Casting crews mull strike

AMPTP said group couldn't be repped by union

About 500 casting directors and associates in Los Angeles and New York are mulling whether to strike in order to gain status as a bargaining unit represented by the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The casting directors — one of the last non-union trades in Hollywood and New York — have scheduled meetings next week in Los Angeles and New York with Teamsters leaders to discuss what possible steps to take, including a work stoppage.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which serves as the bargaining arm for studios and nets, has spurned the Teamsters’ request to be granted recognition as a bargaining unit. The AMPTP told the Teamsters last June that the proposed unit would not be appropriate under federal law and that the union could not represent many of the casting directors, who are either independent contractors or supervisors at AMPTP companies.

The casting directors and associates cite lack of health-care coverage, late pay and performing uncompensated work as key issues that have driven the organizing effort. Teamsters Local 399, which also represents 4,100 studio drivers, location managers and location scouts, launched the organizing drive about two years ago.

The campaign has been focused on such issues as obtaining participation in the motion picture health and welfare plans, establishing basic working conditions and ensuring that employees are paid on a timely basis.

Other complaints include being routinely hired for eight-week periods and then required to work two extra weeks without compensation and being forced to absorb such costs as office space, payroll taxes and workers’ compensation insurance for their employees.

Should the casting directors opt against a work stoppage, they could petition the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election, a process that can stretch out for several years.

In July, the Teamsters drivers and four other unions reached a deal with the AMPTP on a three-year Basic Crafts contract. Local 399 had asserted that if it hadn’t gotten an acceptable contract, members would picket every production nationwide.

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