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Thursday film screening highlights unionization efforts in the early 20th century


The 1979 film highlights the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union, better known as “The Wobblies,” which was founded in Chicago in 1905.

Park City Film is showcasing the documentary “The Wobblies” at a free screening at the Park City Library Thursday night.

The 1979 film highlights the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union, better known as “The Wobblies,” which was founded in Chicago in 1905.

Stories of workers in factories, sawmills, wheat fields, forests, and mines are told as they fight to organize and demand better pay and working conditions.

The Wobblies organized over 150 strikes in the early 20th century. During a strike by shingles workers in 1916 in Everett, Washington, a dozen members were killed after anti-union forces opened fire.

Film distributor Kino Lorber acquired worldwide rights to the documentary last year, and it has since been remastered by the Museum of Modern Art.

The film has remained relevant in the modern political economy. Union membership has declined for decades. In 2021, the union membership rate among wage and salary workers in the U.S. was 10.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Gallup polling indicates that roughly two-thirds of Americans support unions, which is the highest approval rating since 1965.

The COVID-19 pandemic led workers globally to reevaluate their priorities, leading to what Texas A&M professor Anthony Klotz called The Great Resignation.

Corporations have dealt with a rise in unionization efforts recently. The independent Amazon Labor Union won an election in Staten Island in April, making it the first U.S. Amazon warehouse to vote to unionize.

This week Starbucks asked the National Labor Relations Board to suspend union elections amid claims of misconduct. One year ago, there were no unionized Starbucks cafes in the country. Now there are over 200, including one in Cottonwood Heights that voted to form a union in June.

The free film screening will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Jim Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library.

Parker Malatesta covers Park City for KPCW. Before coming to NPR, he spent one year as a general assignment reporter for TownLift in Park City. He previously was the news editor at The News Record, the student paper at the University of Cincinnati. He loves running, reading, and urban planning.