Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Salt of the Earth

I just watched “Salt of the Earth” for the first time, a 1954 film you may have never heard of. It was banned in this country because the writer, producer, and director were blacklisted for "communist sympathies." The film is about a real-life mining strike and uses mostly real miners and their families in the cast which creates a strong feeling of realism. Set in New Mexico, it’s largely about the struggles of Latinos to be treated equally with Anglos. But unexpectedly given the year the film was made, it also depicts the struggle of the women to be treated equally with men. The women take over the picketing when the Taft-Hartley law is invoked making picketing by the strikers illegal. They're arrested, go to jail, and through their defiance and strength win the strike.

It's hard to watch a film like this and not feel disheartened by the thought that all the sacrifices made by millions of laboring people have been squandered in the last 30 years as we have turned our backs on the unions, demonizing them as the cause of American loss of global competitiveness.

The local sheriff was portrayed as the errand boy of the mine owners, completely at the company’s bidding. Recently someone sent me a YouTube video of a peaceful protest of Bradley Manning’s imprisonment at Quantico prison being threatened by heavily armed police. I wrote my friend: “why are the police always on the side of the bosses? Why are they never on the side of the people?”

"Salt of the Earth" is available from Netflix and I highly recommend it.

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