The Machinists union filed a $50-million lawsuit against Walt Disney Pictures on Monday, claiming its movie "Ransom" tarnished the labor group's reputation.
The suit accuses Disney of associating the union, formally known as the International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, with "despicable criminal activities and gross violations of its duties to its members."
In the film, Mel Gibson stars as Tom Mullen, the wealthy owner of Endeavor Airlines, whose son is kidnapped and held for a $2-million ransom. Mullen is pegged by the kidnappers as an easy mark after paying $250,000 to a corrupt "Machinists Union" official to prevent an airline strike.
John J. Walsh, a lawyer representing the union, said the movie's plot has injured the reputation of the 700,000-member Machinists union, which is based in Upper Marlboro, Md.
Ken Green, a spokesman for Walt Disney Co., the parent of Disney Pictures, said the company never comments on pending litigation.
Lawyers for the Machinists union contacted Disney soon after the movie was released on Nov. 2, but Disney refused to make any changes, Walsh said.
"We tried to convince Disney as soon as the movie broke . . . 'Gee whiz, you got the name of a real union in there. We want you to take it out of there.' They didn't want to pull the movie, delete those references, but that is what it takes to avoid damage," Walsh said.
In addition to the $50 million in compensatory damages, the union is seeking punitive damages and other forms of relief. Also named in the lawsuit, filed in Circuit Court in Prince George's County, are Richard Price and Alexander Ignon, the movie's co-writers.