Freelance Casting Assistants Launch Attempt to Unionize With Teamsters

Freelance casting assistants are launching an attempt to unionize with the Teamsters.

Nearly 150 New York- and Los Angeles-based casting assistants are supporting the drive to unionize with Teamsters Local 399 and Teamsters Local 817, the former union announced on Thursday. The group has requested voluntary recognition from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major Hollywood companies in collective bargaining and negotiates a casting director agreement with the Teamsters, and Netflix, which has its own casting director contract with the union. By taking this two-pronged approach, the Teamsters are seeking to represent casting assistants working on projects associated with most major Hollywood companies.

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With this organizing drive, the Teamsters also appear to be attempting to fill out the union’s representation of the casting department: Locals 399 and 817 already represent casting directors and associate casting directors, but non-union casting assistants also have an “integral role in production,” Local 399 stated.

“Teamsters have long represented the Casting Directors and Associate Casting Directors of Los Angeles and New York. It is reasonable and right to see the freelance Casting Assistants stand together to seek representation as well,” Teamsters Local 399 leader and Teamsters Motion Picture Division director Lindsay Dougherty said in a statement. “By unionizing, the Casting Assistants are able to work towards securing the protections, benefits and compensation they deserve for their work in the Casting department.”

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the AMPTP and Netflix for comment.

The casting assistants behind the organizing drive are looking to raise wages and gain access to the union’s health and pension benefits, as well as start their casting careers in a union position, said a Teamsters Local 399 spokesperson. According to the union, labor leaders spent around eight months discussing workplace issues with casting assistants before Thursday’s announcement.

In their requests for voluntary recognition, the Teamsters stated that they hoped for “an expeditious and non­-confrontational procedure” if it is confirmed that the majority of applicable casting assistants signed union authorization cards.

The Teamsters are currently scheduled to re-negotiate their casting director agreement with the AMPTP and their separate agreement with Netflix some time this summer, ahead of Sept. 30 expiration dates.

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