May 9th, 2013
After many months of planning, meetings, screenings, email, facebooking and hundreds of other tasks necessary to make an event like this work, we are finally here! Tomorrow May 10th is the opening night of the Second Annual Workers Unite Film Festival - NYC Celebrates Global Labor Solidarity.
We are screening at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street off University Place and just South of Union Square, from May 10th through May 16th. Screenings are from approximately 4PM each day, right through until 9PM to 10PM for the last films of the day. We continue the festival on Friday May 17th at the Brecht Forum, on the West Side Highway and Bank Street. The Festival continues for an extra day on May 20th, into the next week at the historic 1199 Martin Luther King Auditorium, on 43rd Street between Eighth to Ninth Avenues. This show is sponsored by 1199/SEIU United HealthCare Workers East and runs from 5:30PM to 8:30PM that evening. This event is free to friends and members of the 1199 family.
We have nearly fifty films screening in the coming week about workers and their daily lives, their unions - both good and sometimes not so good, and the efforts of many workers outside traditionally covered organizing groups, like farmworkers, like domestic workers, like taxi drivers, like part-time retail workers - like millions of very low wage workers around the world, who have decided enough is enough and they will fight back for their dignity and human rights.
One of our main point os this festival is that workplace rights are not some academic idea, not something "extra" that is nice for a workers lucky enough to get them. Rather we strongly feel and want to demonstrate through these films that workplace dignity and rights are civil rights here at home and human rights here and around the world. The time is long past for workers to be able to go to work with their heads held high and to be able to proudly say, "This work is hard, this work is dirty at times, this work is not a walk in the park, but I'm proud to have this job and I'm proud that my union has fought to protect my rights and dignity on the job so I can come in to work knowing that I am not a salve, or at the mercy of my boss, that I am a full human being, who deserves respect and dignity, no matter how dangerous or difficult my job may be.
If there was ever a week or two in this world when this should be glaringly apparent, it is these last several weeks when over 800!!! innocent workers were murdered at their sewing machines for the simple and non-existent crime of coming to work - a workplace where the average pay is some twenty-three cents an hour!
This was not an accident, nor was it unexpected. There had been numerous warnings from several inspectors, from union activists, from random people on the street who saw major cracks developing in these buildings. And this collapse came after several years of hundreds of deaths in these squalid sweatshops due to flash fires, where workers were locked in to burn to death, because factory owners feared they might not return to work after the fire was put out.
It is not only the callous disregard for human life and dignity shown by these factory owners, but the very same greed and inhumanity shown by major American retailers, including Tommy Hilfiger, who was exposed by Brian Williams on NBS Nightly News, with his excellent reporting n the story. Hilfiger, who at first tried to run and deny his garments were made in these factories, was forced to recant once hundreds of photos surfaced showing his brand name label merchandise covering the floors of the recently collapsed and burnt factories. He has since made efforts to address the gross negligence on the part of his contractors, but he is one among some 700!!! clothing companies that use these totally exploited workers to fatten their huge profit margins on selling clothes to our families.
So our Workers Unite Film Festival has an amazing film during the week, called The Machinists, screening on Mothers Day, May 12th@7PM. I hope you can make it because this film tells the equally sad, but uplifting story of all the Bengladeshi Moms who must work over 15 hours a day to make a living in these factories, never get to see their young children - who stay with grandparents - and are subject to a death sentence for simply going to work. As the film portrays - even when these workers organize in the face of terrible odds, they are subject to beatings and ultimately, disappearance and death. This is exactly what happened to Aminul Islam, one of the bravest organizers in Bangladesh. Read more about it here: http://www.laborrights.org/search/node/islam
We are happy to screen the film, sad that over 100 years!! after our own triangle Shirtwaist Fire here in NYC, that we are fighting these exact same battles to give workers the ability to come to work and then return home to their families safe and healthy. It is way past time for this to be the reality of working life.
Please check out the rest of the site, the schedule, the film descriptions and choose a bunch of films to come and see. You can buy tickets right from the site - at TIX.com - look for the yellow ribbon logo. You are also welcome to come to the theater or The Brecht Forum and buy your tickets the day of the show.
We intend to keep fighting, this week and every week to build a bigger and better worker's cultural outreach program, through this festival, through several more regional festival in the planning stages, through our partnerships with The Global Labor Film Festival this May and thru our online presence.
If you can donate online to help out this effort - great, but please come and see some powerful and insightful films on this topic this week.