Sometimes, with all the demonizing hate-filled Republican propaganda that fills our airwaves, sometimes one wonders why it is again that unions are relevant. They have been portrayed as terrible things that are ruining our lives. (Just don’t look at the big corporations that are pulling the strings to make those statements…)
How far have we gotten from the struggles for the 40-hour week? Or the hard-fought-for half hour lunches and ten-minute breaks, legal by law, yet in this new corporate world where everyone is doing five people’s jobs, hardly still maintained. Does anyone even remember that it was the unions that fought for these things? For these rights for us working stiffs?
Or has this bad word “socialism” (since that other trumped-up bad word, “communism” doesn’t really work anymore, appearing hopelessly dated) really colored everything for so many? So many who voted their corporate keepers back into power, though they decried the influence of the big bad banks? Just makes ya sick, sometimes.
Well, here’s an antidote to the corporate-cash big money Tea Party election we just stomached. Here’s a pleasant reminder of exactly what unions can do, and why we need them so, in these crazy times. “Made in Dagenham” takes place in England, in the mid-60s. It’s a true story.
Sallie Hawkins, a sure Oscar contender, is one of the strike leaders. Miranda Richardson has a noble turn herself. (Both were in attendance at the AFI screening.) This film is easily one of my favorites of the year.
Women, working at a Ford plant as machinists, start out the movie wanting to be the same pay grade as men, to be classed as “skilled,” rather than “unskilled.” Simple enough. Fair enough.
They encounter many obstacles along the way, not the least of which is that they aren’t taken seriously because they are “just women,” after all. We won’t even talk about the other shop violations which they don’t even talk about in the movie: the water pouring down on the workplace, the fact that many women work in their bras because it’s too hot in the shop (those rights are things American workers fought for, and are still enforced).
But the big battle for the women ultimately becomes: “Equal pay for equal work.” That is what they fight for. Don’t wanna spoil the movie. I’ll just say that it had a positive ending in Britain, and many other countries because of the women of Dagenham.
It made me uncomfortably squeamish, though, to realize that here in America in 2010, women still make only 74% of what men make for the same job. Oh yeah. That’s why we need those “socialist” unions. I remember now.