Each festival season the Workers Unite Film Festival focuses on several campaigns that involve working people. This year we are working with various organizations to link labor film to action in the streets. The two major campaigns where we are encouraging action are the “Fight for 15” and “Justice for Garment Workers”. As a result of this we will be encouraging action on these key issues at our screenings and on our website. Here is a brief overview:
Fight for 15
Workers have needed a living wage for years. Fight for 15 has gained traction recently with strikes by fast food workers and Walmart employees. When the corporate media discussed $15 minimum wages issues with the public, they belittled the concept – so the public was skeptical. Now workers have told their own stories and organized to force many municipalities – such as Seattle and Portland, to raise their minimum wage to $15. The public has seen and read more information about how higher pay for these workers benefits our whole economy – besides being the right thing for society to do.
Main Street has been hurting for years because while corporate profits have skyrocketed, working people have not seen a pay raise in years. This situation has only heightened income inequality and forced workers into a more precarious circumstances. After workers were forced to bear the brunt of the economic collapse, those fighting for living wages are rising up to show Wall Street that this recovery must be based on fairness, not greed.
Despite the clear need for a $15 minimum wage, right-wing legislators and lobbyists around the country are trying to maintain the status quo. The Workers Unite Film Festival is hosting several screenings during the may festival (May 6th to 27th) as well as a joint screening on April 23rd a part of Raise The Wage film series in partnership with Workmen’s Circle, 32BJSEIU, The Fight for $15 project and several others. The screening will draw attention to the need for a real wage increase for minimum wage workers around the country. You can find more information about the screening here.
To become more involved in the Fight for 15 you can also check out their website and find an action near you.
Justice for Garment Workers
The tragic collapse at Rana Plaza, and the murder of nearly 1200 innocent garment workers by greedy multinational fashion conglomerates, such as Children’s Place, shined a light on the horrid work conditions that garment workers in Bangladesh were forced to endure. After the initial wave of global uproar, some changes were made, however many companies still choose to shortcut worker safety and leave workers in dangerous work environments.
Last year we showed a series of films focused around Rana Plaza and this year we are continuing those screenings. In collaboration with the New York Taxi Worker Alliance, we hosted a film screening in Remembrance of Triangle shirtwaist. You can find out more about the screening here.
Kalpona Akter recently testified at the United Nations annual Women’s Empowerment Principles conference. She highlighted how factories crack down on union activity by firing organizers, such as herself. Akter and other Bangladeshi workers have obtained significant victories through their organizing such as reducing child labor and pushing for empowering women through education. Only problem is that factories still are putting organizers on blacklists to prevent them from working in the industry they are trying to improve. For Akter’s full testimony click here.
Take Action Now
Going forward we will tie actions into each of our screenings and work to make sure that workers around the world can see that we stand in solidarity with them. To show your solidarity with Fight for 15 and Justice for Garment Workers, here are two campaigns that you can plug into through your laptop.
1) Fight for 15: Workers at McDonald’s have been injured on the job when handling scalding hot oil. Encourage the Department of Labor to investigate this by signing an online petition. More information here
2) Justice for Garment Workers: Benetton has not paid enough into a relief fund for Rana Plaza workers and this social media campaign encourages people to take a picture of themselves with an open hand and post to social media using the hashtag #BenettonPayUp5million More information here