|Version 1 HD Video|
|Version 2 youtube.com|
"With Babies and Banners" pays tribute to the women -- some of them
wives of strikers and some of them factory workers themselves -- who
helped win one of the greatest victories of American labor unionism:
the 1937 sit-down strike at the General Motors plants in Flint,
Michigan. The film includes generous amounts of actual footage from
1937 as well as interviews with some of the leaders of the Women's
Emergency Brigade 40 years later, and shows how issues of gender and
racial equality still remain troublesome within the labor movement.
"With Babies and Banners" was filmed in 1977 and released in 1979, but
takes on even more poignancy now that the gains made by the labor
movement in the 1930's -- relatively high wages, job security, social
benefits like Social Security and unemployment compensation -- are
being relentlessly attacked by Right-wingers in government and the
media, and that many descendants of the white working-class people who
were the greatest gainers from the 1930's union movements have joined
the Right and are voting for the politicians and policies which are
sending them back to the 1890's economically and socially.
Incidentally, the print I saw was in terrible shape -- there were scratches and black lines across the screen through much of the film -- and when the person who presented it announced that his copy was a VHS transfer of a print owned by one of the filmmakers it rather dashed my hopes that a better-quality version exists. This really underscores the importance of preserving not only silent and early-sound Hollywood classics but more recent so-called "orphan films" that have little commercial potential but are nonetheless invaluable historical documents and deserve to exist for the education of future generations.