The power of Broadway’s casting directors has grown enormously over the past two decades, but they are still not recognized as unionized employees by the Broadway League, the organization of theatrical producers and theatre owners.
The Theatrical Teamsters Local 817 sent a letter to “All Members of the Theatre Casting Community” October 28 protesting the fact that the League is refusing to negotiate improved benefits for the directors, or even to recognize Local 817 as their union. The Teamsters currently are recognized by the film and television industries as representing casting directors. The League recognizes about a dozen unions for employees from actors and directors to musicians, doormen, and press agents.
Casting directors work with directors and producers of shows to help them sort through the thousands of actors who might be right for a part. Auditioning for a casting director has become almost as important as auditioning for the actual part you want. A few of the casting directors are well known, especially Bernard Telsey, Tara Rubin, and Jay Binder, but Local 817 president Thomas J. O’Donnell told Playbill.com that there are 50-60 full- and part-time casting directors whom Local 817 represents.
Telsey told Playbill.com, ”We are now looking for [casting directors] on Broadway to be recognized by the Broadway League so they can receive health insurance and other benefits that every other member on Broadway receives.”
He said the letters “C.S.A.” that appear next to the names of casting directors in Playbill credits is the Casting Society of America and is not a union but a society of casting directors.
O’Donnell said he first approached the League in June 2016 and met with a League representative over the summer, but had received “a polite but firm ‘no‘” on his request for Local 817 to be recognized as representing the casting directors. He declined to specify what Local 817’s next step will be.
Playbill.com has sought a response from the Broadway League and will post it once it is received.
Here is the full text of O’Donnell's October 28 letter.
To All Members of the Theatre Casting Community:
Re: Fairness for Broadway Casting Directors
Did you know that casting directors are among the only craftspeople on Broadway that do not have employer provided health care and pension benefits? Neither did I.
Quite frankly, I was shocked that such important contributors to the success of Broadway have been denied basic rights and benefits. Most of Broadway is covered by collective bargaining agreements, but the casting community has been left behind.
It’s no surprise then that the theatrical casting community authorized the Teamsters to represent them. Teamsters Local 817 already represents casting directors throughout the entertainment industry where they are recognized in television, feature films and new media by many of the same production companies on Broadway – Disney, Warner Brothers, Fox and Universal have all recognized and negotiated with casting directors in these other media.
Regrettably, the Broadway League has refused to recognize the bargaining rights of the casting community. It is especially disheartening that casting directors continue to be treated unfairly when Broadway is celebrating an unprecedented resurgence.
As we all know, the casting community is an integral part of the success of Broadway and as such they deserve the same rights and benefits as casting directors throughout the entertainment industry and as virtually every other person employed on Broadway. Local 817 is committed to the struggle for Fairness for Broadway Casting Directors, a struggle supported by other Broadway unions including IATSE Local One, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the Actors Equity Association, and Musicians AFM Local 802.
As the Producers continue to enjoy the best attended and highest grossing season in Broadway history, it is time to recognize the valuable contributions of the casting community. Because you care about Broadway, we are reaching out for your help and support. Please contact your friends at the Broadway League (212-764-1122 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell them that you support Fairness for Casting Directors.
Thomas J. O’Donnell