Labor unions were established as a way for workers’ needs and grievances to be heard by management. According to Fossum (2012), “forming a union creates a collective voice to influence change at work” (p. 7). The collective voice of workers in a union holds much more power than any single employee’s voice. It can loudly draw attention to mistreatment or abuse of workers. The organized collective voice of workers demands to be treated in a fair way by its management in terms of wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions.
The film Norma Rae (Asseyev, Rose, & Ritt, 1979) is based on the true story of textile worker Crystal Lee whose efforts resulted in the establishment of a labor union. The film, set in 1978 rural North Carolina, depicts the struggle of character Norma Rae to organize her fellow workers into a union. With the help of union organizer Reuben Warshowsky, Norma Rae fights to persuade workers that their lives can be better if they use their collective voice to demand better treatment from the mill’s management. Although the influence and membership of labor unions has significantly declined since the 1980’s (Fossum, 2012), Norma Rae provides insight into the groundbreaking work and necessity of labor unions at times when the employer holds total control at the expense of its employees’ welfare and ability to earn a decent living.
Summary of Norma Rae
Norma Rae takes place at the O.P. Henley Textile Mill in Henleyville, North Carolina. Norma Rae, a young, widowed mother of two, and much of the town’s population are employed at the mill. The working conditions at the mill are far from ideal. The environment is loud, dusty, and hot. The workers must remain on their feet with few breaks. Norma Ra...
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...ity of union intervention.
Asseyev, T., Rose, A. (Producers), & Ritt, M. (Director). (1979). Norma Rae [Motion picture]. United States: Twentieth Century Fox.
Clutz, R. (1995). Labour and management: Working together for corporate transformation. Canadian Manager, 20(3), 16.
Fossum, J. (2012). Labor relations: Development, structure, process. (11th ed.). McGraw‐Hill. ISBN: 978‐0078029158
Lawler, J. L., & West, R. (1985). Impact of union-avoidance strategy in representation elections. Industrial Relations, 24(3), 406-420.
Leiter, J. (1986). Reactions to subordination: Attitudes of southern textile workers. Social Forces, 64(4), 948-974.
Stanley, T. L. (2013). Running at peak performance. Supervision, 74(9), 12-15.
Study finds grassroots strategy most effective. (1995). Management Report for Nonunion Organizations (Wiley), 18(10), 8.
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