Unions for Low-Income Workers

    Hollywood continues to play a crucial role in the modern society. The movies and documentaries Hollywood produces portray the evil and good in society and propose ways in which they can be rectified or maintained. Whether the movies are based on true stories or fiction, they are greatly influenced by the lives of people around the United States. Two such movies are Norma Rea and Breads and Roses. Norma Rae is a story of a woman that works at a textile company. This is a common practice among members of her community. However, the pay and working conditions which lead to her decision to get into a union. The movie bread and roses illustrates the life of Maya who works as a janitor after moving to the United States illegally. Similarly, the pay is poor and they can barely survive on it. However, her decision to fight for their rights leads to a disagreement with the sister. The two stories portray a similarity in the job status and differences in both the relationship with the families and men in their lives.

     Both films narrate the stories of low-income workers in the United States. Both the job at a textile mill and that of the janitor are low paid jobs. Moreover, they are both regarded as jobs undertaken by the low-class members of society. The people expected to take on these jobs are either unlearned or illegal immigrants. In the case of Maya, she is an illegal immigrant whose sister has used her influence to get her the job. Before getting the job, it is clear that their status allows them to be easily extorted. As the supervisor explains, “I know you will ‘coz I did a favor for Rosa and for that a charge a commission, your first-month salary” (Loach 15:12). Clearly, the supervisor takes advantage of the workers since the company has no time to address the issues of the somewhat insignificant employees. Similarly, the status of the textile mill workers allows them to be easily exploited. The working conditions of the mill continuously affect the health of all the people close to her. However, her job position does not allow her to express her grievances adequately. As seen in the movie, she is given a position in the management as spot checker; a move hoped to silence her. However, this position is aimed at distracting her from the continuous pushing for better conditions. However, she realizes that the temporary position does not change her job status as much as she had hoped. It is evident that the two ladies are involved in jobs that are classified as low ranking. In their job positions, they are required to adhere to the orders without questioning them.  Nonetheless, both ladies are determined to receive better pay and condition despite their job status.

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     The two ladies have different family settings and different relations with their family members. One has an understanding and supportive family while the other has a family that is not corporative in her personal beliefs. In the movie Norma Rae, the leading actress is a single mother of two. The cotton company where she works is has been a family source of income. As seen in the movie, the father similarly works in the mill. She has a relatively good relationship with her children. Despite the children having different fathers, they all get along perfectly. As revealed in the movie after being arrested, she explains to her children why and how the arrest will continue to affect them. She has tried to start relations with other men to revive the complete family setting however, she keeps failing. On the other hand, Maya has only a sister in the United States, Rosa. However, their relationship is strained as compared to that of Norma and her father. The two sisters have different beliefs that make them collide. While Rosa prefers to keep her head down and obey the rules, Maya prefers to fight for the rights of the workers. However, in Norma Rae, the father and daughter seem to fight for the same thing. “…Stop being a Fink to the bosses” (Ritt et. al 34:12). The father rebukes any relations of the daughter and the company management. The relationship between Norma and her family is that of understanding and unity. However, the relationship between Maya and her family is strenuous. 

    Maya Montgomery and Norma Rae have distinctively different relationships with men. Both ladies have different relations with men that have enabled them to form opinions of the opposite gender. One believes in the freedom to date and have relations with men to avoid boredom and sexual satisfaction. On the other hand, the other believes in the relationship with men based on pure love and affection. In bread and roses, it is evident that Maya has little experience with men. She is afraid of being around members of the opposite gender. As she explains, “find me a job at the offices, I cannot keep working at the bar” (Loach 23:13). This is after feeling that the men at the bar were harassing her. Moreover, she is afraid of the supervisor and can barely express herself around him. Similarly, as the union organizer, Sam Shapiro starts to express her feeling for her she is reluctant and tries to avoid him. She has been raised in a society that teaches her to avoid men as they are often bad influence. On the other hand, Norma Rae is comfortable with men in her life. As explained in the movie, she has two kids with different men. One of them is dead while the other is negligent and they are separated. In the company, she constantly has flings with different men in the company. She is open to the ideas of dating despite acknowledging not to have good relations with men. Moreover, she easily accepts courtship proposal which are influenced by her past experiences. It is evident that Norma Rae is open to relationships both sexual and non-sexual in her life. Additionally, she can easily voice her opinion around men. However, Maya is reluctant to have relationships with men in her life based on her morals and family teachings. 

     The two films have distinctive differences as well as enormous similarities. They are both based on the lives of two women that work in low-income jobs and are both determined to bring a change in their job settings. However, they both have different relationships with their families and the men in their lives. While Norma is open to the idea of dating and starting relationships, Maya holds back from relationships with members of the opposite sex. Similarly, the relationship between Maya and Rosa is strenuous as compared to that of Norma and her daughter as well as her relationship with her father. Nonetheless, they both believe and participate actively in the formation of unions to fight for their rights. Moreover, they aid in the positive transformation of their work environments as well as the minimum wages. 

Works Cited

Bread and Roses. Directed by Ken Loach, Perf. Adrien Brody, Elpidia Carrillo, Pilar Padilla. Box Office, 2000.Norman Rae. Directed by Martin Ritt, Produced by Tamara Asseyev, and Alex Rose, Perf. Sally Fields, Beau bridges, Ron Leibman. Box Office, 1979.

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