UPDATED, 10 AM: Here is the response to the Broadway League’s lawsuit against casting directors and their union from Tom O’Donnell, President of Teamsters Local 817, which also represents casting directors in the film and television industry.
“We’ve asked for voluntary union recognition of casting directors, but the Broadway League said no. When casting directors ask for health and pension benefits, the League threatens and sues them. To be clear, the casting directors are not attempting to ‘fix prices’, neither in wages nor benefit contributions. They simply want the same workplace fairness and healthcare afforded to everyone else who works on Broadway. Broadway made over a billion dollars last year. Rather than engage in a dialogue with forty working men and women who have been instrumental to their success, the League spouts fake facts, bullies, and files lawsuits. Sound familiar?”
PREVIOUSLY: Months of stand-off between Broadway’s casting directors and the Broadway League finally seem headed to court.
The casting directors are demanding recognition as a bargaining unit for medical and retirement benefits comparable to those provided other union-represented groups, including actors, musicians, ushers and stagehands. The League has been steadfast in responding that the casting directors are independent contractors and that the matter should be adjudicated by the National Labor Relations Board.
This morning, the League filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York accusing the casting directors of forming a “cartel” in “violation of antitrust laws” for the purposes of “a common scheme to create, enhance, aggregate or exploit their collective market power for casting services for Broadway productions. This scheme has included unlawful contracts, combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade – clear violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Act which was designed to protect against such specific behavior.”
The complaint names seven top casting companies, including Telsey & Co. (which controls 30 per cent of the casting for Broadway shows, according to the suit), Tara Rubin Casting and Cindy Tolan Casting, along with the Casting Society of America and Local 817 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Theatrical Drivers and Helpers, the union that the casting directors chose as their collective bargaining representatives. (The Teamsters already represent Hollywood casting agencies, which won the right to collective bargaining after a similar stand-off.) Read the complaint here.
The casting companies control over 80% of all Broadway shows, according to the League, which added that in recent weeks, they have stepped up their demands. In their latest salvo, they now seek to inflate prices for their services by 29%, adding tens of thousands of dollars to the costs of developing a show.
“We have maintained a respectful dialogue with the defendants, and encouraged them to resolve their issues through the National Labor Relations Board,” said League president Charlotte St. Martin. “However, 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.”
The Broadway League filed a formal legal complaint against a cartel of casting companies who are violating antitrust laws, jeopardizing Broadway shows, and harming actors, stagehands, musicians, and others who depend on the theatre for their livelihood.
“These unlawful agreements by the cartel have included agreements among the defendants and their co-conspirators to (1) eliminate price competition among casting companies; (2) raise, fix or inflate the prices that casting companies charge for their services, including by imposing surcharges on top of any negotiated fees; (3) engage in a concerted refusal to deal, or group boycott, with any producer that did not agree to one or more demands collectively agreed-upon by the defendants; and (4) take such other steps as may be necessary to carry out the agreement.”
No response yet from the casting directors.