Welcome to the Pioneer Valley Labor Film Festival

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Labor Center and Western Massachusetts Jobs with Justice welcome you to the Pioneer Valley Labor Film Festival. Against the backdrop of the national campaign for a $15 minimum wage and the labor/economic discussions in the raucous ongoing U.S. presidential primaries, this festival includes two documentary films not yet in general release and two feature films. As a group, the films provide an opportunity to discuss strategies for organizing the unorganized and the need for broad-based alliances within and across diverse communities. The Festival is open to the general public and will feature one film every Tuesday evening in April at 6:30 p.m., accompanied by speakers and audience discussion.

The Festival begins Tuesday, April 5 with a screening of Bread and Roses. Stephen Lerner, the architect of the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Justice for Janitors campaign, an innovative and powerful model for social movement organizing, will discuss the Los Angeles drive to organize immigrant janitors that provided the inspiration for the film. Adriana Fieldman, Field Director for the Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund, a watchdog organization created by SEIU Local 1877 and its signatory contractors to address the problem of cleaning contractors undermining the fair worksite standards in the unionized workplaces, will provide perspective on current initiatives organizing immigrant workers in Massachusetts.

The two following Tuesdays feature two documentary films currently available only to film festivals. Blood Fruit (April 12) tells the powerful story of a small group of Irish retail workers, almost all women, who refused to handle South African-produced fruit during the apartheid era. A Day’s Work (April 19) will be accompanied by the film-maker, Dave DeSario, and law professor Harris Freeman from Western New England University Law School, who will discuss the plight of temp workers and the state of health and safety protections through the wrenching account of a young temp worker killed his first day on the job.

The Festival ends Tuesday, April 26 on an upbeat note with Pride, a feature film based on a true story of a group of LBGT activists who raised money to support the workers during the British Miner’s strike of 1984. The film portrays the comedic, dramatic and complex interactions between the miners and the LGBT group. Karen “Rudy” Renaud, Greenfield Town Councilor, Organizing Director of SEIU Local 888 and current Labor Center MS student, will lead a discussion of labor building alliances with LBGT organizations as well as with a range of other types of groups throughout the community.

The Pioneer Valley Labor Film Festival is the culmination of a Labor and Film class offered through the Labor Center’s MS degree in labor studies. Students in the class have developed this Festival Film Guide, which contains essays on each of the films, as well as annotated sources for audience members who are interested in learning more about the real stories behind each of the films, some of the key issues raised around alliances and new organizing and about other labor film festivals nationally and internationally. The students whose research and writing formed the basis for the information and resources in this guide are: Michele Evermore, Avery Fuerst, Allyson Garcia, Betty Kodoso, Joe Kreinsen, Adam Rose, Emilie Slater, Anais Surkin and Julia Teele.

Times and Location: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, April 5, 12, 16 and 26, in the Integrated Learning Center S231. The Integrative Learning Center (ILC) is adjacent to the Campus Center, and just behind the Student Union building. You can easily get to the ILC if you park on Level 2 of the Campus Center Parking Garage and walk up the ramp into the Campus Center; the ILC is outside, on the same side of the Campus Center building as the Blue Wall, which is the food court area in the Campus Center.