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May 14, 2007 | by  | in Film |
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Bread and Roses

As someone who thinks bosses are the scum of the earth, even I was shocked at the latest cruelty to befall a worker at the hand of their oppressors. A Subway restaurant in Dunedin not only fired a worker for sharing their free staff drink with a distressed friend, but they also called the cops to have her arrested. That all this can happen under a Labour government in the 21st century goes to show that the employee/employer relationship has changed so little from the time Charles Dickens was depicting the birth of capitalism. There is only one thing workers can do to protect themselves, and it has nothing to do with any of the parties in parliament: get organised! One of the best films about workers organizing themselves is Bread and Roses.

Maya is a clever young woman who crosses the Mexican border without papers to live with her older sister Rosa. Rosa gets Maya a job as a janitor with an un-unionised company. The brutal supervisor fires employees just for the sake of holding his power over the workers.

Sam Shapiro is assigned by the service-workers’ union to organize the workers as part of the “justice for janitors” campaign (real life campaign). The management tries to intimidate, and divide and conquer the workers. In spite of this, with the hope of building a better life the janitors take up the struggle and unite to fight their exploiters.

The slogan “We want bread, but we want roses, too!” comes from the 1912 Lawrence textile strike, in which communities of immigrant workers united and this was led entirely by women. Those workers didn’t just want to go back to their crap jobs to earn a pittance, they wanted dignity and beauty as well. Until workers get organised, you should brace yourself for more shit to happen, like at Subway, from the bosses and cops. However when workers do start to organise, brace yourself for something truly fucking beautiful.

KEN LOACH

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