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Labor Films & Video: A Select List
American Dream by
1992. Academy Award winning, controversial documentary about the P-9/UFCW--Hormel strike in Austin, Minn.
(note: for some reason, the title is in IRIS as AN American Dream. The title is American Dream.)
At the River I Stand by
1993. Documentary of two 1968 events in the civil rights movement--the sanitation workers strike in Memphis, Tennessee and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bread & Roses by
2000. Maya, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, meets a young organizer and joins the fight to unionize the janitors at her workplace. But her sibling and sister janitor Rosa has concerns, and the bosses are not happy.
China Blue by
2005. This documentary visits a Chinese blue-jean factory, where workers are trying to survive a harsh working environment. But when the factory owner agrees to a deal with his Western client that forces his teenage workers to work around the clock, a confrontation becomes inevitable.
The Corporation: A documentary (Special Edition) by
2004. Documentary examines the nature, evolution, impact and possible futures of the modern business corporation.
Eyes on the Fries: Young workers in the service economy by
2004. While good jobs in high tech and manufacturing are increasingly hard to find, companies like Subway, Starbucks, and Blockbuster are opening stores at a pace of one a day. This film examines the rise of the low wage service sector and what it means for a generation of young Americans whose lives depend on it.
The Hand that Feeds by
2014. "Mild-mannered sandwich maker Mahoma López has never been interested in politics, but in January 2012, he convinces a small group of his co-workers to fight back. Risking deportation and the loss of their livelihood, the workers team up with a diverse crew of innovative young organizers and take the unusual step of forming their own independent union, launching themselves on a journey that will test the limits of their resolve."
Harlan County, U.S.A. by
1977. Academy Award-winning documentary on the UMWA strike at Brookside Mine. Kopple “celebrates the spirit and courage of the miners and their families in the context of violence that seems never to end, in a class war that seems more appropriate to the 1930's than the 1970's”
The Killing Floor by
1984. The story of two young African-Americans who migrate from the South to the Chicago stockyards at the beginning of World War I. Though fiction, the story is based on real events. An intense and moving story.
The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter by
1980. This excellent documentary tracks five “Rosies”, combining contemporary interviews and historical footage.
1987. Sayles' fictional film about mining conflict in an Appalachian community after World War I speaks to many still current issues--class, race and the labor movement, the role of women in working class communities, and also speaks to the deep emotion involved in creating change in a closed community.
Maid in America by
TV 1982. DVD 2004. This video takes a look into the lives of three Latina immigrants working as nannies and housekeepers in Los Angeles. The issue of worker' rights is introduced in the film.
Made in L.A. by
2007. Follows the remarkable story of three Latina immigrants, Lupe Hernandez, María Pineda, Maura Colorado, working in Los Angeles garment sweatshops as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections from a mega-trendy clothing retailer.
Modern Times by
1936. An imaginative, often slapstick satire on the alienating and disruptive effects of mass production and automation. Charlie Chaplin, as the Tramp, goes from job-to-job, beset on all fronts by bad luck. Primarily a silent film with music, sound effects, and some spoken and sung dialogue.
Norma Rae by
1979. Southern mill worker Norma Rae meets union organizer Reuben and becomes a key organizer in the mill, a move that radicalizes her life and relationships.
Out at Work by
1996. An award-winning documentary about what it means to be openly gay in the workplace.
The Take (2004) by
2006. Explores how Argentina's 2001 economic collapse, where a prosperous middle-class economy was destroyed during 10 years of IMF policies, impacted the lives of ordinary workers. Follows 30 unemployed auto-parts workers, who stage a protest against their bosses and economic globalization by occupying their closed factory and refusing to leave.
With Babies and Banners: The Story of the Women’s Emergency Brigade by
1978. While autoworkers were occupying the Flint GM plant during the great sit-down strike of 1936-37, their wives, sisters, mothers, and girlfriends were leading the strike on the outside.
Labor Films & Video Online
Did you know that you can search Google Video and YouTube for labor films and footage? Find classic labor films, old newsreels, and pro- and anti-labor union videos.
1985. The film makers recorded the actual 1984 contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and General Motors Corporation, as well as the conflicts between the Canadian negotiator and his U.S. counterpart. Still used today to illustrate the nuts & bolts & complexities of collective bargaining.
Salt of the Earth
1954. The only film ever blacklisted in the U.S., Salt of the Earth is based on an actual strike that took place in New Mexico, involving Mexican-American miners, Anglo organizers, and the wives and children of the miners. There are several places you can view this on the Internet; this site is the Internet Archive.
Labor Film Guides
Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff by
Publication Date: 2003-06-05
Viewers can turn to this comprehensive, annotated guide for films about unions or labor organizations; labor history; working-class life where an economic factor is significant; political movements if they are tied closely to organized labor; production or the struggle between labor and capital from a "top-down" either entrepreneurial or managerial perspective.