Norma Rae [1979]

Veteran director Martin Ritt (Sounder) directed this earnest and very popular tale of a naive textile worker, widow, and mother in the U.S. South who becomes empowered by standing up for her rights in the workplace. Sally Field stars in the Oscar-winning title role as a woman who has been content to go along with the status quo until she realizes that she is entitled to more and can succeed if she stands up for herself. Her fight to improve deplorable working conditions at the textile plant causes a rift between her and the people closest to her, but her determination brings a new awareness to her and to all the women with whom she works. Ritt's typical, socially conscious story uses the politics of Norma Rae's struggle and also its emotions to build the film to a rousing climax. --Robert Lane

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Reuben Warshowsky:
On October 4, 1970, my grandfather, Isaac Abraham Warshowsky, aged eighty-seven, died in his sleep in New York City. On the following Friday morning, his funeral was held. My mother and father attended, my two uncles from Brooklyn attended, my Aunt Minnie came up from Florida. Also present were eight hundred and sixty-two members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and Cloth, Hat and Cap Makers' Union. Also members of his family. In death as in life, they stood at his side. They had fought battles with him, bound the wounds of battle with him, had earned bread together and had broken it together. When they spoke, they spoke in one voice, and they were heard. They were black, they were white, they were Irish, they were Polish, they were Catholic, they were Jews, they were one. That's what a union is: one... Ladies and gentlemen, the textile industry, in which you are spending your lives and your substance, and in which your children and their children will spend their lives and their substance, is the only industry in the whole length and breadth of the United States of America that is not unionized. Therefore, they are free to exploit you, to cheat you, to lie to you, and to take away what is rightfully yours - your health, a decent wage, a fit place to work. I would urge you to stop them by coming down to room 207 at the Golden Cherry Motel, to pick up a union card and to sign it... It comes from the Bible - according to the tribes of your fathers, ye shall inherit. It comes from Reuben Warshowsky - not unless you make it happen.

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