Alternative Histories of Labor Film Series

Drawing energy from the wave of attention to labor issues prompted by the spread of “right to work” laws and the Fight for Fifteen movement (among others), this series aims to expand on the dominant narrative of labor movements as mostly white and mostly male. These six film screenings and discussions highlight the contributions of women and racial/ethnic minorities to US labor movements.

At each screening, scholars and activists will lead discussions connecting the events in the films to present-day issues in labor organizing and work in general. Speakers include three-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Julia Reichert, art historian Huey Copeland, filmmaker and professor Judy Hoffman, historian Erik Gellman, linguist Kim Potowski, film historian Annie Sullivan, and labor activists from a number of fields. Audiences are encouraged to contribute their own experiences to these vibrant discussions.

At the River I Stand
August 25 at 7pm
Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

Northwestern University art historian Huey Copeland introduces a screening of At the River I Stand, a 1993 film about the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that Martin Luther King Jr. was supporting when he was assassinated. Full details here.

Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle
September 8 at 6pm
Chicago Public Library, Pullman branch, 11001 S. Indiana Ave.

Roosevelt University historians Christopher Robert Reed and Erik Gellman introduce and discuss a screening of Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle, a 1982 film about the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Full details here.

HSA Strike ’75 and I Am Somebody
September 26 at 6:30pm
SEIU Healthcare headquarters, 2229 S. Halsted St.

Filmmaker Judy Hoffman, Stroger Hospital chief medical officer Claudia Fegan, former HSA negotiating and strike committee member Dr. Howard Ehrman, and St. Bernard Hospital crisis worker and SEIU Healthcare member Bonita Williams introduce and discuss a screening of HSA Strike ’75, a 1976 film about a strike for better patient care at Cook County Hospital, and I Am Somebody, a 1970 film about a strike by poorly paid black women hospital workers in South Carolina. Full details here.

last threeFinally Got the News
October 9 at 7pm
Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.

Northwestern University graduate student Annie Morse and former UAW organizer Mike Siviwe Elliott introduce and discuss a screening of Finally Got the News, a 1970 film about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit. Full details here.

El Teatro Campesino
October 19 at 7pm
La Catrina Cafe, 1011 W. 18th St.
Sponsored by Contratiempo and Aguijón Theater

DePaul University associate professor of Spanish Jacqueline Lazú, workers’ rights organizer Martin Unzuela, and Aguijón Theater ensemble member Marcopolo Soto introduce and discuss a screening of El Teatro Campesino, a 1970 film about the theater troupe of the United Farm Workers. Full details here.

Union Maids and The Willmar 8
November 13 at 3pm
Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

Three-time Oscar-nominated director Julia Reichert and Sara Joy Liles, member of the board of directors of Chicago Women in Trades, discuss Union Maids, a 1976 film about women labor organizers in 1920s and 1930s Chicago, and The Willmar 8, a 1981 film about a bank strike over sex discrimination. Full details here.

The series is sponsored by South Side Projections; Illinois Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly; The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana; Black Cinema House; Contratiempo; Aguijón Theater; and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Chicago.