Ralph Fasanella has a special exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum and Andrew Tilson, executive director of Workers Unite Film Festival, tells us about the importance of Fasanella's work for the labor movementRead More
The Workers Unite Film Festival went to the AFL-CIO headquarters for the Global Labor Film Festival where we met with Labor Film festival organizers from around the country and the world. We shared ideas about how to expand labor film and the possibility of collaborating on major labor film screenings. Check out the article for more information about the conference and a special message from Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO.Read More
Submissions are now open for the Fourth Annual Workers Unite Film Festival. Films can be submitted in various categories for the festival which will be in May. The film festival is open to both professional filmmakers, students and workers who are focused developing films about the plight of working peopleRead More
The New Economy Film Festival is a two-day event that brings four award-winning documentaries, four creative film shorts, and post screening interactive panels to Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) 87 Lafayette Street in New York City. The festival showcases films that address both the challenges or our current economy and pioneering efforts to build a more just, inclusive, and ecologically regenerative system.Read More
September 1, 2014
Labor Day 2014 comes early this year, but not soon enough. While the assault on worker's rights is in full force, with 24 states across the country now "right to work" states and attacks against public employee unions in full throttle. an article by Steve Greenhouse details the real world results of such a weakened labor movement.
In his article Greenhouse details nearly $1 Billion in wage theft by employers around the country. From trucking company employees being unfairly forced to work 70 hour weeks with no overtime pay - actually no pay at all for their extra hours - to FedEx employees being told to work 10 hour days as "independent contractors" (no health benefits, pension, sick days, vacation days paid). employers large and small across this country are trying their best to rob from the poor to give to the already wealthy.
Many of these employees are outside unions or even industries covered by the historic National Labor Relations Act, while many have been forced out of their existing unions and labor protection by the right-wing assault against working people over the last twenty years.
As Greenhouse notes, there has been pushback in the courts and several recent victories, against the trucking company alone, for over $21 million in back pay and overtime pay, against FedEx for falsely trying to claim employees as independent contractors, show that the worst excesses might eventually get their day in court. But this is not the way to celebrate Labor Day 2014. Our American Labor Movement needs to embrace a new concept that has been put forth by several labor theorists and former civil rights era heroes, including Congressman John Lewis.
Lewis and several co-sponsors have called for making labor organizing and workplace rights part of the existing federal Civil Rights Act of 1965. While many, both inside of and outside of the labor movement see this effort as a far-fetched long shot, let us remember how much of a long shot civil rights for African Americans in the South seemed in 1950.
Though we are still fighting these racial civil rights battles today, most recently over police brutality and the murder of apparently innocent civilians whose only crime was being black at the time they were stopped by police, huge strides have been made in enforcing civil rights for many groups now covered under the federal civil rights laws.
While this effort should not take away from many recent victories by unions and worker centers in winning back stolen wages and enforcing labor rights in the workplace (including the recent car wash worker victories in NYC by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU) and the recovery of nearly $2 million by the NYS Attorney General at the prodding of the NY Taxi Workers Alliance in stolen tips and lease overcharges by can company owners against taxi drivers), it is nevertheless critical for the current labor movement to get behind a new dynamic movement that has the potential to excite and motivate millions of unorganized workers as well as millions of students entering the workforce for thee first time under conditions as harsh as they were back at the height of the Gilded Age before the Great Depression.
Wage theft, as Greenhouse points out, is not a victimless crime and does pay very well. Employers large and small see their bottom lines and profits soar when they steal from employees, almost always the working poor who can not afford to lose a penny in hard earned wages. This wage theft cascades through a community, further decreasing purchasing power and remaining as a lingering factor in the anemic economic recovery we see all around us.
At the Workers Unite Film Festival, we have screened many films about workers organizing their colleagues around the world, where they have no legal protection. In fact they are often operating in environments where they put their own lives at risk simply for trying to bring justice and dignity to their fellow workers. Bangladesh, Colombia and the Philipines are among several countries where labor organizing can mean severe injury or death to activists by employer paid thugs. In our own country, time and again, workers standing up to fight for plain human fairness on the job are fired, out of work and living hand to mouth, while the slow process of our own labor law protections and their toothless penalties against employers often lead to organizers and union drives collapsing under such pressure.
We must rededicate ourselves this Labor Day to not only supporting and fighting alongside our existing unions, but we also must consider this concept of labor rights as civil rights. Civil Rights laws have far heavier penalties for each infraction and civil rights laws would empower any brave employee to stand up and start organizing for workplace rights.
During a period where established unions must often fight to keep existing union members paying dues and where they are facing such a coordinated assault against their very survival, we must give all workers in every corner of this country a new tool for fighting back. I hope you all think of how hard this union movement here in the US, as well as around the world, has fought to bring dignity and justice to the workplace this Labor Day.
I also hope that by next year and the years after, we will see new efforts to organize more workplaces, fight back against more wage-theft criminals and start ourselves down a road of massive involvement and participation in worker/labor rights. Let's empower ever single worker to speak up, let's make labor rights civil rights.
See you on September 6th in NYC for the Labor Day Parade.
The Workers Unite Film Festival is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Workers Unite Film Festival for Documentary Feature, Documentary Short, Narrative Feature, Narrative Short, Film from the Frontlines and Audience Favorite.Read More
The Workers Unite Film Festival is backing "Can't Take it No More" a film about Walmart Worker Organizing. Find out how you can make sure that this labor film makes it to the big screens and helps the world learn about how Walmart treats its employeesRead More
May 18th, 2014
It has been an incredible run so far! nine nights of amazing films and amazing people interacting on issues of workers' lives, their dignity at work, fair pay, equality on the job and their right to organize and keep their labor union representation. We have screened over 50 films, both long and short, on almost every major topic related to issues affecting working people.
PLEASE JOIN US FROM 2PM to 5PM TODAY AT JUDSON MEMORIAL CHURCH TO STOP KILLER COKE! FILMS< MUSIC< SPEAKERS AND THE NY LABOR CHORUS!
Last night the Workers Unite Film Festival was hosted by the NY Taxi Workers Alliance at their spectacular new home in Queens. We were honored to be able to bring several films to screen in this wonderful new home for workers, which will house a full health care and benefit fund in the near future.
We screened the films to commemorate the one year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory buildings in Bangladesh, where over 1300 workers were needlessly murdered by the greed and thoughtlessness of both local contractors and international clothing brands. Thanks to the filmmakers who attended and brought their powerful new films: Sara Ziff, who's trailer for her film in production, "Tangled Thread," explores how all workers, no matter how far away, or how seemingly distant their daily lives, are actually completely connected by how the 1% exploits them for profit. This short film packed a huge punch for telling the story of Bangladeshi garment union organizers and their members as they try to recover from the Rana tragedy.
Richard York, part of the Rainbow collective with Hannan Majid, out of the UK, have now completed five films on the misery and struggle of these exploited garment workers in Bangladesh. Richard brought their new film direct from the UK, "Tears in the Fabric," which also went into depth on the huge loss the murder of these 1300 young people has had on the local community-literally a full generation of young people were killed in the factory collapse. we see their children, their Mothers and Fathers, searching through a mountain of rubble, for any shreds that might connect them to their lost loved ones. The enormity of their loss is quite painful to watch. And as we are told, most of our own American garment companies have not paid hardly a penny into the relief fund, nor signed on to the international accords that might help prevent such a tragedy in the future.
Please go to www.raisingforrana.org to donate what you can to help these families.
We are one week out from the 3rd Annual Workers Unite Film Festival and all the fine tuning took a short break today as we went out to join thousands of workers in NYC and millions of workers around the world, celebrate the original workers day of solidarity.Read More
April Fools Day, 2014
We are getting ready for our best Workers Unite Film Festival yet! 10 days in May of films, poetry, music and speakers on issues and stories concerning workers, their unions and their lives. Our preliminary schedule will be posted by Friday and you will be able to see how hard we are trying to inject some working class cultural themes into the general mess that is our current mass culture.
On the same day, the NY Times, (which has been disgusting of late in its whining about the website and other procedural details of the Affordable Care Act during the largest increase in Americans covered by health insurance at any one time since Medicare), wondered if Karl Marx weren’t right about the glaring inequalities of capitalism left to its own devices, the 24 hour news cycle was otherwise filled with the sick and putrid image of one Sheldon Adelson, casino owning magnate, worth over $40 billion, putting around on an electronic scooter, while Christie, Bush, Kasich, Walker and even lesser GOP hopefuls scurried alongside for a chance to blow air kisses at his rat’s nest of fake hair and kiss his withered and decaying ass.
One can dwell on the sad spectacle of “family values” acolytes hopping and skipping to the tune of this sleazy seller of unluck for a buck, but when one reads their NY Times, one sees that these GOP types already know where we are headed and just want to suck onto the .0001%er’s back long enough for one final glorious ride around the fish tank before it all goes boom. Who can blame them? For these right wing thugs, who delight in cutting back on food stamps for hungry children, restricting democracy by curtailing voting rights and hours, eliminating the American Dream, if you happen to be from a different (read brown colored skin) ethnic group of immigrants than their own Moms and Dads, for this bunch of soulless liars and con men, Sheldon Adelson, with all his massive wealth built on fooling all of the people all of the time, this is a perfect fit.
These are all the same folks who scream bloody murder when there is a suggestion of a hike in the minimum wage, much less hike to a $15 minimum wage. “How dare they?” they scream. “Don’t they know you have to have skills to earn more?” Of course referring to the lying skills most of them learned as lawyers and have used so effectively during their otherwise pedestrian political careers. As a wonderful article in Portside details today, raising the minimum wage is not just about the fight for better pay, though that is important too. They are critically about changing the current gross imbalance of power that Marx saw would happen as unfettered “free market capitalism” had more of the restrictions removed from it’s unsavory operations (as has so efficiently been done by both Democratic and Republican beneficiaries of corporate money). Raising the minimum wage to an actually livable $15 an hour would make the vast majority of that workforce – women, many of whom are single working Moms, finally part of the civil society that we project as equal every day. It is currently so far from that it is frightening.
“We ought to think about why - especially during Women's History Month - those most experienced with living on a minimum wage are the women taking your order across a fast-food counter, changing your hotel linens or caring for your children. Women's history tells us something else about this issue: The long struggle for wage justice has always included women fighting, especially through unions, to change the balance of power.
To be sure, an increase is a welcome step in the fight for fairer compensation. But the recent state-level increases in the minimum wage still do not restore it to the level it reached in the late 1960s. Because its value has not kept pace with inflation while the cost of everything from groceries to housing to medical care has increased, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has eroded. And unlike 50 years ago, today's minimum wage workers are no longer teenagers. Their average age is 35; more than a third are over 40 and only 12 percent are below age 20.
Most importantly, the new laws and adjustments barely address the return of the very inequities that originally gave rise to the idea of a minimum wage a century ago. So yes, Americans now are sorely in need of a raise in the minimum wage. But that alone is not going to address the core problems of economic insecurity, inequality and economic and political disfranchisement that mark our era.
Its proponents always recognized that a wage reflected a power relationship and a measure of social worth. Lacking bargaining power, women perpetually found themselves working but poor. Today women comprise over 55 percent of minimum-wage workers; 71 percent of restaurant servers are women, tipped workers who fall outside minimum wage coverage.”
That's why the "Fight For $15" campaign among fast food workers is not just about raising the minimum wage. It's about changing the social relationships and balance of power embodied in the wage. Through opening this struggle, low-wage workers compel us to rethink again who is a "breadwinner."
As the National Consumers' League understood a century ago, workers still need a union. Unions, through collective power - collective power that has legal and ideological legitimacy - compel a more balanced sharing of the profits. Workers' organizations, at their most ambitious, also give people the space and the tools to articulate a just economic vision and build political power to get us there.
That is why the theme for our Workers Unite Film Festival this year is Income Inequality and one of our major evenings is devoted to the concept Equal Pay for Equal Work. Each of our evenings is devoted to another view of how current unfettered capitalism has made the lives of regular working folks a daily hell. And what to do about that hell.
We plan to screen some film history gems, including Salt of the Earth, on its 60th anniversary, new films, Tears In the Fabric, about Bangladeshi garment workers fighting for their rights and lives after the collapse of their factories in Rana, Made in Dagenham, about women in England fighting for equal pay against long odds. People Stand Up! about Haitian workers organizing to fight inequality in Haiti, Under The Bus, about school bus drivers fighting for their rights in NYC, Dreamworks China 2, about Chinese workers wondering how to survive building Iphones for 14 hours a day and the amazing Truth Through A Lens, about fighting to save your community from greedy developers, while also having to deal with agressive police. It is all the same battle. We are all in this together.
We hope you will join us for at least one night of the festival and take away that there are folks, just like you, who are fed up with all the lies, the inequality, and the gross imbalance of our societies worldwide after more than a decade of the return of the Gilded Age mentality. It is time for it to stop. It is time for you and your family and friends to turn off Dancing With the Stars, Housewives of NY, and learn about why you are getting the shaft. Time to fight back.
See you in May.
February 5th, 2014
We are pleased to shake of the dust from several months of pre-planning, to go into high gear as we organize and get ready for our Third Annual Workers Unite Film Festival. It is also great news to hear that the UAW is going back into auto plants in Tennessee, a VW plant, to hold a union vote. Many on the left have pointed out that this is not a big deal because VW, which is completely unionized in Germany, refused to stand in the way of the union drive. There is also a fear on the left that UAW President Bob King, already battered by past losses, might work with VW on "workers councils" in the plant, not traditional collective bargaining. While all these issues may have vailidity, make no mistake, a union vote that gives the UAW a foothold in the anti-union South: that's a huge win for the labor movement in its current state. This will then give impetus to further union drives in the region and generally put the fear that workers can fight back, into the anti-worker minds of conservative Southern polticians. That's a good thing.
This was despite repeated attempts by local businesses and politicians, who were pulling their hair out over a large employer that was not viciously anti-union or anti-worker. But as David Kiley pointed out in an article last year on this union drive, re-branding the UAW won't be easy, especially in the South, after decades of economic collapse, and decades of anti-union right to work legislation. There will be a vote from February 12-24th, which could really help turn around the downward slide of the UAW's drive to organize in the South. Let's hope it does.
While it is a sad commentary on where we have drifted down to in this country as far as labor organzing in heavy industry, it is still a sign of hope for a union movement that as VP Biden just said in a speech the other day, "is under a direct and concerted attack by the business community." Duh! While the union movement has known this for over 30 years at least, it is now only waking up to the need to find new effective survival strategies. This is also due to the recent successful attacks on public sector unions, a sector of the labor movement that organized labor once thought was untouchable.
But the Koch brothers and their billionaire allies have figured out that there are plenty of modern day scabs willing to take their millions in dirty support money, to carry out the most disgusting anti-worker, anti-union legislation imaginable. So the AFL-CIO had recognized the work of many new labor groups, such as the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, the first newly inducted union since the Farmworkers Union over 45 years ago! The AFL-CIO has also recognized the growing power and influence of workers centers and non-union worker alliances, such as OUR WALMART, the groups fighting for a livable minimum wage and food chain workers around the country, from farm fields to restaurant kitchens.
Of course the moderate success of these new non-union groups has brought the wrath and attention of anti-union forces down on these new groups. There is now a high level of chatter on the right and from conservative house members about expanding the Taft Hartley obstacles to organizing further out, over any group seen to be pushing a pro-worker agenda. So funny to see these "freedom from big government" types so eager to create more government regulation over their supposed enemies - workers and their families. Sad.
Please return to our home page over the next weeks as we add all the wonderful new plans for the festival this May 9th through the 19th. We have partnered with NYC's School of Visual Arts Social Documentary Film MFA Program, to honor and highlight the work of the next generation of socially conscious filmmakers. They have some impressive stories to tell about worker's lives.
We also ask that you tell any of your creative friends, or colleagues at work, on the job, we are looking for films of every length about the daily struggles and success of workers on their jobs. We are very open to amateur efforts for our Films From The Front Lines, evening, when we screen the work of professionals and amateur filmmakers, side by side, on the big screen at Cinema Village in NYC. There are prizes too for the best efforts.
Feel free to write us or call us at any time with suggestions, films, ideas, comments. We are always looking to improve our festival and our festival is here to serve the needs, hopes and desires of workers.
GOP in Tennessee: It's Not About Free Market Capitalism at All. It's about beating workers into submission.
This article is a great summation of exactly why any worker that votes for a Republican in this country must have not been paying attention to the facts.
Paul Waldman details clearly what has been obvious to so many of us on the pro-labor left for so long. The Republican hate of unions is not about "free market capitalism" or even "freedom for corporations to operate as they please." In Tennessee we have the spectacle of these supposedly "pro-business" "free market" types, including the Governor and the Senator, not to mention the full political establishment of Chattanooga, where the new VW plant resides, actually threatening a major global corporation for not standing in the way of union organizing. In the minds of these anti-worker politicians, corporations should have the freedom to do as they please, in order to make as much money as possible, then donate a chunk of that money to the GOP for each election cycle. What they may not do, or at least here in the Tennessee case, should not attempt, is a decision which has brought them enormous success and market domination all over the globe, that involves a close working relationship with unions and workers on worker/management councils within each plant.
The Governor ans Senator have each made threatening comments that "tax breaks" for the plant will be pulled if VW has the gall to allow a union to organize workers in the American South.
Read the full article. This is exactly why there is little room to negotiate with these anti-worker, anti-family types who often profess one thing, "freedom, freedom, freedom," yet really mean to return the workers in this country back to some 1800s vision of subservient workers who accept their fate as fodder for the corporate behemoths that will grind them up and crush them should they merely ask for a living wage and dignity on the job.
It is time for that type of hooliganism to stop. Write the Governor and Senator from Tennessee and tell them to re-read our federal laws on labor relations before shooting off their mouths at a huge international corporation that believes workers actually deserve a say on how they spend their jobsite hours everyday.
November 27th, 2013
As we gear up for another fantastic season of Workers Unite Film Festival, I just thought it was appropriate to not only wish all workers and their families a peaceful and restful day with their families, but to talk for a moment at America's descent into mad capitalist overkill.
I apologize for my absence from this blog, there have been many issues I wanted to comment on, but I was forced by a nasty bout with pneumonia to lay really low for the past six weeks. I have seen the thrill of the new Affordable Care Act turn into a messy public relations nightmare for the President and the Democratic Party. I think that as workers come to see the value of the new health care plans and sing up in larger numbers, the ACA will come to benefit the Democrats and the President. But right now we must endure the mindless shrieking of the right-wing yahoos who never wanted working people and poor people to have health care at all. Anybody who still claims that our previous system of health care was "the best in the world," is simply a liar and not in their right mind, so it is pointless to argue or listen to them. Workers Unite Film Festival has always agreed with Senator Bernie Sanders (one of our heroes!) that the single payer option, or Medicare for All, would have been a much cleaner, simpler and easier to roll out plan. Of course, with the state of polarization in our Congress and the level of misinformation about a single payer plan, the President made a deal with the devil and no surprise, the private insurance companies are not making the details of the new plans quite as attractive as the administration might have hoped for. We hope things settle down and we hope to see millions of folks who never had access to health care, gain that access in the next few months.
Being forced to lie around recuperating does lead to to much idle television viewing. While this is mostly negative, it was partially instructive as to the whole insane mania of retailers opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Eve, in fact K-Mart will apparently be open 48 hours plus between 5 AM on Thanksgiving Day and then all the way through "Black Friday." Of course there might very well be retail workers, who are paid ridiculously lousy wages, who are willing to sign on for the extra shifts in order to earn extra holiday pay and we have no quarrel with that concept. It stinks, but we understand wanting to earn extra money for the holidays. But it is clear that the lengthening of these holiday hours and the massive number of retailers now involved in this ridiculous capitalist ritual (thanks to the propaganda of corporate mass media,now almost everybody knows what Black Friday means, a day that is meaningful only to corporate owners of major chain stores; how many workers really know the meaning of May Day?) means that thousands of workers will be forced, at risk of losing their jobs, to work on a day that was supposed to be a day of rest for all to spend in a relaxed environment with their families. If you don't think this is true, look no farther than a story in the Huffington Post today about a manager of a Pizza Hut, a ten year veteran, who was fired for not forcing all his employees to work all through the holiday:
This young man worked without a problem for over ten years in this Indiana Pizza Hut. This year, whether due to the influence of striking fast food workers, or OUR Walmart strikers, he found his courage to speak up and told his superiors that he felt it was unfair to force people to work on a family holiday. He was promptly fired.
So even in the case of a manager, a manager with a good employment record, owners are unwilling to even discuss any arguments to their absolute rule over workers lives, even poorly paid workers and even on major national family holidays. Of course this is why unions and workers uniting is so important.
This how low we have now sunk in this country and we need to think long and hard about what kind of future we wish to have as workers and fellow human beings. If all the holidays are about is such rampant consumerism that people are happy to beat each other's brains out over a 6AM doorbuster electronics deal, than we have seriously gone of our track as evolving human beings. This is not only about dignity for workers and fair and honest dealings for all employees, this goes to the core of how we want to see ourselves five, ten twenty years down the road.
The current movements by the Food Chain Alliance with fast food workers to get a higher minimum wage and groups fighting back at Walmart and Target are important not only for the dignity and fight for fair wages at these establishments, but are heroic efforts by workers to talk about the race to the bottom being forced on all of us by greedy and thoughtless 1%ers here at home. These same struggles for fair wages and workplace dignity also ripple out across the world, to the collapsed and fire-ravaged factories in Bangladesh and to all workers oppressed by the endless quest for more profits by corporate behemoths at the expense of decent lives for the 99% of the rest of us.
So please, before your rush out on the Friday after Thanksgiving, think about what choices you have for that day. Think about whether you will participate in the increasing distortion of our lives by those who see us only us dollar bills waiting to flow into their bank accounts. You do have a choice. You can join Walmart or Target workers who are bravely fighting back against a corporation whose family executive board controls more wealth in this country than the bottom 42% of the whole US population. The US Federal Appeals Court just ruled that Walmart's efforts to fire workers who speak up for their rights on the job is illegal and Unamerican. We are not talking about a radical group saying this. We all know this shift towards abusing workers on holidays, abusing workers at all, is wrong. 60% of the American public thinks the whole concept of "Balck Friday" stinks.
I hope you do too. I hope you join a demonstration this Friday - they are all over the country, check them out online at www.ourwalmart.org. At the very least, stay home after the big family meal, if you are lucky enough to share it together. Stay home and share some quiet family times with the different generations and friends that come together to celebrate this day as family time, loving time - a time completely separate from the dog eat dog mentality that the corporate 1% keeps trying to shove down all of our throats, as if this the only choice we have left. I assure you, it is not. The battle for our humanity is far from over.
Have a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving! More on our amazing plans for Workers Unite Film Festival 2014 next week.
September 2, 2013
After a long hiatus, recovering from our May festival and working on plans for an even bigger and better schedule of events for May, 2014, we are proud to salute all working men and women, all over the world, who bust their butts to make our global economies run. These workers, many organized, many fighting to organize and many still not organized, get up each day and get to jobs that are often poorly paid, where workers are treated without dignity or respect. In the recent worst case scenarios, such as in Bangladesh, workers never got to return home at all! They died due to the thoughtless greed and negligence of their exploiting employers. And still these same employers plead ignorance.
Labor Day is about celebrating all our working brothers and sisters and reminding ourselves that the fight is never over for fair wages, safe working conditions and dignity on the job. It is up to each and every one of us to pay attention to what is happening in our city, towns, states, country and to speak out for the rights of all workers fighting to be heard.
In NYC today, there will be no Labor Day Parade and many local labor folks are upset about this. This year unions are heavily involved in a particularly contentious Democratic primary for Mayor and Comptroller, that will really dictate the direction of NYC post billionaire Bloomberg. This election takes place on September 10th, so please get out and vote! WUFF feels that it was a wise decision this year to replace the one large parade with smaller events dictated by this primary schedule. There are plenty of opportunities for large demonstrations and the NYC Central Labor Council has done a great job in organizing many fine street actions. Even more importantly, the NYCCLC was recently a co-host, with the AFL-CIO in an amazing event held in the training classrooms of UNITE in Manhattan. This full day training was the first in hopefully many more sessions in teaching union organizers, key staff and associated worker center groups how to put all the tools of social media to their advantage: Facebook, Twitter, mass email programs, social media petitions, online organizing tools. This event appeared to me to be very well attended and a tremendous success. I found the sessions filled with important and timely information and the classes were arranged to allow a nice part of the day for networking and discussion between attendees.
It is just such thoughtful and successful events, though off the public radar, that will help build the future worker/labor movements. Our activists and members must be comfortable and educated in all the new technology and online tools which our corporate foes have millions of dollars to exploit.
It is only through the use and careful strategy of online and offline actions (demonstrations and public actions) that we, as worker/labor activists have a good chance to reach thousands of workers who know there is something wrong with their daily struggles, but are just not sure where to turn or how to start fighting back.
So my huge hats off to all thos responsible at the NYCCLC and the AFL-CIO training team for making such events happen.
Steven Greenhouse, the union/labor correspondent for the NY Times and author of the excellent book, The Big Squeeze, (about how workers in the US are literally being pushed out of the middle class and into poverty by greedy corporations), suggested two excellent articles for anybody who cares about the status of labor and workers organizing this Labor Day.
One is an editorial on the NY Times editorial page from August 29th, 2013, by Teresa Tritch, on the Editor's Blog. Her article points out how the whole economy would benefit from a successful fast-food worker's strike campaign: higher wages for lower wage workers translates into more dollars spent on survival by these millions of low wage workers. As Ms. Tritch points out, " Corporations benefit from the status quo. Workers don't. That's why they want a new bargain."
The second article, by Jared Bernstein, zeroes in on many of the same ideas, but points out that during another banner quarter for corporate profits, wages for the vast majority of workers remained not only stagnant, but at the lowest level of increase since 1955! He goes on to say that, "something's broken when the media and economic pundits seem to devote a lot more energy to explaining why companies can't pay living wages than considering what to do about it."
To Bernstein, during a period of many large corporations posting historic profits, paying a more livable minimum wage to those who receive it - 88% of whom are adults! not high school students, just makes common sense.
We at Workers Unite Film Festival completely agree with these thoughts and give our strongest salute this Labor Day to those brave workers, not in unions yet, who can be fired for their actions, yet willing to work off their hard to find jobs to make their points. This is where a revitalized labor movement can develop, from masses of working folks who get that it takes solid action and commitment to fight for fair pay and dignity at work. Fast food workers are showing this, OUR Walmart workers are showing this, thousands of workers across the country are involved and fighting for their rights at this very moment. Thousands more, already organized are fighting hard to keep what they have fought so long to win, dignity and decent wages on the job.
We salute all of you! We pland to keep finding and telling your stories throughout this coming year, through our next major festival in May of 2014 and making alliances with other new media and worker film festivals all around the world who want to keep telling this story of struggle and success against the corporate exploitation that aims to beat workers down every day. History is on our side.
Happy Labor Day!!
June 16th, 2013
I will post a longer entry in the next week to wrap up all the exciting events at this year's Workers Unite Film Festival. It was an amazing ten days with over 46 new films screened from all over the country and all over the world about the lives and struggles of working people.
But today is a day to talk about Dads. Mine passed away far too young, but even in the short time he was here, he taught my brothers and I the power of having work you really loved. Of course he told us too about the work you had to do to help pay the rent, feed your family, meet all those monthly bills, but he hoped we might find something in our lives where we could work hard, yet see that work as part of a larger movement for something better. He was never specific about what that was, could have been writing for science magazines and talking about nuclear physics, as he did, or digging ditches, or producing crazy musicals, as his father did. He was just hopeful that as we grew into men, we might find a passion to follow into our future.
I am happy to say that though I've done my share of pay the rent jobs and make ends meet jobs, my passion has always been to fight for and tell the stories of working folks. I am thrilled I get to see so much dedication, passion and really hard work in the dozens and dozens of films we screen every season in order to find the best selection for the festival. I am honored to play even a small part in turning back the tide of the corporate mainstream media machine as it tries so hard everyday to crush any human spirit out of the culture with its endless parade of junky TV shows on Housewives of .... and films filled with violence and little else.
The films we screen at the Workers Unite Film Festival have a dedication to telling important stories and their creators are artists and writers who never expect to get rich or famous from their work. They just want to let all of you know, to let the world know, that working people count, that working people have guts and that we are all never, ever gonna give up the fight for our worker/labor rights. Not here in the USA, not in China, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Brazil, Chile, France, Italy - nowhere.
So if the one-percenters think they have us beat - they have another thing coming. Take a look at the films we screened this year, even just the prize-winners - you'll see that the power of the human spirit to fight for what is fair and just and right is unstoppable, brave beyond imagination and resourceful as all heck.
So Happy Fathers Day Dad, wherever you are - I hope you know that I did find something to work on that I not only love, but know is so true and so right, that it makes me want to work on it as many hours of the day as possible.
I wish the same for each and every one of you and rememebr that if your job is not what you'd really like to be doing? We can always use your help organizing workers just about anywhere in this fine and beautiful country.
Happy Fathers Day to all!
May 12th, 2013
We are into the third exciting day of the 2nd Annual Workers Unite Film Festival. We are proud to have a wonderful article written about one of the main films we are screening today, The Machinists, about the very brave women and men (the recently murdered labor organizer, Aminul Islam being among them) in Bangladesh who are fighting to form a union in the highly exploitive garment industries there.
Julie Flynn Badal has done an excellent job in telling the story of exactly what "the true price of a pair of jeans" really is in human terms. Please go read this story and please come see this amazing film today at 7PM at the Cinema Village. We placed this film on Mothers Day particularly because so many of the workers involved in this movement are young women with young children. They are forced to work fifteen hour days, paid about 23 cents! an hour and must place their children with their own parents for safe-keeping. This means weeks can go by without Mothers even seeing their children, just in order to keep these oppressive sewing jobs. And as we now know, it isn't even the exploitation in these garment factories that is the worst part. These women and men risk their lives to go to work. There have been at least six major fires over the past two years, including the major fire at the Tazreen factory, killing over 300 workers. As horrible as this is, it pales in comparison to the recent collapse of the illegally built factory tower in Dakar, Bangladesh, has now murdered over 1000 innocent workers. Read Julie's article.
We are also honored to be showing an eye-opening new film from Italy, called the Women Workers War. This brilliant film shows what happens when one group of strong women sitdown in their own factory, stopping work for over a year. They send their story and message out over both social and regular media over the course of that year. They reach business owners and in particular, a women who decides to totally change her relationships in her own factory thanks to the enlightened message from the women on the sitdown strike. This is an incredible film about human relations and the power to change.
Earlier in the day we are screening several shorter films about The National Domestic Workers Alliance, based out of NYC, together with several films about domestic workers all over the world. Mujeres Pa'lante follows these often overlooked workers in Spain, where many of the domestic workers come from South America. Later this evening we see the epic Money and Honey, about Filipino women who travel to Taiwan to care for that country's aging population. The Director, Jasmine Lee, will be there to speak on the topic.
We are also lucky to have a short film on one of the fast growing local worker movements, Vamos Unidos, Judith: Portrait of a Street Vendor. This film shows the multiple battles these recent immigrant women must face. Harassed by the city and the INS, while trying to do their self- created jobs, they must often carry their very young babies on their backs as they push their loaded carts. This film is a testament to the strength and determination of women workers and all workers involved in this movement, to fight for their rights against enormous odds. Director Zahida Pirani will be at the screening with Vamos Unidos members to answer questions.
So for this Mothers Day, treat your Mom, treat yourself and the family to brunch, and a stroll, then come on over to the Cinema Village in the later afternoon for some powerful and entertaining films about Moms around the world who want exactly what your Mom wanted for you, and my Mom wanted for me: a safer life, a better life, a life filled with not only the material things you might need, but the freedom and ability to choose your own path, without exploitation and without oppression.
I want to thank my Mom, Elly Tilson, a lifetime trade union movement member and former Director of the 1199/SEIU Health and Pension Fund, for bringing my brothers and I up with those freedoms and with an education in what it means to be part of a a proud working class family. We were taught from day one the honor and dignity of working people and hopefully we are able to pass that message on to our own children and to as many of yours as we can, through these wonderful films.
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO ALL!
Please read this great article about the national labor movement - under Working America and other new groups, realizing that it's time to reach workers where they actually exist and organize them into thinking like workers first - then hopefully into organized workers fighting for their rights and then - hopefully into unions:
Thanks to Abby Rapoport of The American Prospect
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.
April 30th, 2013
The NYC based Workers Unite Film Festival is proud to join now with 18 other festivals around the world for a months of films clebrating workers and their stories. The Workers Unite Film Festival will celebrate this global event on May 16th here in NYC at The Cinema Village theater on 12th Street and University Place, just
South of Labor's historic gathering place, Union Square. As Chris Garlock, Director of The DC Labor Film Fest in Washington, DC and founder and Director of the GLobal Labor Film Festival has just written:
April 23rd, 2013
We have an amazing line-up of 26 programs at three venues for the Second Annual Workers Unite Film Festival.
Films from HBO pros - Joe and Harry Gantz - American Winter - with a stellar panel of commentators, to brand new films from first time Directors, such as Mujeres Pa'alante (Women Moving Forward) about domestic workers in Spain fighting for workplace rights.
We have films about incredibly brave women and mothers in Bangladesh, many survivors of current day "Triangle Shirtwaist Factory" fires in the sweathsops in Bangladesh, risking their lives to form labor unions. Films came in from China, about the young workers from the world's largest workforce, in the age of Apple and Foxconn and their universal hopes and dreams - In Dreamworks China.
And we are lucky to receive a beautiful new film, just premiered at the Museum of Modern Arts Documentary Fortnight in February of this year, Your Day Is My Night, by the film artist and social documentarian - Lynne Sachs. Her film brings us right into the lives of our neighbors in Chinatown, who share bedrooms in shifts out of economic necessity. We pass these wonderful people everyday - rushing through their neighborhood, but never really see them or the lives they lead. Lynne takes us there.
We have films from the incredible Tami Gold, on how teachers fighting for their rights in Oaxaca, Mexico really did start a revolution, won a major victory, then had to fight back again as the government tried to crush their victory and imprison their leaders- Land, Rain and Fire and Frozen Happiness.
Their are music videos about paying back the Fat Cats (I Wanna Be A Pirate) and short narrative films about workers taking their due from nasty owners(Let It Be War). We've tried to cover the range from educational to entertaining fun, with even a neat cartoon fairy tale about taxing the rich thrown in for good measure. (Tax The Rich: An Animated Fairytale).
So many films, so little time and you can see one program, one full day of entertaining and eye-opening films, or buy the full week pass for only $60! Full Day passes are $12, senior and students $9 and single program passes are $8, seniors and students $7.
Please check out our schedule, read about the films and click this link, here, or on our www.workersunitefilmfestival.org site and look for the TIX logo to buy your tickets.