week later, the picket signs came down and everyone still out -- including me -- returned to their jobs.

And a couple of days after that I found myself sitting on the patio of the Disney commissary eating lunch, and one of the line-crossers came up to me. Sheepishly. He said:

"Steve? You don't hate me, do you? I mean, because I came back in early? Because I had to have some money? Get back to work?"

I shrugged and shook my head, saying that everybody had to do what they had to do, that life was too short to hold grudges, and nothing would change between us, at least as far as I was concerned.

The guy looked relieved, shook my hand and went in to lunch. And we got along cordially from then until he retired and moved to the other side of the country. I never forgot that he went "fi core", but I forgave him for it there on the commissary patio, days after the strike he'd "broken" had ended.

And here's my thoughts on the actions of Writers Guild Presidents Veronne and Winship: What they did on Friday -- cherry-picking the names of (mostly) soap-opera writers, the least powerful and among the lowest paid of WGA members, and making them public -- was churlish, infantile, and counter productive. And really, really shitty.

* I considered linking to the list of financial core writers that the WGAw and WGAe so thoughtfully provided, but then reconsidered. Why be that petty and small-minded?

11 comments:

ted said...

The tone of how they published the names was unnecessary and tasteless, and frankly, typical for the WGA's current state. Thank you for your reasoned and rational response. They make a play for animation and reality, just to beat up on a few soap opera writers? No matter how you slice it, these tactics are inexcusable. There are any number of ways they could have chosen to deal with this. Guild leadership needs to be held to a higher standard, or else we are no different than the companies that use negative tactics to secure 'loyalty.' How many times have studios tried to blacklist talent, only to re-hire them the next day? No one benefits. As an artist, I am appalled.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness I have this blog where I can come read about the latest minutia concerning the Writer's Guild of America.

Anonymous said...

How DASTARDLY of these people to put the needs of their FAMILIES and HOMES above the glory and importance of THE UNION!!!

Anonymous said...

D'ya think maybe this is why unions are held in such low esteem in this country? I think unions do some exceedingly good things, but stuff like this really offsets the good - by a lot.

I recently had to join a teacher's union. My choices were: join the union, not join the union but still pay dues, or not join the union but still pay an amount equal to the dues to a charity that the union selects. I figured that if I'm paying anyway I might as well be in the union, but the (non) choices they provided continue to annoy me.

Steve Hulett said...

Thank goodness I have this blog where I can come read about the latest minutia concerning the Writer's Guild of America.

No thanks necessary. It's a service we're proud to provide.

Anonymous said...

wga providing its own version of a blacklist is hardly minutia.

Anonymous said...

Thats truly sad. It's almost a dictatorship attitude those guys have. It's also easy to pick on the little guys.

Having children myself I can easily relate to the kind of pain that another father or mother has when it comes to their well being. I wouldn't fault anyone for breaking rank if it really affected their family.

Anonymous said...

If you go to the blogs linked and read the many comments by WGA members, it's fascinating. The vast majority is truly pissed that their leadership sent the email-even though as a lot of them state, they themselves lost a lot of money striking...seems that although they support their union, they don't appreciate blackballing and naming people whose personal situations they know NOTHING about and sitting in judgement on them.

Especially when-as they also point out-there were in fact "secret" SCABS in the ranks who double-dealed, working in spite of the strike while they walked picket lines. As they point out again & again, at least the ficore people did a LEGAL move, "shameful" as it may have been.

And to the dumdum who snarked oh-so-cleverly that this is "minutae": not only does this post tell me something I had NO knowledge of in 20 years of union membership-ficore status-but it's pretty damned fasinating as a lesson in politics and people's perceptions of right/wrong vis a vis union dealings. It's of special interest to me as an 839 member. Thanks for the post, Steve(or Jeff).

Anonymous said...

No Class of 3000. Someone needs throw that animation guy under a big yellow bus and see how he likes it.

Steve Hulett said...

... not only does this post tell me something I had NO knowledge of in 20 years of union membership-ficore status-but it's pretty damned fascinating as a lesson in politics and people's perceptions of right/wrong vis a vis union dealings.

Ficore was a big issue during the '82 strike, especially as it lurched into its third month. Strikers went core and crossed the line, and some of them are still working in the biz today.

Over the past couple of decades, we've had a number of people come back into full membership from financial core status. They felt bad about being "outside," applied for reinstitution (we made it simple and relatively painless) and became regular members again.

Then there are a few others who are still ficore who've forgotten their status. (They've kept on paying dues, so maybe it's understandable.) One or two have even ranted at me on the phone about some issue, ending with "you gotta listen to me! I'm a member!"

In actuality, they're not. But memories get faulty as the years go by. I just hang up and let it go.

qatsel said...

R10'nun geçen aylarda başlatıp Adtech'in sponsor olduğu adtech ile reklam 2.0 dönemi başlıyor ve Trkycmhrytllbtpydrklcktr r10.net seo yarışması sitesi. / Tamamen ücretsiz her alanda ödev sitemiz..
Seo adına en güzel makaleler adtech ile reklam 2.0 dönemi başlıyor ve Trkycmhrytllbtpydrklcktr r10.net seo yarışması sayfası.. Toplistimize anında site ekle yin..
Yarisma sitemize bekleriz..

Site Meter