There are lots of great films one could pick as a way to mark Labor Day, but the one that came to mind immediately, in part because it’s in the public domain and available in its entirety via the Internet Archive, is Herbert Bieberman’s 1954 classic, Salt of the Earth (94 min.) starring Will Greer, aka “Grandpa Walton” to many of us.
Here’s the IMDB description to whet your appetite: Based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico, the film deals with the prejudice against the Mexican-American workers, who struck to attain wage parity with Anglo workers in other mines and to be treated with dignity by the bosses. The film is an early treatment of feminism, because the wives of the miners play a pivotal role in the strike, against their husband’s wishes. In the end, the greatest victory for the workers and their families is the realization that prejudice and poor treatment are conditions that are not always imposed by outside forces. This film was written, directed and produced by members of the original “Hollywood Ten,” who were blacklisted for refusing to answer Congressional inquiries on First Amendment grounds.
Whether or not you’ve seen the film before, I encourage you to visit Archive.org’s Salt of the Earth page to watch the film as a way to mark Labor Day 2011.
Workers and lovers of cinema unite!