films about working people

Labor Stories (1975)  Acclaimed Chicago filmmaking collective Kartemquin Films documents the struggles of three unions in this anthology.

American Dream (1990)  Directed by Barbara Kopple.  Documentary.  The trials of Hormel meatpacking workers and their families as they are faced with a cut in pay and engage in a work stoppage, dividing friends and the community.  Insightful documentary that takes the viewer into union strategy sessions.  Winner of an Academy Award for Best Documentary of 1990, Directors Guild of America Award for Best Documentary, and  the Filmmakers Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival.


The Wobblies (1979)  Directed by Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer.  Documentary replete with archival footage recalls the Industrial Workers of the World, their struggles and legacy.  Film includes interview with Rhode Island Labor History Society member, historian and author Paul Buhle.

The Molly Maguires (1970)  Directed by Martin Ritt.  Documentary.  Director Ritt offers a compelling drama about the Pennsylvania Mine Wars and the exploitation of Irish immigrant coal miners during America’s centennial.   (see trivia below)

Wal-Mart:  The High Cost of Low Price (2005)  Directed by Robert Greenwald.  Documentary.  Director Greenwald contrasts the public persona of Wal-Mart with Wal-Mart the employer, showing the human toll on Wal-Mart employees.

Enron:  The Smartest Guys In the Room (2005)  Directed by Alex Gibney.  Documentary.  Drawing on insider interviews and archival footage, Gibney details one of the greatest scandals in American corporate history.

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Trivia Note:  The Molly Maguires was shot in Eckley, Pennsylvania.  The film saved the town.  Eckley was slated to be destroyed for strip mining, but after filming the town was donated to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  The town is now a museum.  Click here for more...