About 500 casting directors and associates in Los Angeles and New York are formally seeking to be represented by the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters before the AMPTP and warning they may strike if not granted recognition as a bargaining unit.

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. SAG’s national board has unanimously endorsed the efforts to obtain official recognition.

Casting is one of the last non-union trades in Hollywood and New York. A meeting in February in Hollywood drew over 300 attendees and a Wednesday night event attracted close to 200.

Negative response

According to Teamsters Local 399 business agent Steve Dayan, a recent approach to the AMPTP prexy Nick Counter evoked a negative response on the recognition question. Counter was not available for comment Thursday.

Local 399, which also represents 4,100 studio drivers, location managers and location scouts, launched the organizing drive about a year and a half 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 assuring employees are paid on a timely basis.

“The organizing campaign has gone very well, which is largely a tribute to the excellent organizational skills of casting directors,” Dayan said.

Currently, casting directors operate as independent contractors. Among the complaints: They’re routinely hired for eight-week periods and then required to work two extra weeks without compensation, and they’re forced to absorb such costs as office space, payroll taxes and worker’s compensation insurance for their employees.

Should the AMPTP deny the request for recognition, the casting directors could either stage a work stoppage or petition the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election — a process that can stretch out for several years.