Broadway casting directors and industry allies marched from Shubert Alley to outside the offices of The Broadway League August 21 in a rally to garner support for a union contract.
Assembling outside 729 7th Avenue in the theatre district, the casting directors (including Bernard Telsey and Tara Rubin), Teamsters Local 817 President Tom O’Donnell, and members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) vocalized the need for recognition of the casting directors’ union—and the benefits that should follow—in front of an inflatable union rat.
“We’ve had incredible support from the artists, from actors and directors and writers,” Telsey, who casts such shows as Hamilton and Hello, Dolly!, told Playbill. “Now, what’s even more exciting is we have the support of New York City. We have multiple city organizers, city councilmen, and all of the other Broadway unions, who are 100 percent supportive of this. It’s amazing to see the New York government officials get behind this, because it is a New York issue.”
There are approximately 40 full-time casting directors currently representing Broadway productions—and myriad others on part-time contracts—who are represented by Local 817. However, because their union is not recognized by the Broadway League, casting directors do not receive health insurance and additional benefits offered to other members of the industry.
“It is crazy that the younger generation of casting directors don’t have a pension or don’t have health insurance to build a career,” Telsey added, before urging supporters to write to city councilmen and the Broadway League.
Also in attendance were artists supporting the cause, including Maayan Laufer, who rallied at the urging of her manager Annette E. Alvarez of Multi-Ethnic Talent. “It’s going to be a win-win,” Laufer said. “When this wins, everyone will benefit. Because what kind of energy are they going to have in the room when they are fairly compensated for their work? And that’s going to help the actors and the project.”
In a statement first provided to Playbill in May, the Broadway League has responded by saying, “[Casting companies] are separate businesses with their own employees and typically work on more than one show at a time within and outside our industry.
“We have had a respectful dialogue in the past year with Teamsters Local 817 but do not believe it would be appropriate for the Broadway League or its producing members to recognize a union as the bargaining representative of professionals who are not employees of our productions. To the extent that Local 817 or the casting companies themselves disagree, we have encouraged them to seek a determination from the National Labor Relations Board, which is the appropriate forum to resolve disputes of this nature. We have even made clear to the union that we are prepared to expedite an NLRB process.”