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Casters elect not to strike

Group to vote on Teamsters union decision

Casting directors have called off strike plans and opted instead to hold an election over authorizing the Teamsters union as their official representative.

Neither side commented on the agreement, reached Tuesday after a full day of face-to-face negotiations at the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers headquarters in Encino. No date has been set yet for the election, which would be conducted through the National Labor Relations Board.

The talks followed several months of saber-rattling by both sides.

Approximately 500 casting directors, who are seeking formal unionization through Teamsters Local 817 in New York and Local 399 in Los Angeles, had not set a strike date. But the Teamsters had held a boisterous news conference last week to showcase support from high-profile actors and other unions, including the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America and Writers Guild of America.

Additionally, studios and nets were bracing for a job action and had warned employees about possible picket lines being set up at lot entrances as early as this week.

Local 399 — which represents 4,100 studio drivers, location managers and scouts — had insisted its contract allow members to honor picket lines. But AMPTP president Nick Counter has asserted the provision doesn’t apply because the Teamsters have violated the contract by planning for a strike; he had warned the Teamsters would face legal action if a strike occurred.

In previous informal meetings, Counter had offered to request that casting directors be included in the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plan via a nonaffiliated agreement that would obligate employers to make pension and health contributions. But the casting directors want the security of a union contract, a step Counter had asserted is illegal on the grounds that most casting directors are independent contractors rather than employees.

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