How MGM’s ‘Ben-Hur’ Evolved Into a Pending Fight Before the NLRB

Labor News, Industry News

Paramount Pictures 'Ben Hur' (2016)

Reprinted from The Hollywood Reporter by Eriq Gardner on February 7, 2018.

It’s with no small measure of irony that Ben-Hur, the iconic film about a prince-turned-slave’s revenge, has instigated a modern-day labor brawl. That’s thanks to MGM’s decision to reboot the film, and specifically, the musicians hired to perform the score.

Last April, the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada filed a lawsuit against MGM and Paramount — and the complaint seemed simple enough at the time. The guild accused the studios of failing to pay proper wages, benefits and residual compensation to the musicians on the 2016 remake. MGM and Paramount responded by arguing that the musicians were subcontracted and therefore not covered by the union agreement. In October, a California federal judge rejected MGM’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and allowed the litigation to proceed.

Now, the dispute has escalated to the point where one side implies union-busting and the other side suggests witness tampering. The case has gotten so heated that it has provoked AFM to file charges against MGM to the National Labor Relations Board. …

THR 2/7

About Jeffrey Burman 3199 Articles
Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at

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