B'way Casting Directors Defy Attempt to Break Union

June 22, 2017
By Joe Maniscalco

Casting directors vow to fight on.

New York, NY - The organization representing Broadway producers and theater owners is crying foul after the top casting directors in the industry and their supporters rallied outside Radio City Music Hall earlier this month, demanding union recognition and a fair contract. 

In June 8, letters sent to opposing counsels, Broadway League attorney Bernard M. Plum demanded an end to further actions casting a shadow on Tony Award season and branded casting directors seeking healthcare and pension benefits as a “cartel” intent on unlawfully squeezing producers and theater owners. 

“The effect if not design of the Union's efforts would eliminate competition among independent casting director companies,” Plum wrote. “Such collective action, undertaken for the purpose of increasing the cost of casting director services, is a per se violation of the antitrust laws. The casting directors cannot shield these activities just because Local 817 has been enlisted to facilitate their cartel. While Local 817 may seek to represent employees of casting director companies, it may not orchestrate a price fixing scheme among those organizations.”

The Broadway League’s refusal to bargain with the creative teams responsible for helping them stage the industry’s biggest money makers has put them in direct opposition with no less than Lin-Manuel Miranda — Hamilton mastermind and undisputed reigning king of Broadway. 

“Yup, yup,” Miranda wrote in a June 11, Tweet in support of casting directors and their #FairnessForCasting campaign. A plethora of other celebrities including Bette Mildler, Bryan Cranston, Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, Liam Neeson and others have also pledged their support for casting directors.

Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Abuda said in a statement, “As an artist, I believe it is our social responsibility to stand united with those involved in all areas of the theatrical creative process. And so, I stand with Fairness for Casting and their pursuits; and, I hope for a day where their craft and contributions, like my own, are given the equal support of our entire community.”

IBT Local 817 successfully bargained a union contract on behalf of the same casting directors working in the film & television industry more 

Rallying for casting directors.

than 10 years ago. The Broadway’s League’s continued intransigence has left Local 817 President Tom O’Donnell scratching his head a little, but still convinced Broadway casting directors will prevail.

“I am a little surprised how far they’ve dug in because we’ve been at this for over a year now,” O’Donnell told LaborPress.

Broadway’s $1.5 billion industry is virtually one-hundred percent unionized — except for casting directors.

“We believe the Broadway League has an obligation to engage and bargain with Local 817, and our union will not be intimidated or afraid of threats while offering our full support,” IATSE Local 1 President James J. Claffey Jr., said in a statement. “The membership of Local One are trade unionists, and we will continue to support Broadway's casting directors for as long as it takes for them to find justice.” 

Tara Rubin, casting director for Jersey Boys, Dear Evan Hansen and other shows, jeered the Broadway League’s attempt to crush the union.  

“What sustained me through a theater career of long evenings and weekends in the office and working for months without pay, was that I thought I was working for progressive people who supported social justice and human rights,” Rubin said. “Now, I find that because I have spoken up for my rights as an American worker — and the future of my profession — I am in receipt of the equivalent of a Donald Trump tweet: a threatening and bullying letter. It didn't work. Casting directors won't give up this fight until we have the benefits that all other Broadway workers receive.”

Local elected officials have been vocal in their support of other union workers currently fighting for the livelihoods on Long Island, as well as New York City. According to O’Donnell, it is another avenue of support waiting to be tapped.  

“We really haven’t fully tapped into the political realm,” O’Donnell said. “I would like to think we will be recognized.”

The Broadway League has not responded to requests for comment. 



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