What type of labor union is the focus of this film? Research this labor union and share some of the union's history. How has this particular labor union evolved?
The labor union focused on in the film is the Textile Workers Union of America. The union is an industrial organization that made a significant impact through its campaigns for American workers in the early years. It has since merged with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. In 1939, United Textile Workers of America merged with Textile Workers Organizing Committee to form Textile Workers Union of America. The Textile Workers Union of America made significant steps supporting workers' quest for higher wages in the South-a region that was averse to unionization of employees at the time. Some of the key campaigns it organized include Operation Dixie that aimed to organize industries and support moribund organizations. The Union started to face competition from other emergent unions in the 1960s. It is what informed the merger decision that it pursued in the after- years and the union's persistent evolution.
Overall, are labor unions portrayed positively or negatively in this film? Explain.
Labor unions are portrayed negatively in the movie. When Reuben Warshovsky seeks to rent a house to stay, the hosts (Vernon) indicate their displeasure and openly show that Reuben a unionist and his union are not welcome. In another instance, Reuben gives out leaflets for his labor union near the Henley Mill. One of the supervisors working at the factory indicates that the area seems to be receiving union organizers every so often (less than four years) and compares their invasion to that of locusts. This is a negative portrayal of unions as unwanted due to their direct conflict of interest with the manufacturer organizations. As much as Reuben tries to portray his union as having the best interests of workers by fighting against their exploitation by manufacturers, many workers still distrust the union. He gives a persuasive speech pitching on unionization of employees and the need for them to sign a union membership card. He has to make a follow-up to inspect the bulletin boards in the factory to confirm whether his unions posters were indeed posted. His new lover, Norma, feels compelled to ask Reuben whether her participation with the union would jeopardize her prospects of maintaining her job at the factory.
She is later convinced by Reuben to sign up as a union member and proceeds to campaign for the union. The movie portrays Norma being harassed by supervisor Lujan for participating in union activities, but she remains steadfast to understand the negative perception of unions by the employers. Norma is also forced to organize a union meeting at her home after her intent to hold Reverend Hubbard blocked such a meeting from being held in his church. Unions were also increasingly associated by African American workers in the movie. At some point, white workers beat up an African American worker for being sympathetic to unions.
What new information or insights about labor unions did you get from this film? Did it change your opinion about labor unions?
The interests of labor unions directly conflict with the benefit of employers and manufacturers. This means that it is perfectly reasonable for unions to stay in prolonged stand-offs with employees- given their direct conflict of interest. Labor unions will continually vouch for increased employee wages, worker benefits, and provision of health insurance to workers. These demands may change significantly over time, given the dynamics of the economy such as inflation. Meeting these requirements may require high finances that end up eating into the billions of profit that employers/companies make.
What advantages to the workers did the labor union provide, as portrayed in the film?
Workers who participated in labor union activities sought to gain improved wages, work benefits, and health insurance. It enhanced the provision of health insurance to employees. Before the unionization of employees working at Norma's workplace, the factory doctor turned her back when she took her mother for medical attention. The activities of the labor union force most employers to craft strategies for ensuring that their employees complain less and lose interest in joining labor unions. Gardner promotes Norma to a position where she was performing enhanced roles of spot-checking the work of other employees and giving him feedback on worker productivity. Unionization of the workers also created for them a sense of collective job security against their employers. They felt that their employer could not dismiss them from work arbitrarily.
What disadvantages to the workers did the labor union provide, as portrayed in the film?
Those associated with unions often felt that they risked losing their job. They were always threatened by their factory line supervisors and the manufacturers. There was also an increased racist perception of workers unions as being fronted and supported by African-American employees. In some cases, white employees ganged up to beat the African-American employees. Organizing activities for labor unions could also cause one the risk of arrest. Norma is arrested and taken into police custody of her union activities that led to factory shut down.
Norma is later bailed out from police custody by Reuben. She had gone to copy a letter posted by the company indicating racist insinuations that the union was to be taken by African Americans. Norman intended to obtain a copy of the letter for the union to use to sue the company in court. As she was leaving the factory building, she wrote the word, "union" on a placard and held it on her head. The workers got incited and went on a slow-down by shutting down the factory machines. The company later called the police, who arrested her on trumped charges of disorderly conduct.
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