Following the Broadway League's announcement that the 2016–2017 season was the highest-grossing on record, taking in $1.5 billion, the industry’s casting directors released a statement questioning why producers continue to deny them a union contract.
Broadway casting directors joined Teamsters Local 817 in 2016, but the Broadway League has yet to negotiate a union contract with them. Without such a contract, casting directors are left to find health insurance on their own. Their employers also make no contributions toward their retirement.
“It's unconscionable that Broadway producers made $1.5 billion last year, yet won't provide casting directors with healthcare or a retirement plan,” stated Cindy Tolan, a Broadway casting director for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella.
“This is the biggest snub of the Tony season,” added Tom O’Donnell, president of Teamsters Local 817. “Every actor, director, stage hand, costume designer, and set designer on Broadway has a union and has a contract. Other Broadway workers don’t have to choose between paying the rent and going to the doctor. There is no reason these wealthy producers can’t take care of their casting directors too.”
“We are the only employees on Broadway who do not have healthcare or a pension. It's Tony season and our productions are being celebrated, but we are being overlooked,” stated Tara Rubin, casting director for Jersey Boys, Dear Evan Hansen, among other shows.
Casting directors are involved in a production from beginning to the end, assembling actors for readings or workshops, while later recasting roles and scouting new talent. Casting directors often work for months or years on a show before they get a formal contract from the producer.
“We need a union contract so that all casting directors and future casting directors will be protected,” said Bernie Telsey, casting director for Hamilton and Hello, Dolly!
The Broadway League provided the following to Playbill in response to the casting directors' joint statement:
The Broadway League respects and appreciates the work of casting directors and their valuable contributions to our Broadway productions. Casting directors that are owners or employees of casting companies, however, are not employees of our shows. Like other vendors such as advertising agencies, accountants and lawyers, whose collaborations we also value, casting companies are engaged as independent contractors; they 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.
Casting directors, according to the statement, have the support of other Broadway unions, including IATSE Local One, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the Actors Equity Association, and Musicians AFM Local 802.