UNCG Campus Weekly

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Screening: Matt Barr film on fighting for workers’ rights

Poster5-2The Smithfield struggle in Tar Heel, NC, is an important chapter in the history of unions in the meatpacking industry. It also demonstrates the convergence of labor rights and civil rights.

The film “Union Time: Fighting for Workers’ Rights” premieres at 7 p.m., April 28, 2016, at the Elliott University Center. It is free and open to the public.

Matthew Barr produced and directed the documentary, filming from 2007 to 2015. Barr is professor of Media Studies. His film work focuses on the impact of globalization and social change on working people.

“Union Time: Fighting for Workers’ Rights” tells the story of the meatpacking workers who fought dangerous working conditions at the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant. From 1993 to 2008, workers sought to organize a union.

In the third union election in 2008, a majority of plant employees voted to bring in the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union (UFCW). Since that time, UFCW Local 1208 in Tar Heel has successfully negotiated higher pay rates and safer working conditions.

The documentary is narrated by actor and activist Danny Glover. The core of the film, however, is the voices of the Smithfield employees, many African-American and Hispanic, who showed courage in standing up to a multinational corporation. Employee Wanda Blue embodies this courage in one of the most evocative quotes in the film: “I just had to get the fear out. Once I got the fear out of me, I was good to go.”