The financial core (also FiCore or Fi-Core) is a payment so employees can work in a union environment without becoming full members, with the intent of paying only for the basic costs associated with their representation by the union. The United States Supreme Court in 1963 initially defined the financial core in Labor Board v. General Motors, and has continued to clarify what is a core obligation and that unions are required to notify potential employees it is an option. Controversy continues as to what exactly the financial core is – and there are instances of unions not informing employees of their rights.
Under the National Labor Relations Act (Sec. 8 (a) (3)) an employer and a labor organization may agree to condition employment upon membership in the union. The 1963 ruling limited the burdens of membership upon which employment may be conditioned to the payment of initiation fees and monthly dues. In the words of the court, "Membership as a condition of employment is whittled down to its financial core." Or, in other words, "If an employee in a union shop unit refuses to respect any union-imposed obligations other than the duty to pay dues and fees, and membership in the union is therefore denied or terminated, the condition of membership for 8 (a) (3) purposes is nevertheless satisfied and the employee may not be discharged for nonmembership even though he is not a formal member."
In 1988, the Supreme Court again addressed the financial core issue in Communications Workers of America v. Beck. The question this time was whether an employee who is not a formal member in the sense above, but rather a financial core member, can be required to pay full union dues and fees, if those fees are used for purposes beyond collective bargaining, contract administration, or grievance adjustment (so-called collective bargaining activities). The court ruled in a 5 to 3 decision, with Justice William Brennan writing for the majority, that the financial core obligation does not include "the obligation to support union activities beyond those germane to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment."
Most significantly, this financial core definition of the minimum union dues required to get and/or keep employment under a compulsory union contract allows objecting union members to withhold that portion of their compulsory union dues that the union spends on any political activities, campaigns or causes. By resigning full constitutional membership in their labor union and declaring themselves financial core workers citing the Beck ruling, financial core members are termed dues-paying-non-members. They keep their union jobs and all union benefits. However, since they are no longer constitutional members of the labor union, they are free from any union internal rules and regulations governing full constitutional members. They can not hold union elected office nor can they even vote on the union contract from which they receive financial support.
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 Writers 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 riders. However, fi-core workers still pay the majority of union dues; for example, the Financial Core Status deduction for non-members of the Writers Guild of America, West over April 2013–March 2014 was 12.10% less than the regular dues.
- Labor Board v. General Motors
- Labate, Robert J. (Sept. 15, 2000). "The Mystery of Financial Core". Holland & Knight LLP. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
- "National Labor Relations Act". U.S. Congress. 1935. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
- Communication Workers of America v. Beck (1988)
- Writers Guild of America, West. "Notice to Writers Guild of America, West, Inc. Dues Payers". Retrieved 2014-01-21.