Workers of the World: Unite!

Documentary workers organize, classic movies get a second wind, and restored documentaries on labor unions remind us of what workers fought for and what still needs defending, inspiring future generations of working class to assert their rights. The National Labor Relations Act is a federal statue of U.S. labor law that guarantees private sector employees the right to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take collective action (such as strikes). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the agency that enforces its laws and codifies them into rules and regulations. Everyone from Starbucks workers, stagehands, to documentary workers have the right to organize, and some have. In April, the International Documentary Association (IDA) recognized the labor union formed by its employees. Since December, IDA lost nearly 50% of its workforce and 4 senior staffers. Fortunately, NLRB provided the muscle to back the voluntary recognition by the company. The focus now is rebuilding ranks with an aim towards equity and serving the community. For more information on the election process that helped usher in the recognition, see Conduct Elections.

Film restorations allow fans and historians to gaze into the past and glean understandings of what we found entertaining, to our own limitations of how the world was when the film released. In 1990, director Martin Scorsese created The Film Foundation, which has since pioneered the restoration of more than 900 films, including most recently, Giant, one of the first feature films to show the working conditions of migrant workers. As more and more audiences tend to conflate entertainment with fact, and working class voters become more politically powerful, the perception and depiction of the working class over an historical period like 100 years can provide well-heeled ammunition to advocates of long-lasting, permanent change. This is particularly true of 1979 documentary, The Wobblies, which follows the lives of then-living members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to gain an understanding of their spirit and the soul of their movement. The new 4K restoration of The Wobblies was screened across the United States, in honor of May Day (May 1st). Don’t worry, if you missed it on the big screen, you can still catch it on Amazon Prime Video (locations may be limited).

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