Casting directors and casting associates represented by Locals 399 and 817 ratified a three-year contract in January, securing significant gains for the more than 500 members represented by the two motion picture locals.
The steering committee focused on two major issues facing casting professionals during the negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) – the “stretching” of pay that occurs when episodic television productions run long and raising wages for the associate casting directors.
“This was the sixth agreement since organizing this group,” said Tom O’Donnell, Director of the Teamsters Motion Picture and Theatrical Trade Division and President of Local 817. “After a long and protracted negotiating process, this is easily our best agreement.”
Entering negotiations, the steering committee believed the stretching of pay issue could be solved by educating the AMPTP on exactly how episodic television production has changed for casting professionals in the digital era. As part of the new agreement, the AMPTP agreed to include a newly drafted sideletter to address the issue on future productions.
“We really wanted to try to get the AMPTP to understand the importance of what our casting professionals do,” said Bernie Telsey, a steering committee member and casting director represented by Local 817 in New York City. “The job today is not the same job it was when we first organized in 2005. Given the evolution of the industry and the demands of casting television, that additional time between preproduction and longer episodes must be built into our compensation. After a good deal of back and forth, I believe the AMPTP recognized that, and we now have a path forward.”
Within the motion picture and television industry, associate casting directors have remained one of the lowest paid groups on a production. While the Teamsters have negotiated significant hourly wage increases in previous agreements, they still lag behind when compared to similar positions in other crafts.
“With this agreement, we secured a decent increase in associate casting director wages, however, it is still by no means reflective of the job they do, the experience they have and the time they put in for each production,” said Gary Zuckerbrod, casting director, shop steward and Local 399 Trustee.
Local 399 and 817 were able to secure a 26-percent increase in the first year with a 3-percent increase in the second and third years. This will bring casting associates up to $19 per hour in the final year of the agreement. There were also increases to the pension contributions for associate casting directors secured in this round of negotiations.
“We are very proud of each and every one of our Casting Steering Committee Members from both Local 399 and Local 817,” said Steve Dayan, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 399. “Without their support, insight and guidance on their pressing issues, we would not have been able to secure a fair and important agreement with the AMPTP.”