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Casting Directors

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The stage is now set for a decisive vote by the casting directors on whether they want to unionize and have Local 399 of the Teamsters in Los Angeles and Local 817 in New York be their bargaining agent.
The ballots were in the process of being sent out as Below the Line went to press. Counting is set to start on June 23 for the election, which is being conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. A strike threat earlier in the year by the casting directors was withdrawn and in late January they agreed to go with a vote on whether to choose the Teamsters to represent them.
“We should have an answer before the end of June, and then hopefully the election will get certified,” said lawyer Joe Kaplon. His firm, Wohlner Kaplon Phillips Young and Cutler represents Local 399 and was responsible for sending out the ballots.
“If the ballots are in favor of the Teamsters—and I am very encouraged that the casting directors will vote for Teamster representation—then the parties will hopefully sit down and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement,” he added.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which would be negotiating on behalf of producers, was asked to comment on the pending election but did not respond.
“I’m not so sure the AMPTP or the studios are going to mount a campaign to persuade the casting directors not to vote in favor of the Teamsters,” Kaplon stated. “And I guess that even if they did, it wouldn’t be very effective.”
The result of the election is sure to be closely watched by other guilds and producers on both coasts. A vote to organize could give the International Brotherhood of Teamsters an enhanced role in the entertainment industry, beyond their long-time representation of over 4,000 studio drivers, location managers and other entertainment-industry workers.
The casting directors and their associates number only around 400 but occupy a key strategic job, picking most of the actors for a production and working closely with the directors, who are key above-the-line personnel. The Directors Guild of America and its members are among the keenest observers of the pending vote and its outcome.
In deciding to possibly organize, casting directors were concerned about the absence of health-care insurance and the lack of pay for certain hours they spend working on their jobs.

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