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During the last presidential Republican primary, Rick Santorum spoke glowingly of his grandfather’s “big hands,” which he got from working as a coal miner.  Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, talked about her coal-miner grandfather.  In a previous election, Joe Biden didn’t have his own coal-miner grandfather, so he borrowed Neil Kinnock’s, though he soon had to give him back.  And so it appears that a politician just loves having a coal miner in his family, though I doubt if he would want his daughter to marry one.

Presumably, these millionaires that run for president need some way of proving that they are essentially just like us, and they trot out their coal-mining ancestry to show that they have not forgotten where they came from.  Their wealth notwithstanding, they are working class, same as us, and thus have our interests at heart.  Of course, it doesn’t have to be coal mining. During the Republican National Convention, we heard speech after speech by politicians trying to establish their blue-collar bona fides, with tales of hard work and tough times.  While few of them could boast of having a coal miner in their family, they managed to find reasonable working-class substitutes.  Soon they may start hiring genealogists for this purpose.

Even God saw the good in it, which explains why Jesus’ stepfather was a carpenter.  God knew what he was doing when he made sure Mary would end up getting married to someone who worked with his hands, rather than to a money lender or tax collector.  God wasn’t worried about his son getting elected, of course, but he knew that a working-class background would go a long way in establishing his son’s moral worth, a point not lost on modern politicians.  In other words, in addition to showing that they are just like us, politicians try to establish a connection with certain kinds of work as evidence of virtues like integrity, trustworthiness, courage, and even piety.

In Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn sings about the way her father loved his children, and the way her mother read the Bible every night.  Undoubtedly, there are also coal miners who get drunk, beat their wives, and screw their daughters, same as might be found in the general population, but we are persuaded of the purifying effects of hard work, and thus are predisposed to embrace her idealized portrayal of a coal-mining family.  In The Razor’s Edge (1946), Larry Darrell is on an existential quest, precipitated by his experiences during the Great War.  He turns down a job as a stockbroker and goes to work in a coal mine instead.  He says that while he works with his hands, his mind is free to think about other things, like the meaning of life.  In How Green Was My Valley (1941), Roddy McDowall plays Huw, the youngest child in a coal-mining family.  He is given a good education, with the opportunity to pursue a professional career, but he chooses to go to work in the coal mines instead, notwithstanding all the misery and mistreatment suffered by his father and older brothers.  He does not explicitly state his reason for doing so, but we get the impression that he goes down into the mines as a matter of pride, as if to prove that he is just as good as the other men in his family.

In fact, if the industrial revolution had taken place two thousand years ago, I am sure that God would have seen to it that Mary had a coal miner for a husband instead.  But carpentry was good enough, as is any job where you either produce some basic good, as in coal mining, or you make or repair something, as in carpentry.  In Office Space (1999), a man who hates his soul-crushing job sitting at a computer in a claustrophobic cubicle finally achieves peace and contentment doing construction work in the open air.  And farming always has the aura of spiritual purity, as in Easy Rider (1969), where a bunch of hippies work the land rather than sell out by working for the government or big business.

When it comes to honoring the worker, there is no difference between liberals and conservatives.  But when those same workers band together and form a union, the difference becomes profound.  It would be a gross oversimplification to say that conservatives invariably despise unions, while liberals wholeheartedly adore them, but there is no doubt that unions tend to find support on the left of the political spectrum, and opposition on the right.  As a result, there are movies about unions reflecting each of these attitudes.  As an example on the left, we have Norma Rae (1979), in which the company is the villain, and the union formed by the workers is an unqualified force for good.  As an example on the right, we have On the Waterfront (1954), in which the union is so corrupt that the union boss and his henchmen are the villains, not the shipping companies that need the longshoremen to load and unload their ships.  Rather, the union boss and his men exploit both the shipping companies and the workers.

Because there are probably more leftwing, pro-union movies than rightwing, anti-union movies, it might seem that the nation is more favorably disposed to unions than not.  However, I have noticed that since 1980, all the pro-union movies are set before that date, while recent anti-union movies are set contemporaneously.  This suggests that the left must look nostalgically back to the past, while the right can make its case in the present.

For example, Matewan (1987) and Made in Dagenham (2010) are pro-union movies, based on actual events that occurred before 1980:  the early 1920s for the former; 1968 for the latter. On the other hand, Waiting for “Superman” (2010) is an anti-union documentary concerning the decline in education in America, depicting events that have occurred quite recently.  The film places the blame for all our educational ills on the American Federation of Teachers, which stands in the way of progress by insisting on tenure, a position I have criticized elsewhere and will not repeat here.

This is a new kind of worker in a union movie, one who does not work with his or her hands, and certainly does no physically demanding labor.  The workers, that is, the teachers, are associated with children, however, and the teachers benefit from that association.  As all politicians know, having children is even more important for political success than having a coal-miner grandfather.  Bill Clinton, except when he had to address his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, never gave a speech in which he did not refer to children.  And Jesus certainly cashed in on this association, insisting that his disciples allow the children to come to him.  Today, it would be called a photo op.  The downside of such association, however, is that much evil befalls those who are accused of harming children, as is the case with those who belong to the teachers’ union.  Since the union is depicted as failing the children out of a selfish concern for tenure, the unionized teacher becomes the scourge of our education system.

As an exercise, try to imagine a movie set in the present that portrays the teachers’ union in a favorable light.  In general, public employees’ unions suffer from the same fate:  no one has ever made a mainstream movie that presents them in a positive manner.  Whatever the merits of the case, leftwing, pro-union movies about civil servants do not exist.

Returning, then, to the kind of work traditionally found in a union movie, we have North Country (2005).   The story begins in the year 1989, and it is about a woman who tries to make a living working in an iron mine.  This would seem to be a liberal-slanted movie, inasmuch as it is a feminist film about sexual harassment.  But the animosity toward Charlize Theron’s character is for the most part shared by both labor and management.  The union members, who are mostly men, are cruel and obscene in the way they treat the few women who work there.  So while the movie is liberal in its feminist stance, it is conservative in the negative way it portrays the union and its members.

The television show The Wire, which is set in this century, featured a corrupt longshoremen’s union in the second season, so technically that makes it rightwing in its negative attitude toward unions.  But then, everyone in that show was corrupt, including the good guys, so maybe we should not try to make too much of that.  Still, the union does not come off looking very good.

To sum up, every movie or television show involving unions that is set in a period of time after 1980 presents unions negatively.  All the movies that are pro-union, regardless of when they were made, are set before 1980, as if they must occur in a remote, mythological past in order for us to see the union as good.  The fact that no one is willing or able to make a pro-union movie set in contemporary times is an ominous indicator of public sentiment.

Originally posted to disinterested spectator on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Leninism's dead end (10+ / 0-)

    had the horrible overall effect of dragging all of socialist and working-class political culture down with it.  During its most successful years, it managed to reduce socialism to two streams, its own and the completely coopted capitalist-serving social democracy.  Once Leninism died, capital no longer needed the social democratic facade.  It was free again to establish the class order of Manchester 1844, and did so promptly.  

    Ideologically, the global working class has been sold the bill of goods of "rugged individualism", which requires the abandonment of any trace of class consciousness or social solidarity.  We have to become like the capitalist, forever atomized and without mooring to enduring community, because that would require us to recognize peers.  Rugged individualism and market triumphalism have no time nor space for such outmoded cultural values.  We believe there are ONLY individual solutions to collective problems, and those who hint at collective solutions seek only to cheat us of our individual advantages, to be nothing but leeches living parasitically off our own hard work.  

    Classes exist in two senses.  Objectively, in the reality of conditions in the relations of production, and subjectively, in an awareness of ourselves as sharing a status, a conditio in society.

    The very meaning of working class has been turned into a weapon of divisiveness when it should be a great unifier.  We hear, forever, about the "white working class" this and that, when the reality of the working class is that it is the most integrated, diverse and multicultural class in American society.  Instead, practitioners of divisive politics of every sort use it to set worker against worker.

    Is it surprising then, that in such an environment, unions seem to have no social relevance or bearing, speaking as they do from a culture that has both been suppressed and suicidal?

    Pay no attention to the upward redistribution of wealth!

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:55:31 AM PDT

    •  Well, that and killing millions of people. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sparhawk, hmi
      Ideologically, the global working class has been sold the bill of goods of "rugged individualism", which requires the abandonment of any trace of class consciousness or social solidarity.
      I'm not sure the "global working class" has any single ideology, much less that one.
    •  You can argue that Lenin doomed humanity tbh (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, ozsea1, Chi, Trevin, hmi

      Seriously. If things in Russia had gone down a path that left Emma Goldman happy instead of horrified, who knows where we'd be right now.

      The Left badly failed humanity with Leninism. Badly. On countless levels. And there's wayyyyyyy too many Lefties today that seem loathe to admit that, as if Stalin has been smeared by the Wall Street Journal or something. Like we're giving the other side points by reflecting on this massive failure. Ugh.

      I made the mistake of JOKING about Communism with someone from Eastern Europe once, and by the time he was done excoriating me, I felt like an asshole that made a rape joke to a sexual assault victim. The Hammer & Sickle is deeply offensive and triggering to anyone who actually suffered under the Soviets. I have no idea why it isn't more taboo than it is.

      You won't find a Swastika in a shopping mall, but there's plenty of "cool" clothing manufacturers sticking Hammer n Sickles on their Bangladesh-made clothing. (The irony of that is enough to kill a man.)

      "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

      by TheHalfrican on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 05:12:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think a lot of American liberals think (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Zinman, ozsea1, Alhambra, Chi, happymisanthropy

        very favorably of Stalin. Other than that. I agree with your comment. We got red baited and it's stuck. Because people are too stupid to read anything not written by Fox News.

        Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

        by Dirtandiron on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 05:45:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  i used Stalin as an extreme example lol (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          because no sane Lefty has the balls to make excuses for Stalin's evil. Even when Russians defend him, it's because of WW2. (nevermind that he almost lost it because he HILARIOUSLY trusted Hitler for reasons incomprehensible to the minds of men)

          Mao was a good writer at least.....

          "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

          by TheHalfrican on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 06:47:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Most harcore union members I knew (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JrCrone, Dirtandiron

          When I was a kid were totally anti communist.

          Most I knew totally supported the Vietnam war.

          My grandad was a republican, union organizer for the Textile Workers of America and couldn't have been more anti communist.

          However he grew up dirt poor, his father died early and he had to wear his sisters old shoes to school. He also grew up during the depression.

          He was really against much welfare or anything but the idea that workers could band together and bargain with their labor just like companies cornered the market and drove up prices didn't have anythng to do with socialisim and had to do everything with the free market. It didn't have anything to do with the gov't in his mind.

          We have really seen a paradigm shift in the perception of unions.

          For sure entertainment has been a big factor.

          Look at gay issues and racial issues.  Did President Palmer on 24 pave the way for Obama?

    •  One person's "mooring to enduring community".... (5+ / 0-) another's "slavery to the whims of others." People who are sick and tired of the boss ordering them around are unlikely to be very happy to have another boss.

      Still, without unions the imbalance of power is too great. They're like dentists. You may heartily dislike going to the dentist, but if you ignore it, sooner or later you're in for a world of pain. Likewise with a union. If you don't have one, sooner or later you're going to get screwed and there will be absolutely nothing you can do about it.

      "They bash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago volume 3)

      by sagesource on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 12:00:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This Is An Interesting Observation (14+ / 0-)

    It seems even liberals act on the common idea that Unions have "outgrown their usefulness". The history of why Unions came about is important but there is much use that the unions have today.

    Another issue, I think, is the perceived lack of heroism today in the movement. The most obvious of the leaders in labor (Trumka, I think, excepted) are seen as corrupt fat cats who are far more interested in their own influence than helping their members. The president of my International has ruled an administration of anti-labor and concessions to management. There are brave people in labor taking stands, but they are not getting the headlines.

    Also, in my own recent experience of voting on concessions, there are too many people who fret about "where am I going to get a job?" to stand against management demands. I have asked them how many of our grandchildren will have to face down the Pinkertons again or be executed by the state to get back the rights they are just giving away? My Union is leading the way to accepting the lowest pay and benefits in the industry. It used to be they led everybody to the top.

    Gegen diesen Idioten muss ich verlieren! – Chess Grandmaster Aaron Nimzowitsch (Why must I lose to this idiot!)

    by xulon on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 11:07:57 AM PDT

  •  I would place "Billy Elliot" (10+ / 0-)

    in the pro-union movie category. And it is set during coal miner strike of 1984-85, in the Thatcher '80s.

    And we also need to be intellectually honest within our own observations about labor and labor history. Where there was sexism and racism we should own up to it, and improve the institutions we support rather than asking us to take sides (and weirdly blame feminism in the case of the Charlize Theron movie.)

    Deconstruct deconstruct deconstruct all you will (and that is good!), but don't forget ways to improve unions and unionism.

    Darling, you didn't use canned salmon, did you?

    by JrCrone on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 12:23:03 PM PDT

    •  I guess you have a point (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JrCrone, Dirtandiron, llywrch

      I admit that I did not watch this movie before writing this essay, because I figured the part about the union was just incidental to the main story, which is about a boy wanting to study ballet in the face of macho attitudes at home.

      I'll put it in my Netflix queue.

    •  Not just movies about unions ... (7+ / 0-)

      Brief references to unions are more common and even more powerful than movies specifically about unions.

      Take the movie Captain Phillips about the pirates taking the US cargo ship. The union shipmates come off as pathetic cowards and whiny. That is a purposeful edit.

      I think the Simpsons is another example of a show not about unions, but that portrays unions both positively and negatively. But the stereotype of the lazy, nit-picky union ("that's not my job!") where bad workers can never get fired is the most powerful cultural meme against unions out there.

    •  Will there ever be a movie about VW in Tenn??? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's possible that VW's union council will have enough  power to influence VW to stop expansion at that plant.

      If VW decides to expand US production they will probably build it somewhere besides Tennessee.

      It will take a few years to see what develops there and whether a movie would be pro or anti union.

      The republicons moan, the republicons bitch. Our rich are too poor and our poor are too rich. Ferguson Foont

      by Josiah Bartlett on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 07:32:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The history is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the United Mine Workers was one of the first racially integrated organizations in the country.  Why should racist decisions by unions a hundred years ago still be held against today's unions, but racist decisions by corporations last thursday must be forgiven and forgotten?

      Unless you're talking about the Fraternal Order of Police endorsing George Wallace... I'd be ok with never forgiving that.

      •  Well, I'm not saying to forgive and forget (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        corporate practices in the here and now! So, I will take your comment as a completely reasonable rhetorical question, with fist shaking at the sky in complaint directed at the public at large and our governmental institutions in aiding and abetting this behavior in particular.

        Will that do? ;)

        Intellectual honesty is trans-historical, I believe. And, I come from training in history, so you will always see that bias in my commentary, along with the snark/humor bias. And the feminist bias. And the humanist bias...

        Darling, you didn't use canned salmon, did you?

        by JrCrone on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 12:31:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Blue Collar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    akze29, happymisanthropy

    Don't forget that one.  It could be placed in the anti-union frame but, like The Wire's depiction of the longshoreman's union, it is much more complex than that.  

  •  someone needs a movie about wage theft. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stude Dude, Dirtandiron, akze29, Chi


  •  Norma Rae (7+ / 0-)

    was made in 79, so it missed the cut by a year.

    Paul Newman's dad was a crooked union officer in Absence of Malice (1981).

    There was a 1992 musical, "Newsies" that was pro-union.

    "Silkwood" had some admirable union officials in 1983. The exception makes the rule.

    Hollywood keeps rejecting my scripts about the heroic unionist who led the general strike that blocked Bush from stealing the election from Gore.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 01:25:48 PM PDT

    •  It is the setting that matters (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      What is critical is when the movie was set, not when it was made.  Newsies is set in 1899, so its pro-union sentiment would not be an exception.  Silkwood is set in the early 1970s, so it too is consistent with my claim that pro-union movies are set before 1980.  Norma Rae was made in 1979, but it was set in the early 1970s, so it missed by more than a year.

  •  The best union movie of all time (9+ / 0-)

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 02:17:49 PM PDT

    •  A big dose of reality (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gjohnsit, Dirtandiron, ozsea1, slatsg, Chi

      I thought about discussing Harlan County USA in my essay, but it would have made it too long, and I really did not need it for the particular point I was making.

      I already knew about the hard, dangerous work done by the men.  But I was struck by the fact that in the United States in the early 1970s, there were people who still did not have indoor plumbing.  And I was also struck by the women, who have babies a sixteen and rotten teeth at forty.  Unlike glossy Hollywood productions like How Green Was My Valley, this movie showed just how miserable being part of a coal-miner community can be.

  •  I accept your point about (8+ / 0-)

    he lack of positive depictions of unions in film. However, I have a quibble. Cop shows on TV tend to be very pro-union insofar as the main characters are union members. They are represented by their union reps when they invariably run afoul the bureaucracy.

    A recent episode of Chicago Fire (cops,firefighters same characters, different uniforms.) one of the main characters ran for President of the firefighters union union.

    Now these modern cop shows will usually depict other unions as corrupt, although there is frequently some incorruptible young crusader who is struggling to return control of the union to the members. Sadly the crusaders have a high mortality rate, although the bad union bosses always get arrested and the union members do regain control of the union.

    Here's my take on it - the revolution will not be blogged, it has to be slogged. - Deoliver47

    by OIL GUY on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 02:40:02 PM PDT

  •  How about "Bread and Roses" (6+ / 0-)

    I think it was based on the Justice for Janitors struggle in the 1980's.

    Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now 400ppm. That is "Climate Cluster Chaos". (hat tip to JeffW for CCC)

    by Zinman on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 03:11:15 PM PDT

  •  The Wire (8+ / 0-)
    The television show The Wire, which is set in this century, featured a corrupt longshoremen’s union in the second season, so technically that makes it rightwing in its negative attitude toward unions.  But then, everyone in that show was corrupt, including the good guys, so maybe we should not try to make too much of that.  Still, the union does not come off looking very good.
    I don't think the  longshoremen's union comes off that badly when you put what the union president does in context. It isn't simple greed that motivates him, it's because the port of Baltimore is in decline (like much of the rest of the city) and he gets involved in smuggling to help provide for his members and his local. What the longshoremen are doing is trying to make the best of a bad situation; that doesn't mean they necessarily make the right choices, but what The Wire is trying to show the viewer, among other things, is what's happened to our cities and what kind of options ordinary working people have.

    If you read anything else by the show's creator, David Simon, or see an interview with him, you'll see that he is deeply sympathetic to the working classes and poor in our cities. I have a hard time seeing him as anti-union; I don't think he approves of what the union did in the show, but he understands why they're in the situation they're in.

    Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

    by Linnaeus on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 03:12:11 PM PDT

    •  This. Diarist TOTALLY missed the point of Season 2 (5+ / 0-)

      You need to remember that its the ONLY investigation in the show's run where the detectives are able to get The FBI to commit fully and pour badly-needed resources/manpower into the case. Once the Union is taken down, The Feds disappear. There's literally a scene where the cops ask their FBI connection where the other dozen agents are, and Agent Fitz wryly notes that's he's the only one left because everyone else was reassigned as soon as the union was nailed. The show makes it crystal clear that the FBI's sole interest was crushing the union, not stopping the human trafficking ring or catching the scary international crime ring behind it.

      The show also makes it clear that globalization and automation are dooming the longshoremen's future. The embrace of smuggling and illegal activity is depicted as a desperation move by working people at wits end. Frank Sobotka's plan was to save enough illegal cash to expand the port and strengthen the union. Nick & Ziggy Sobotka starts selling drugs and stealing cars because they crave the dignity of a middle class life and know they'll never get enough hours at work to support one.

      When you talk about On the Waterfront, you're talking about a completely different era, where unions were STRONG, and union corruption was about pure hierarchical greed and power. Season 2 of The Wire takes place in a era where unions are weak and devastated by decades of hostile government action. In the former, The Mafia and Unions had a close, almost symbiotic relationship. In the latter, Unions can barely run a red light without having The Feds up their ass.

      Season 2 ends with the Sobotka family decimated, the Longshoreman's Union chapter shuttered, and the horrifyingly evil actual criminal masterminds on a first class flight out of the country. The cops cleared the murders, all the detectives careers are saved, Daniels wins his Major Case Unit. Literally everyone involved WINS.......except The Union.

      If that ain't Pro-Union agitprop, I don't know what is.

      Frank Sobotka: You know what the trouble is, Brucey? We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket.

      "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

      by TheHalfrican on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 04:40:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, I did not see every episode, but the ones I (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, Linnaeus

      did, it did not seem anti-union as much as it seemed to portray a world where everybody faces moral choices about doing the right thing, or surviving.

      Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

      by Dirtandiron on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 05:39:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ya he was taking the money in order to bribe (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linnaeus, Dirtandiron

      the politicians to vote yes on dredging the port.

  •  The movie isn't out yet, but Cesar Chavez? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, Odysseus, akze29, jbsoul

    Chronicling the birth of a modern American movement, Cesar Chavez tells the story of the famed civil rights leader and labor organizer torn between his duties as a husband and father and his commitment to securing a living wage for farm workers. Passionate but soft-spoken, Chavez embraced non-violence as he battled greed and prejudice in his struggle to bring dignity to people. Chavez inspired millions of Americans from all walks of life who never worked on a farm to fight for social justice. His triumphant journey is a remarkable testament to the power of one individual's ability to change the world

    "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

    by Hayate Yagami on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 04:53:20 PM PDT

  •  Surely the first question to ask (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, JrCrone

    in the case of North Country is whether or not it is an accurate representation of the challenges and conditions faced by women in the industry?

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 04:58:31 PM PDT

  •  Conclusion - (7+ / 0-)

    I disagree with the conclusion.  I think that the public mind is being shaped to be anti union.  They are anti union without a basis of understanding of what a union is, does, and has done.  If you ask why they are anti union - they don't know.  That is what blind prejudice is. . ... .
    It is a battle but the public needs to see what happening to workers and what is going on with NAFTA and its cousin - the TPP.  This will be happening to them - soon.

    And yes there are corrupt unions, and corrupt individuals.  Unions are attacked relentlessly in the media (with six right wing Ownership groups controlling what we see and hear).

    Each union has an obligation to inform the public what the union is and what it can do.  That is for all unions.

    There is a relatively short but excellent book about the world that should be read by all - Alex Carey - TAKING THE RISK OUT OF DEMOCRACY. Make the effort - read it and if you like it then share with others. Noam Chomsky recommends it.

    •  Excellent Comment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, Zinman, jbsoul
      They are anti union without a basis of understanding of what a union is, does, and has done.  If you ask why they are anti union - they don't know.  That is what blind prejudice is. . ... .
      Either they don't know, or they say, "they support Obama", or "they are Democrat". I try telling people actual examples where I know for a fact some unions have supported Republican candidates(not that that's anything to be proud of) and can give links to prove it, they say I am lying. Apparently they don't know how to click a link and read an article. Or they repeat some bullshit story about Jimmy Hoffa in 1958, like it happened this week.

      Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

      by Dirtandiron on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 05:44:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Two theories (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, akze29, Dirtandiron

      There are basically two theories.  The first is that movies represent attitudes that people already have, because the producers want to make a profit.  The second is that movies represent the attitudes of the people who produce them, because they want to persuade the audience to their point of view.  My essay presumes the former; your comment, the latter.

      I actually believe that it is a combination of the two, partly giving the public what it wants, and partly giving the public a dose of propaganda.  But I lean more toward the first.

    •  Really same way with religion (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JrCrone, jbsoul, Dirtandiron

      Even by some on here.

      If you look the media portrayal of religion is the crazy fundamentalist or the whiskey guzzling lecherous old minister.

      Just like the unions there are a lot of religious people who are sticking up for the poor and working class but their message does not often make it above the media stereotype.

      Pope Francis is sort of working to counteract that using his bully pulpit.

      I wish the the dems and their pals in Hollywood would do the same for unions.

  •  American Dream was a 1990 (7+ / 0-)

    documentary about the 1985-6 Hormel Strike. Watsonville on Strike was a documentary about the 1982 cannery strike.

    Unhappily a union movie made since 1980, if true to life, would show the union suffering a brutal stalemate, if not defeat.

    The Watsonville strikers, won their strike with only a 10% wage cut, but the canneries closed a few years later anyway.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 05:23:57 PM PDT

  •  The media plays a big part in spreading urban (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zinman, ozsea1, akze29, JrCrone, jbsoul

    legends as fact. I remember after Hurricane Sandy, when my neighbors and I just got our power back, there was a bogus story about a union chasing non-union linemen out of state. It was reported in newspapers. The president of the lineman's union even took out ads saying the other linemen were welcome here. But still people are so eager to believe anything bad about any "liberal" group they believe everything they read and hear, as long as the source is conservative.

    Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

    by Dirtandiron on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 05:49:27 PM PDT

    •  The US is now mostly anti-union (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jbsoul, Dirtandiron

      Propaganda spread by the corporations' agents have overwhelmed the experience of everyday Americans in the battle for ideological support for unions. As a stalwalt union supporter and former union officer, I am sadly sure that we have a long way to go to overcome the opposition. But, it was ever thus. That's just how it is/was for unionists. But, we will fight on in spite of the odds because:    .....(everybody join  in in unison):

      "Our cause is just, Our hearts are pure, and, ... there are more of us than there are of them".

      Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now 400ppm. That is "Climate Cluster Chaos". (hat tip to JeffW for CCC)

      by Zinman on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 09:21:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One Movie which was Favorable to Teachers' Unions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Teachers" with Nick Nolte and Jobeth Williams.

    Other pro union movies in recent decades:

    1.  Norma Rae
    2.  Matewaan
    3.  Silkwood
    4.  the one with billy Bob Thornton as an Air Traffic Controller

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Kangaroo on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:00:39 PM PDT

  •  A New Left/Old Left split (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The New Left, for the brief years it may have lived (1932 or 1940 - 1962? maybe 1980?), was a reorientation from the tenants of Marxism as a foundation of the left to anti-totalitarianism and economic equality. (The Hippies were good New Leftists, being good students of college professors participating in it.)

    Whatever happened to the New Left, these days we have retained, as a central tenet of leftism, a profound mistrust of power and coercive force entrusted into any delegated authority. Thus, in "North Country," we get the idea that the problem isn't "union" or "company," but "power over women." The problem in "The Wire" is "power over the worker vs. power over the customer vs. power over the employee" in an open war of unequal forces attempting to achieve dominance. (Season 3's dock episodes are great, but they pit several systems of power against each other. Each attempted balance in itself, and the corrupt union had been "good" in a bad world by achieving a paternalism.)

    Then again, I can't wait for John Sayles and Criterion to get together and for us to finally get to see "Matewan" on Blu-Ray and DVD. It's a masterpiece.

    "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

    by The Geogre on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 05:45:03 AM PDT

  •  "On the Waterfront" was made in 1954 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hmi, Dirtandiron

    during an era of historically high union membership, yet it focused on mob-related corruption in labor unions. Unfortunately, the movie was based on real-life corruption; it is based on "Crime on the Waterfront", a series of articles in the New York Sun by Malcolm Johnson. The series won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. The stories detailed widespread corruption, extortion and racketeering on the waterfronts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

    There's no doubt that rightwing reactionaries have been successful in their drive to delegitimize the concept of organized labor, but they would never have been so successful if the globalization of the labor markets hadn't occurred as well. Once formerly third-world labor markets developed enough to be able to host industrial manufacturing, then American corporations had the best possible way to beat unionization: move the jobs away from the U.S. to countries where they could pay a fraction of the wages they'd have to pay at home.

  •  Though it is a book and not a movie (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There is a scene in Buzz Nelson's Friends and Winners where (of all things) a knight is attempting to convince a common warrior to try a "new tactic" -  fighting in formation. It's been a while, so I'm paraphrasing, but the warrior says that he has always fought alone, depending on his own skill and strength.
    Ironically, the warrior had just been bought out of slavery, as he had been captured in battle, but the knight does not point this out, instead she (it is a fantasy novel) says that, "It takes true courage to trust the man beside you."
    In the book the warrior himself points out that he has already failed, and is convinced to try. Sadly, it is a fantasy novel.

  •  Interesting, balanced, well researched diary (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure I agree with all of your conclusions, but I really enjoyed reading this.  Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

    by Pi Li on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 11:54:24 AM PDT

  •  Joe Biden is not a millionaire (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Say what you will about the Neil Kinnock plagiarism, but Biden was always the poorest senator and still has a net worth well under $500K. Lumping him in with Romney and Santorum is misleading.

  •  1980 is when the right wingers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Set out to capture the media, and they have dominated it ever since. It was all about busting unions, and making the average person think that unions were bad so they wouldn't see the value in belonging to a union.

    Women create the entire labor force.
    Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 12:41:57 PM PDT

  •  The one that truly set my teeth on edge (0+ / 0-)

    was "Won't Back Down" (2012) about how two plucky parents stood up to the cancer that is the teachers' union to strike a blow for freedom and improved education.

    Because the teachers' union is an all-powerful instrument of Eeeeee-vvilll, apparently.

  •  Boy, That's a Huge Marketing Opportunity! (0+ / 0-)

    The studio that makes a pro-union, public-service union movie is sure to clean up. (As long as it's a good movie, obviously.)

  •  Another post 1980 anti union movie I have seen. (0+ / 0-)

    John Candy's Armed and Dangerous (1985), that I saw on cable within the last year. Just doing a curiosity search on imdb, I found an anti union, Obama hating comment in the messageboard.

    Frankly, the word union is a destroyed word and it needs to be rebranded with something else. Trying to save this turkey would take an effort akin to moving mountains. Most on the left can't even defend unions effectively anymore right or wrong. Unions themselves seem to be oblivious to their reputation.

  •  Brassed Off (1996)? (0+ / 0-)

    Brassed Off (1996).  Maybe not explicitly pro-union, but at least union-sympathetic.

    Ideology: A set of assumptions so appealing that one looks at their abstract logic rather than at how the world actually works. -Michael Hudson

    by Justus on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 08:58:31 AM PDT

  •  My favorite pro-union movie (0+ / 0-)

    was the Devil and Miss Jones (1941).  (Not the porn "Devil in Ms. Jones.)

    A business owner goes undercover, discovers his own workers are exploited and helps them unionize.

    Hollywood never made anything like it again.

    9 to 5 did briefly inspire an office workers union, but the movie itself never mentioned unions.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 09:38:12 AM PDT

  •  The Union on NBC's Chicago Fire is an exception to (0+ / 0-)

    the rule.

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