Where has the time gone? As September approaches, so does the coveted Labor Day weekend. What most of us know as Labor Day is an extended weekend, how we cap off the summer and of course, for Chelan, one of the busiest times of the year! But Labor Day’s roots stem from a very real and powerful Organized Labor Movement which brought us the eight-hour workweek, overtime pay, sick days, vacations and holidays, not to mention safe working conditions. We don’t get taught much of this in school but there are some incredible films made to celebrate this holiday and we’re here to share them with you!
Check out this list and learn some history behind Labor Day!
One of the best, and most overlooked, films of the 1980s is this story of what is known as “The Battle of Matewan,” in which Sid Hatfield (played by David Strathairn), a sheriff in Mingo County, W. Va., decides to stand with the residents of his town, rather than side with the coal company that has taken ownership of it.
Sally Field earned the Academy Award for her portrayal of a young woman who becomes a union organizer at a textile mill. The film was inspired by Crystal Lee Sutton’s campaign to organize the J.P. Stevens Mill in North Carolina in the early 1970s.
If you thought this list was all union positive, here’s a classic depiction of the bad side of unions. It is inspired by true events. Marlon Brando stars as longshoreman Terry Malloy, who is faced with an impossible choice of staying silent or ratting out corrupt and murderous union boss Johnny Friendly (played by Lee J. Cobb). Karl Malden stars as a priest who advocates for the truth. Brando’s romantic attachment to the sister of a murdered longshoreman further complicates the matter. “On the Waterfront” won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and three other awards for good reason. It’s a true classic.
This comedy is not about unions, but it certainly speak to unfairness in the workplace. Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin team up and almost kill their terrible boss (Dabney Coleman), but end up fighting sexism and unfairness in the workplace. The film has been fittingly named “one of the 100 funniest movies ever made” by the American Film Institute.
There have been a few movies about iconic union figures, the almost impossible to find “Joe Hill” (1971) and historically questionable “Hoffa” (1992) among them, but this one fares better than most. Michael Pena makes for a likable Chavez, who co-founded the United Farm Workers, and touches on issues that are as timely today as they were when Chavez was organizing in the 1970s.
For more films like these, check out 10 great movies to celebrate Labor Day
Enjoy the rest of your summer and remember not to work to hard!