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Broadway producers sue over casting directors' union drive

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NEW YORK (AP) — Broadway producers filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against casting directors who are seeking to unionize and the Teamsters local that would represent them.

The Broadway League, a trade association of theater owners and producers, said in its lawsuit that the unionization effort violates federal antitrust laws and jeopardizes the viability of Broadway shows by raising production costs.

The league said casting directors are independent contractors, not employees, and do not have the right to collective bargaining.

The producers said they invited the defendants to let the National Labor Relations Board decide the issue but they declined.

Instead, the lawsuit said, the major Broadway casting companies banded together in a "cartel" to demand a 29 percent increase in costs for their services.

The producers said the casting companies have organized a boycott of any producer who doesn't agree to their demands, including the right to collective bargaining.

Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said in a statement that the producers "have no choice but to seek a legal remedy for the cartel's illegal behavior."

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan names seven casting companies plus the Casting Society of America and Local 817 of the Teamsters.

Local 817 President Tom O'Donnell said the casting directors just want to be treated fairly. "When casting directors ask for health and pension benefits, the league threatens and sues them," he said in a statement.

O'Donnell said the casting directors are not trying to fix prices. "They simply want the same workplace fairness and health care afforded to everyone else who works on Broadway," he said.

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