January 28, 2005

Casting directors threaten to strike

Hollywood Reporter
Jan. 27, 2005

Casting directors threaten to strike

By Jesse Hiestand
Hollywood's casting directors threatened Wednesday to walk off the job early next week if they are not allowed to organize under the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The absence of the 500 casting directors would affect pilot season casting but, most significantly, keep truck drivers, location managers and other members of Teamsters Local 399 in Los Angeles and Local 817 in New York from crossing the picket lines. That immediately could disrupt feature film and television production, giving union organizers some leverage in trying to force the hand of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

The warning was conveyed to about 300 casting directors, location managers and actors during a rally at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills. Teamsters vp Jim Santangelo drew a standing ovation when he relayed a message from Teamsters president James P. Hoffa in Washington.

"Whatever the cost, you will bring those people into our union -- that's what he said to me," said Santangelo, directing his wrath at the studios and networks that negotiate through the AMPTP. "These people on Mahogany Row, who want to dictate and call all the shots, who say you are individual (contractors), I say kiss my ass. If we stick together, we will kick their ass. Believe me when I tell you about that."
AMPTP president and chief negotiator Nick Counter said the Teamsters run the risk of breaching the "no strike" clause of their contract, which limits work actions to disputes with the AMPTP.

"If the Teamsters engage in any job action, it would be in violation of their contract with the AMPTP, and we will take all steps necessary to remedy that violation," Counter said.

That remedy could take the form of lawsuits to recoup lost production expenses. The pilot season is only now getting under way as the broadcast networks finalize their pilot orders for the upcoming season.

A job action involving the casters would be the first labor action in Hollywood since actors went out for six months in 2000 over their commercials contract. It also would be perhaps the first job action over organizing since the 1940s.

The Teamsters most recently went on strike in 1988, a monthlong walkout that led to the hiring of replacement drivers.

The two sides are next set to meet Tuesday. The casting directors say they will begin a work stoppage shortly afterward if they do not get what they want.

The casting directors insist they are employees who should be allowed to collectively bargain in the same way as directors, writers, actors and most other production professionals.

AMPTP maintains that the casters are not legally entitled to unionize because they are independent contractors who additionally make employment decisions.

Industry officials say they are sympathetic to the desire for benefits and recently tried to defuse the situation by offering health and pension benefits, mostly likely under the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans. Similar benefits already are offered to other nonunion workers, including producers and production accountants.

The casters rejected that offer because they reportedly want full union rights, including guarantees regarding minimum wages and working conditions.

"We'll do what we have to do to get the job done," Local 399 secretary-treasurer Leo Reed told the rally Wednesday. "All I'm saying to the heads of the studios is show me that you are reasonable, show me that you care."

Added Local 399 business agent Steve Dayan, "We're here to urge the AMPTP to recognize this deserving group of people without forcing the casting directors into a potential work stoppage."

Miguel Contreras, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the threat of a Teamsters strike should not be taken lightly.

"Not only are they large, but they're known for their fight -- they don't back down," Contreras said. "Labor's going to fight so everyone gets the respect they deserve as working men and women."

AFTRA national president John Connolly said that the casting directors already had gotten a taste of the picket line by marching last year in support of striking supermarket workers in Los Angeles.

SAG, DGA and WGA also have "no strike" clauses that prevent them from joining in any work stoppage. Still, those unions have expressed their support, with DGA president Michael Apted noting recently, "This is a simple matter of fairness."

Other expressing sympathy for the casters include Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and dozens of high-profile actors, writers and directors from Tim Allen and George Clooney to Taylor Hackford, Martin Scorsese and Joe Roth.

"It's unbelievable that in 2005, they still do not have health benefits or pension," Scorsese said in a statement.

Efforts to have some of those notable artists show up at Wednesday's rally fell a little short, but actors Marcia Gay Harden and Janel Moloney did voice their support.

"It seems that the fear is that one more person on the boat might sink it, but I think our industry is great enough to be inclusive, to be idealistic enough to realize it's the right thing to do," Harden said.

Casting associate Jen Lansky said after the rally: "It would be wonderful to have health insurance. When I go to the doctor now, I pay cash."

Legendary casting director Mike Fenton, a founder and former president of the Casting Society of America, said he was primarily concerned for young members who have not yet found the success to get by without benefits. He noted, though, that casting directors had personally defeated two previous attempts to unionize.

"This time it's going to happen because the Teamsters believe and our younger members believe in the union of our strength," Fenton said.

Posted by Clint at 12:09 AM

Casters Confronting 'No Strike' Demand?

1/26 Backstage

Casters Confronting 'No Strike' Demand?

By Roger Armbrust
 The nation's casting directors -- seeking to form a union affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters -- say they are now seeing "no strike" clauses in individual contracts with film studios. But a spokesperson for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) questions why studios would do that for independent contractors, which is how the producers classify casting directors.

The steering committee for the casting directors' organizing effort on Monday sent out an e-mail to casters stating, "Recently the studios have been adding 'No Strike Clause' language to our contracts. The Teamster lawyers have told us to cross out that language and then sign your contracts. We must all be firm about this. If everyone does it they can't make it stick."

No-strike clauses most commonly appear in collective bargaining agreements. Such clauses are basically a union pledge not to strike or to engage in work slowdowns or job actions during the life of the contract. According to the website for U.S. Legal Forms, a union often agrees to such a clause in exchange for a grievance arbitration provision. Union members could be fired for going on strike and breaking the no-strike clause.

There are occasions, however, when union members can break a no-strike clause -- for example, walking off the job if the employer fails to provide promised benefits.

A lack of benefits has been the driving force behind the casting directors' desire to organize. The Teamsters union is strongly supporting the casters' effort. At press time Tuesday, the two groups planned to stay on schedule with a Wednesday press conference to state the casting directors' intent to walk off the job if the AMPTP maintains its refusal to bargain on a first-time pact with the casters.

Steve Dayan, a business agent with the Teamsters' Local 399 in Los Angeles, who has worked with casting directors on both coasts, indicated to Back Stage on Tuesday that he wasn't surprised by the studios' no-strike-clause effort.

"Obviously, the studios are doing their job," Dayan commented. "They're putting pressure on the casting directors. We fully expected that. They're doing their job and we're going to do our job. I think we're both dealing with the issues as they come up."

Dayan noted that the steering committee's message wasn't exactly accurate. He said that Teamsters lawyers had not advised the casting directors on the studios' no-strike clause, but that he was the one who had counseled the casters: "I basically told the casting directors like I tell the location managers: If there's something in your deal memorandum that you don't want in there, cross it out."

But Barbara Brogliatti, a spokesperson for the AMPTP, said at press time Tuesday, "The casting directors are independent contractors, and I'm sure every one of the contracts is different. I can't speak on behalf of every single studio. That's not what we do. You need to get a lawyer."

She added that she didn't see a need for the no-strike clause in an individual contract since it is meant for a collective bargaining agreement. If casting directors, as independent contractors, don't show up for a job, it's a breach of contract, Brogliatti said.

Brogliatti also emphasized that, a week ago, the AMPTP had offered casting directors health and pension benefits, but the casters turned down the offer. (See Back Stage's lead story in the Jan. 20 issue, "Casters Say 'Nay' To AMPTP Offer.")

Back Stage re-contacted the Teamsters' Dayan, who continued to insist that the studios were including the no-strike clause in casting directors' pacts.

Dayan refused to comment on specifics regarding the scheduled Wednesday press conference. He would say only that it was partially to allow other unions to maintain a show of solidarity with the casting directors. The nation's major actors' unions -- the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and Actors' Equity Association -- all have endorsed the casting directors' efforts to organize. So have the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America. In fact, the e-mail from the casting directors' steering committee stated that the Wednesday press conference would take place at the Writers Guild in Los Angeles at 10 am PST Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the casting directors and the Teamsters union are running ads in industry trade papers listing celebrities who support the casters' efforts, with emphasis on health and pension benefits. The celebrity names include Tim Allen, Woody Allen, Drew Barrymore, Warren Beatty, George Clooney, and on down the alphabet to Denzel Washington and Reese Witherspoon

Posted by Clint at 12:07 AM

Lights. Industrial action!

1/20 The Economist

Lights. Industrial action!

Jan 20th 2005 | HOLLYWOOD

A strike looms in Hollywood

IS HOLLYWOOD, so accustomed to luvvy-duvvy self-congratulation (this month the Golden Globes, next month the Oscars), about to indulge in a hardball labour dispute? America's 500-or-so casting directors and associatesâthe unsung people-brokers who select actors for a film's director or producerâare threatening to strike if the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) refuses to grant them union recognition and health and pension benefits.

Since the AMPTP represents the big studios and, by extension, big corporations such as General Electric and Viacom, it might seem an unequal contestâexcept that the Casting Society of America (CSA), representing 368 of the casting directors, has the backing of the 1.4m-strong, much feared International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Teamsters represent some 4,100 studio drivers, location managers and location scouts, and their refusal to cross picket lines would be hard to ignore. In other words, the AMPTP has a bit of a headache, made worse by the need this week to resume negotiations for a new three-year contract with the 98,000-member Screen Actors Guildâbrilliantly satirised recently in the movie âTeam Americaâand the 80,000-strong American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

Even so, the studios are not about to admit defeat. In an informal meeting with the CSA last week, the AMPTP offered to provide health and pension benefits (âthe studios are very sympathetic,â says one studio insider), but remained adamantly opposed to unionisation. Its position ahead of a meeting scheduled for early next month is that the casting directors are independent contractors: if they form a collective bargaining unit they will automatically be in breach of federal and state antitrust lawsâand the Teamsters will be guilty of inducing them to breach their contracts with the studios.

Yet virtually every other group in Hollywood, from scriptwriters to costume designers, belongs to a guild or union that negotiates working conditions. Moreover, as the CSA pointed out late last week in an advertisement in the trade press, âalmost all other groups, including actors, directors, writers, drivers, location managers, production office co-ordinators, grips, electricians, editors, costumers and craft servicesâ receive health insurance and a pension plan. Steve Dayan, of the Los Angeles Teamsters, says bluntly: âForget the legal issues. Morally and ethically the studios should be taking care of these people.â The studios may be ready to agree benefits, he says, but without a union to protect them, how can the casting directors be sure that the agreements will be kept?
Embarrassingly for the studios, many movie people agree. As Woody Allen puts it: âCasting directors are responsible for the one element that holds audiences in thrall more than any other: the cast. How can they not be afforded the health and retirement benefits the rest of the community enjoys? I support their unionisation effort.â Gone are the days when the seductive power of the casting couch over aspiring stars was compensation enough

The committee then explained, "Today, we posed the question to the AMPTP: If they have union agreements with all our peers, why not us?"

The answer appeared to be that the AMPTP has stuck to its offer of non-affiliate status.

The casting leaders also noted that they are continuing to advertise the casters' position in trade-publication ads "and urging our producers, directors, and friends to support us."

Earlier in 2004, the casting directors -- communicating through the Teamsters union -- had asked the AMPTP to recognize them as a union. The AMPTP refused, arguing that the casters were independent contractors.

In mid-December, over 400 casters met in both New York and Los Angeles, "overwhelmingly" voting to align with the 1.4-million-member Teamsters union. By late December, the AMPTP had told the Teamsters to be prepared to go to court should the casting directors move to strike. The producers opined that planning a strike violates both federal antitrust and state unfair-competition laws.

The threat deterred neither the Teamsters nor the casters, with Teamster leaders -- led by General President James P. Hoffa -- writing to the AMPTP, expressing their dedicated support of the casting directors. The union and casting directors also were preparing to call a press conference as early as this week to announce whether the casters would strike. That plan evidently led the AMPTP to meet with the casters and the Teamsters union last Friday. Steve Dayan, a business representative for the Teamsters' L.A. local, said on Tuesday that the press conference had been rescheduled for Jan. 26. Dayan said he would not comment on last Friday's meeting.

On Monday, the casting directors' steering committee, saying it was gathering quotes of support from industry notables, released a brief statement from director Mike Nichols:

"I was shocked to hear that casting directors aren't provided with the basic benefits that many others receive automatically. So many casting directors have worked tirelessly over the years to provide the best acting ensembles for our films and TV shows. It makes no sense that they be treated any differently than any other key crew members. I support their unionization effort."Â

In the meantime, the Teamsters and casters were to begin running ads in entertainment trade publications this week to inform the public of their stance, Dayan said.

Posted by Clint at 12:05 AM

Casters Say 'Nay' to AMPTP Offer

1/19 Backstage
Casters Say 'Nay' to AMPTP Offer

By Roger Armbrust

Film studio and television network producers have encouraged casting directors to accept nonunion benefits, but the casting directors' leaders have restated their dedication to aligning with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) offered the "non-affiliate" alternative in a meeting last weekend with New York and Los Angeles casting leaders and representatives of the Teamsters union's New York City and L.A. locals.

"The AMPTP said that they were willing to form a committee to explore the possibility of non-affiliate status coverage for casting directors," said the casters' union's steering committee in an e-mail to its members last Friday. "The steering committee is, however, committed to obtaining full recognition through the Teamsters for all casting directors and associates."

The meeting broke a stalemate in which the producers had refused to recognize or meet with the casting directors and Teamsters union officials. The AMPTP has invited the casters to another meeting on Feb. 1, but the casting directors' leaders, in the e-mail, appeared wary that producers might attempt to split members' allegiance to the unionization effort.

"Be prepared," the steering committee warned. "Executives at studios are going to tell you that they offered us non-affiliate benefits. As we voted in both N.Y. and L.A., we are pursuing full union recognition, and nothing less. Non-affiliate status is not an acceptable option. Almost all other crafts work under collective bargaining agreements which offer them a wide variety of protections not available under non-affiliate status. There is no reason casting directors should accept any less."

The leaders urged casting directors to remain resolute in their efforts to affiliate with the Teamsters.

"We have gotten this far because of our solidarity and commitment," the steering panel stressed. "We must not lessen our resolve. They are beginning to understand the power of our unity. Be stronger, be more vocal, and continue to demand full union recognition!"

The casting leaders noted that the AMPTP's website boasts of its wide range of contracts in film and TV production. They quoted the site as stating, "The AMPTP negotiates 80 industry-wide collective bargaining agreements that cover actors, craftpersons, directors, musicians, technicians, and writers -- virtually all of the people who work on theatrical and television motion pictures."

Posted by Clint at 12:04 AM

Casting directors to seek benefits. The nonunion people who audition actors are pressing for protection and may even strike.

1/14 LA Times

Casting directors to seek benefits
The nonunion people who audition actors are pressing for protection and may even strike.

By Mary McNamara, Times Staff Writer

April Webster, Ronnie Yeskel and Vickie Thomas have been casting directors for more than 20 years. Which means that for more than 20 years, each has assembled the talent for films and television shows without receiving the benefits -- health insurance, a pension fund, timely payment, consistent working conditions -- secured for virtually every other employee of a film or television show, from the director to the on-set caterer.

Casting directors are not unionized. These three women, along with almost 500 of their colleagues in Los Angeles and New York, want this to change.

Enough to strike if they have to. This week an ad campaign designed to explain their plight kicked off in the Hollywood trades.

"We are not asking for anything outrageous," says Webster. "We're just asking for the basic benefits."

"We don't want to strike," says Yeskel, "but we will."

For two years, casting directors and associates have been working with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters through Local 399 in North Hollywood, which also represents drivers, location managers, animal handlers and prop housemen. The Teamsters are prepared to represent them in collective bargaining.

Late last year, Teamsters representative Steve Dayan joined with casting directors in a meeting with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Dayan says there have been hints that studios might offer some benefits to some casting directors. But AMPTP President Nick Counter has refused to recognize Teamsters representation of the group; casting directors, he has said, are independent contractors rather than employees, and any attempt by them to organize or strike would break antitrust and contract laws, putting his group in a position to sue.

Teamsters argue that casting directors are no more independent contactors than are costume designers or production designers or cinematographers, all of whom have union contracts.

"This is a group that has a hard time organizing because they are physically so spread out," says Dayan. "But they are certainly entitled to the same benefits that other Hollywood crafts enjoy."

Meanwhile, the Teamsters have called for and received the support of other industry unions, including the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.

The union recently hired a public relations firm, and an ad campaign in the Hollywood trade papers, meant to call attention to the situation, kicked off Thursday. The casting directors themselves are calling on directors, producers and actors for statements of support.

"Most people don't know we aren't union," says Thomas. "The directors and actors think since they have a group protecting them, we must too."

They also are trying to raise public awareness of what exactly a casting director does. Like screenwriters, whose guild ran a campaign several years ago reminding Hollywood that "somebody wrote that," casting directors have a visibility problem. The iconic image of Central Casting -- some vague warehouse of head shots and rÃsumÃs -- haunts the craft.

"No one grows up thinking 'I want to be a casting director,' " says Webster, who is currently working on "Lost" and "Alias." "But we are as much a part of the creative collaboration as the set or costume designers. In 'Lost,' " she says, "there was no script for a while, so it was really about who we brought in; parts were created for the people I found."

Webster came to casting through the theater, in New York and Los Angeles. With a long list of credits -- including feature films such as "The Day After Tomorrow," "Eight Legged Freaks" and "The Patriot" -- she is high enough on the food chain to sometimes negotiate a $600 a week fee for an assistant -- the salaries of any other staff she might need come out of her own pocket.

"I was just asked to make a whole production deal," she says. "And a third of my fee will go for my own staff."

Unless an actor is already attached to a project, it is the casting director who is in charge of finding all the talent, including leads, for a film and television show.

This involves auditioning hundreds of actors and delivering pared-down lists to the director.

"Every movie is different, but it is always a collaborative, creative process," says Thomas, who "fell into" casting when, as a film student at UCLA, "Repo Man," a class project she had cast, became a feature film hit. Recently, she cast for "The Last Samurai," "The Clearing," "After Sunset" and the upcoming "Beauty Shop." "It's not like we're secretaries taking notes from the directors."

Yet while their names appear prominently in the credits, that recognition rarely extends beyond the screen.

"The SAG Awards has an ensemble award," says Yeskel, whose recent credits include "Blade: Trinity," "Igby Goes Down" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "and rarely do you hear an actor or director thank the casting director. But who do you think put those ensembles together? The director? No."

"I laugh when I read about the 'amazing cast' some director has assembled," adds Webster. "I think, really, when exactly did [the director] do that?"

The nature of the job -- casting directors compete with each other and rarely work together -- has been a stumbling block for attempts to organize in the past.

"We are a very timid group," says Thomas. "But I think now we're just sick of it. After 20 years, we won't be the ones seeing the benefits of a union, but the ones coming up will."

"This is a very determined, very organized group," says Dayan. "They will take action if that is what is necessary."

The Teamsters plan to hold a news conference toward the end of January to announce further plans, including the possibility of a strike. Dayan believes AMPTP is underestimating the importance of the casting directors and the effect such a strike would have.

"These are people who are often casting several shows at once, seeing hundreds and hundreds of actors," he says. "Who is going to do that?"

Some industry insiders wonder if the recent breakdown in Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists negotiations will hurt or help the casting directors.

The demands put even more pressure on the studios and networks; but an actors' strike would make a casting directors' strike pretty much moot.

Dayan is not worried. "If SAG did go out, the studios would need to start ramping up production. And if casting directors are in the midst of the job action, that would just make it more difficult."

The casting directors hope it will not come to a strike.

"It's ridiculous that we have to demand the benefits everyone else gets," says Thomas. "But I guess we do."

Posted by Clint at 12:02 AM

January 27, 2005

Casting crew strike brews. Teamsters warn studios, networks Teamsters warn studios, networks

1/14 Daily Variety

January 14, 2005

Casting crew strike brews
Teamsters warn studios, networks


The odds of a strike by casting directors and associates has risen several notches with a strong pledge of support from a top official of the Teamsters union.

James P. Hoffa, general president of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters, has warned studios and networks that his union will provide backing for a possible work stoppage by about 500 casting directors and associates in Hollywood and New York if they are not allowed to unionize. And he offered to intervene in the negotiations.

"The purpose of this letter is to advise you that the Intl. Union is in full support of this effort and will provide whatever assistance is necessary to accomplish the goal of achieving a fair and equitable bargaining agreement for these deserving employees," Hoffa wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

Hoffa's letter amps up the pressure on studios and nets, which are also facing the prospect of a work stoppage by actors this summer. SAG and AFTRA walked away from the bargaining table without a deal on Sunday and, although the actors' union film-TV contract doesn't expire until June 30, no new talks have been set.

Should a SAG-AFTRA deal not emerge in the next few weeks, the uncertainty of an unresolved contract will trigger more production in the coming weeks to withstand a work stoppage this summer.

The Teamsters have been attempting to unionize the casting directors and associates -- one of the most significant non-union groups of employees in Hollywood -- for two years. Teamsters Local 399 has indicated in recent months that a work stoppage will follow if the AMPTP doesn't grant recognition to the Teamsters as a bargaining unit for the casting directors and associates.

Counter warned the Teamsters last month of upcoming legal challenges if it persists in planning for a strike, asserting that most casting directors are independent contractors rather than employees. He said that any attempt to combine in an effort to affect the prices paid for their services is unlawful under federal antitrust laws and a wide variety of state laws.

Hoffa disputed Counter's contentions in his letter.
"The Intl. Union respectfully disagrees with your assessment and will support these employees in their attempt to gain recognition and a contract," Hoffa said.

Hoffa also said he was puzzled by Counter's stance.
"Apparently the producers fail to understand that the cost of potential litigation or even a job action would far exceed what it would take to secure an agreement," he said.

Reps for the AMPTP were not available for comment Tuesday.
The Teamsters have secured support for the organizing initiative from other Hollywood unions, including SAG, WGA, DGA and AFTRA. Local 399 also represents 4,100 studio drivers, location managers and location scouts.

Jan. 12, 2005
Teamsters ready to back casters
By Roger Armbrust and Jesse Hiestand

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters said Tuesday that it is considering Jan. 19 or Jan. 20 to formally declare support for casting directors, who might strike film and television productions in the United States if they are not allowed to organize as a union.

Steve Dayan, a business agent with the Teamsters' Local 399 in Los Angeles, said he was attempting to set a date when the Teamsters leadership, primarily general president James P. Hoffa, would be available to take part in the press confab. At press time Tuesday, Hoffa hadn't yet confirmed whether he could attend.

The backing by the top Teamsters brass would assure that Teamster truck drivers would honor a casters' strike, virtually shutting down productions.

The Teamsters' resolve recently was conveyed in a letter from Hoffa to Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. AMPTP has refused to recognize the casters as a potential union, setting the stage for the possible strike.

"I recognize that the AMPTP takes the position that these employees are independent contractors and entrepreneurs who are ineligible to organize," Hoffa said in his Jan. 5 letter to Counter. "The International Union respectfully disagrees with your assessment and will support these employees in their attempt to gain recognition and a contract.

"I am somewhat puzzled at the producers' position that no recognition will be forthcoming," the letter continued. "Apparently the producers fail to understand that the cost of potential litigation or even a job action would far exceed what it would take to secure an agreement."

The Teamsters' planned news conference will most likely take place on the West Coast, Dayan said, with East Coast casters and other union leaders also in attendance. The nation's major actors unions - SAG, AFTRA and Actors' Equity Assn. - all have endorsed the casting directors' efforts to organize and affiliate with the 1.4 million-member Teamsters union. Dayan said he would be contacting the leadership - particularly of SAG and AFTRA, who are strongly represented by West Coast memberships - to invite them to attend the press gathering.

Casting directors spent most of last year consulting with the Teamsters on the possibility of affiliation. In mid-December, more than 400 casters met in both New York and Los Angeles, "overwhelmingly" voting to align with the Teamsters, Dayan said.

Earlier in 2004, the casting directors, communicating through the Teamsters, had asked the AMPTP to recognize them as a union. The AMPTP refused, arguing that the casters were independent contractors. By late December, the AMPTP had told the Teamsters to be prepared to go to court should the casters move to strike. The producers opined that planning a strike violates both federal antitrust and state unfair-competition laws.

The threats obviously haven't deterred the Teamsters and casters. Leo Reed, secretary-treasurer of the Teamster's L.A. local, responded to the threats by writing the AMPTP, stressing the casters' need for "reasonable wages, benefits, hours and working conditions." During the past year, the casters have emphasized the need for health-care benefits, which they don't have.

Posted by Clint at 11:58 PM