Hollywood's casting directors overwhelmingly have voted to become members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, completing a organizing process that included the threat of a strike, union off


LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Hollywood's casting directors overwhelmingly have voted to become members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, completing a organizing process that included the threat of a strike, union officials said June 23.

The final tally showed that the casters voted 243-9 to unionize, setting the stage for them to negotiate a contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which represents the major studios and networks.

"We're very pleased by the results," Teamster Local 399 business agent Steve Dayan said. "Now comes the hard part -- we have to sit down and negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement so we can get these guys some medical benefits and the working conditions that they're entitled to."

The AMPTP refused to grant the casters collective-bargaining status but tried to resolve the dispute by offering to address one of the casting directors' chief concerns, health coverage. With the Teamsters' backing, that was rejected as insufficient, and threats were made to walk off the job and have Teamster drivers and location managers respect the picket lines.

In the end, the industry alliance decided in February to leave the decision to the casters in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

According to Dayan, NLRB officials said it was the smoothest election they've had in 25 years.

"In light of the election results, we will honor our duty to bargain in good faith," AMPTP spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti said.

The casting directors likely will get the health and pension they were seeking as well as minimum wages and working conditions, but they also will have to start paying dues and stand ready to support other Teamsters in organizing efforts.

The industry's resistance was fueled by its belief that casting directors are independent contractors who, as a rule, cannot legally unionize. The Teamsters maintained that the casters were employees who had an inherent right to unionize.

It was left to the NLRB to determine who was eligible based on their work record. Those members will now be members of Local 399 in Los Angeles and Local 817 in New York.