Blacklisted Producer Defends Actors’ Guild Antitrust Suit
February 8, 2023
A Canadian Broadway producer, who has accused an actors’
union of plotting to blacklist him from the industry, is fighting to keep his suit from being tossed based on
what he says are made-up facts not found in the suit.
Garth Drabinsky filed his opposition to the Actors’ Equity Association’s motion to dismiss Monday, saying that
the union “manufactures facts that are simply not found in the [first amended complaint] and, thereafter,
reaches the conclusion that, based on its facts, the matter should be dismissed.”
“Although they are to be disregarded by the court, given the obvious attempt to color this record, the court
should know that the allegations are also patently untrue,” Drabinsky said in a footnote.
Drabinsky sued after he was put on the union’s “Do Not Work” list in July, a move the labor group made after
filing its own suit against Drabinsky and all the producers who worked on a Broadway show, “Paradise
Square,” where they allege workers were underpaid by more than $300,000.
Some of the statements that Drabinsky takes issue with, according to his filing, are that the production failed
to pay out “nearly $500,000 in wage and health and retirement benefits” and that the producer was in charge
of managing and approving overtime requests. The $500,000 figure is “simply wrong,” the producer says, but
also ignores $560,000 in bonds that were available for such cases.
The producer also is unhappy with what he calls the union’s “obvious obsession” with mentioning his criminal
conviction in Canada for fraud and forgery back in 2009, saying that it has resulted in him working on only
one production in the last 15 years when he’s “produced two motion pictures, two seasons of a television
series, four live stage productions and a summer concert series” since then.
“It is written about with myriad mistakes and in an attempt to suggest that because Drabinsky had a criminal
conviction in Canada (and not in the United States), that AEA [Actors’ Equity Association], 15 years after the
fact, can simply run over Drabinsky and destroy his livelihood for the remainder of his life despite the fact
that he continues to produce at the highest level of the industry, i.e., he has not lost one step (10 Tony Award
nominations for ‘Paradise Square’) in the intervening 15 years,” the producer said, all in a footnote.
Though the union characterizes this as an average labor dispute, Drabinsky disagrees, positing that he never
employed anyone or was a member of the union but is now blocked from working on any productions that use
members from that union.
“AEA repeatedly claims that these allegations are in the [first amended complaint], when they are not so that
it can then argue that, because the dispute is labor related and governed by the Collective Bargaining
Agreement, it cannot be resolved before this court,” the producer said.
The union also argued that the producer hasn’t sufficiently alleged federal antitrust claims and that it’s
insulated from them even if he had because certain labor activities are shielded from antitrust scrutiny, but
Drabinsky said “both arguments are incorrect.”
“For AEA’s otherwise-illegal conspiracy to be immunized from antitrust scrutiny pursuant to the labor
exemption, ‘the specified activities’ must arise ‘only in the context of a labor dispute,'” he said. “In the
[complaint], Drabinsky specifies numerous AEA activities that have occurred outside the context of a labor
dispute, and therefore has overcome the labor exemption.”
Drabinsky is represented by Richard Alan Roth of The Roth Law Firm PLLC and Joshua D. Wright, Derek W.
Moore and Nathaniel J. Harris of Lodestar Law & Economics PLLC.
Actors’ Equity Association is represented by Olivia Ruth Singer of Cohen Weiss and Simon LLP.
The case is Drabinsky v. Actors’ Equity Association, case number 1:22-cv-08933, in the U.S. District Court for
the Southern District of New York.