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*.
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?