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Appeals Court Rejects Tony Award-Winning Producer’s Antitrust Suit Against Actors’ Union

 |  July 3, 2024

 An appeals court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Garth Drabinsky, a Tony Award-winning producer, who claimed that a union for actors and stage managers organized an illegal boycott preventing him from producing live Broadway shows.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled that Drabinsky could not proceed with his $50 million lawsuit alleging that the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) violated antitrust and various state laws, including defamation, according to NBC News.

The AEA represents over 50,000 theater actors and stage managers. Drabinsky, 74, whose notable productions include “Ragtime” and a 1994 revival of “Show Boat,” alleged that the union engaged in a campaign of defamation and harassment. He claimed the AEA spread rumors about him, instituted a one-day work stoppage, and placed him on its Do Not Work list, thereby discouraging anyone from collaborating with him.

The three-judge panel, led by Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr., ruled in favor of the union, emphasizing that as long as the union’s conduct promotes legitimate labor goals, it is protected by the labor exemption and is not subject to antitrust liability. “So long as the union’s conduct promotes legitimate labor goals, it retains the benefit of the labor exemption and remains impervious to antitrust liability,” the court stated.

The court found that the AEA’s boycott aimed to protect its members’ wages and working conditions. This action followed objections from cast members of Drabinsky’s musical “Paradise Square” concerning unsafe working conditions, a racially hostile environment and unpaid wages. While Drabinsky claimed he lacked control over these issues, his lawsuit alleged he had authority over hiring, firing and pay during the production.

This ruling marks a significant moment in the ongoing conflict between Drabinsky and the Actors’ Equity Association, highlighting the protective measures unions can employ to safeguard their members’ rights and working conditions.

Source: NBC News.