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6 Times Worker Strikes Were Depicted On-Screen!

Written by Rachel Rosenfield. Published: September 24 2023
(Photo: CBS)


Right at this moment, Hollywood screenwriters and actors are on strike. This means that they are not going to do any work until their needs are met, which could take months (and already has). They want to have fair working conditions that will make them want to go back to work. Strikes happen in a variety of industries. They are ways that workers can share what they need in order to have a proper working environment, and they will make their voices heard to anyone who will listen. Strikes have also been depicted on film and television in many ways to educate audiences on what goes into a necessary strike. These films and television series are sharing on screen that they support workers expressing their needs and that they deserve support!


1. Newsies

Written by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White

Strikes can leave a legacy of better working conditions for centuries. The 1899 Paper Strike helped those in the newsboy profession. It also became the basis for the movie musical Newsies. When publisherJoseph Pulitzer changed some rules that made it harder for the newsboys to make money, the newsboys got upset. That is when they decided to go on strike, led by newsboy Jack Kelly (Christian Bale). It was not an easy battle, as most of the newsboys were poor and didn’t have a lot of resources. However, they were tough and willing to do whatever it took to be successful and stand up for the little guy. Newsiesspreads a message of hope that a great strike can lead to progress.Stream on Disney+.




2. "Superstore" (Episode Season 2, Episode 2)

Written by Jackie Clarke

People who work in big-box stores are often undervalued or taken for granted. It should be clear that the life of a worker is not easy. The television series "Superstore" displays the wide variety of problems that these workers go through on a daily basis. In one of these episodes, that includes when workers have to go on strike. In the episode “Strike”, the characters of "Superstore" strike from their job after their manager Glen (Mark McKinney) is fired for giving an employee a maternity leave. This episode highlights the working class struggle and how difficult it is for these characters to be taken seriously. "Superstore" has been praised for its realistic look into working a big-box store, and that includes their depiction of striking. Stream on Hulu.




3. Norma Rae

Written by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr.

Sharing your voice is an important part of getting what you want done. That is what makes strikes so powerful. This message is shared in the 1979 film Norma Rae. The film is about Norma Rae Wilson (Sally Field), who works in a textile mill, a job that has been done for a while in her family. However, working in a textile mill is not easy work. After she meets a union organizer, she decides that the workers at the mill need to unionize in order to make their lives better. She is filled with determination for these efforts. While there is not necessarily a strike in the film, the passion and emphasis on workers’ rights displayed carries the same idea. This is a film that is demonstrating how all workers should be appreciated and supported for their efforts. Rent on Prime Video.




4. Pride

Written by Stephen Beresford

Strikes can often bring together unlikely allies for some terrific causes. Those allies are displayed in the film Pride, which is based on a true story. The film is about the formation of the group “Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners”. This group started during the 1984 miners strike in Britain, which is when the miners were fighting for better working conditions. Members of the LGBT community wanted to help the cause, so the group decided to collect donations and spread awareness for the miners’ struggles. At first, some of the conservative miners didn’t want help from the LGBT community, even though they were struggling. However, eventually, they embrace the help and are ready to fight. This leads to a great bond between groups that forms in the name of workers’ rights. This film demonstrates that a lot of great things can come from a strike, including tolerance. Stream on Paramount+.




5. "The Nanny" (Season 2, Episode 13)

Written by Janis Hirsch

A big face during these recent strikes has been actress Fran Drescher, president of the Screen Actors Guild. Drescher has been very vocal during the strikes, and this is not the first time she has expressed her support of union rights. This support has also been seen in an episode of her popular sitcom "The Nanny". Her character Fran Fine is adamant about not crossing a picket line in the episode “The Strike”. In this episode, there is a strike of busboys outside of a hotel, which is blocking Fran from going to see her boss Mr Schefield’s (Charles Shaughnessy) newest play. Fine has her morals, and she will not cross a picket line no matter what. Even though this is not a cause that she is passionate about, she believes in the workers sharing their voices. The sentiment about strikers expressed in this episode is still wonderfully expressed by the portrayer today. Stream on Max.




6. Made in Dagenham

Written by William Ivory

Historically, it has been a lot harder to be a worker when you are a woman. This is because they have to work harder and they still receive a lack of respect. This can call for an especially strong fight. That is the basis for the film Made in Dagenham. This film is about the sewing machinists who work at the Ford Motor Company in London. The women in this profession are not getting fair pay nor or are they getting fair treatment, as the women are seen as “unskilled”. Worker Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) does not want to stand for this and proposes a strike, which leads to the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike. This strike was not just about getting a better working situation and better pay, it was also about finally getting respect and being seen as a valued member of the working world as a woman. Rent on Prime Video, YouTube, and Apple TV.