Above Photo: AEA Councilmember Jeff Williams (left) and Breakdown Services’ Thom Goff marching for #FairnessForCasting in NYC. (Photo by Brandon Lorenz)
The Casting Society of America vs The Broadway League may sound like the next superhero blockbuster but unfortunately it’s the headline for an ongoing labor dispute being played out in New York City where theatrical hopes and dreams are brought to life.
What’s at stake? The New York C.S.A. (Casting Society of America) members have been trying to sit down with Broadway Producers to negotiate a union contract. Even though the NY C.S.A. is unionized through the Teamsters Local 817, the Broadway League will not appear at the negotiating table.
From this stonewalling, #FairnessForCasting was born. The Casting Directors and their supporters have held various public rallies to shine a light on their situation and on August 21, 2017, they organized a rally and march through the heart of New York’s famed theatre district to the Broadway League office to state their case.
Breakdown Services’ Thom Goff participated in the rally and gave his account of the day:
I arrived in Shubert Alley, where the rally started, around 8:25 a.m. Signs were handed out to all participants who wanted one, as well as “I Support Casting Directors” buttons. We all mingled and met Casting Directors, Teamsters, and other union members and city officials who supported the CSA and their request for negotiations. Throughout the meet and greet, Casting Directors made a point of going through the crowd and individually thanking everyone for their support.
As we approached 9:00 a.m., Teamsters Local 817 President Tom O’Donnell started the speeches. He revved up the crowd saying, “We aren’t going away until these essential Broadway workers get the fair deal they deserve.” Another impassioned speaker was NYC Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the council’s Cultural Affairs Committee. An enthusiastic supporter, he got huge cheers and applause when he said, “We love Broadway, we love that Broadway is alive. We want a thriving and healthy and prosperous Broadway. But Casting Directors are workers too, right?” It was unifying to hear the speeches and see the support from the various factions.
After 20 minutes of speeches, enthusiastically interrupted throughout by applause and cheers, the group started it’s pilgrimage to the Broadway League office at 729 Seventh Avenue. Waving signs and chanting “Fairness For Casting,” we walked through the intersection of Broadway and 44th Street, heading up the sidewalks of Seventh Avenue. The chanting continued until we hit the Broadway League office at 49th Street.
In front of the building sat the huge, inflatable Scab Rat; an oft seen symbol in Manhattan when a company refuses to acknowledge union workers or negotiate with the unions. The towering and ominous rat comes out and lives in front of the building as an unmistakable commentary on labor injustices.
Once again, Tom O’Donnell started the speeches, this time through a bull horn. Speech after speech energized the crowd, as we heard from Casting Directors and other officials. When the speeches concluded, we continued to chant. Next to me, a group of tourists asked what this was about. When we explained, they too began chanting “Fairness For Casting!”
In addition to their Teamsters local support, the Casting Directors have the support of the Musicians: American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 802, the NYC Government, Actors: Actors Equity Association (AEA), the Stagehands: Local One of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), and the Directors: Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) of Broadway theatre.
Next to me, a group of tourists asked what this was about. When we explained, they too began chanting “Fairness For Casting!” –Thom Goff, Breakdown Services
Heading back to the Breakdown Services New York office, I was pleased to have shown support for these hardworking Casting Directors, many of whom I work with on a daily basis.
What they want, is to be heard by Broadway Producers, and to be able to make a living doing the job that they love.
Thom Goff is Director of Breakdown Services New York and an avid theatre advocate.
Breakdown Services is an integral part of the casting process for film, television and theatre across North America and the number one resource for casting breakdowns worldwide.