Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York. The Broadway League filed a lawsuit against casting directors on Tuesday after their attempts to unionize.

Evan Agostini/Invision, via Associated Press

Escalating an acrimonious battle on Broadway, an association of commercial producers on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against the industry’s most powerful casting directors, accusing them of violating antitrust laws.

The lawsuit comes as casting directors in theater have been attempting to organize a labor union, and have faced strong opposition from producers.

The Broadway League, a trade association representing producers and theater owners, filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. It alleges that, in their bid to unionize, casting offices have formed an illegal cartel and have raised prices in violation of laws designed to preserve competition.

“The casting companies have demanded that Broadway producers pay a surcharge of 29% on all currently negotiated fees, adding tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of putting on a show,” the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also alleges that the casting offices have recently begun boycotting new work.

The lawsuit was filed against seven casting offices, as well as the Casting Society of America and the Teamsters, the union that the casting directors are seeking to join. Representatives for the casting directors could not immediately be reached for comment.

The producers and casting directors have been at odds for more than a year, as the casting directors have sought the right to collectively bargain as part of an effort, they say, to win health care and pension benefits. They have sought representation from Teamsters Local 817, which already represents casting directors in film and television.

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