The Broadway League, the trade association representing Broadway producers, theatre owners, and general managers, filed a lawsuit against multiple New York casting companies in the wake of their continued efforts to unionize.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York December 5 from the League’s attorneys at Proskauer Rose LLP, lists seven prominent casting companies in the theatre industry as defendants: Telsey + Company, Tara Rubin Casting, Caparelliotis Casting, Jim Carnahan Casting, Calleri Casting, Cindy Tolan Casting, and Stewart/Whitley Casting. Collectively, the named defendants have handled casting for roughly 75 percent of Broadway shows in the past five years.
Also named are the Casting Society of America and Local 817 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union casting directors have rallied to join and to be recognized under by the League.
The lawsuit argues the casting directors’ actions in their pursuit of representation violates the Sherman Act, designed to maintain competitive behavior and pricing between companies. The League alleges this violation of antitrust law included a “conspiracy” to eliminate competition, in turn raising and fixing fees for their services, and boycott work for producers who did not meet their new terms.
Casting directors have been fighting for union contracts under Local 817 since last year, earning the support of other theatre unions, including Actors’ Equity Association. The ongoing plea prompted a series of rallies and protests, including outside Radio City Music Hall during rehearsals for the 2017 Tony Awards. Industry members (primarily actors, whose careers had directly been affected by casting directors) voiced their support through the “#FairnessForCasting” social media campaign.
Throughout these demonstrations, casting directors stated that they sought representation in order to earn health insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits production employees received as union members.
The League’s lawsuit claims these causes are a “cover story,” maintaining that as they stand, casting directors are not production employees but rather independent contractors, outlining reasons including that casting companies provide their own workspaces and databases and employ their own employees and arrange their compensation.
In the past, the League has responded to the casting directors’ rallies by suggesting they resolve the matter through the National Labor Relations Board. As the subsequent lawsuit was announced, Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said in a statement, “The defendants continuing illegal and anticompetitive cartel behavior is jeopardizing the survival of Broadway shows, and bringing real harm to the actors, stagehands, musicians, and others who depend on the theatre for their very livelihood. We have no choice but to seek a legal remedy to the cartel’s illegal behavior.”