Bread and Roses tells story of L.A. janitors' struggle for a union
August 2001

The National Organizer's Alliance once asserted that Norma Rae is the only move made in which the organizers win.

Well, get ready for another one. Bread and Roses, a new film by British director Ken Loach, tells the story of the the struggle by L.A. Janitors for union recognition, through the eyes of Maya (Pilar Padilla), a young Mexican immigrant who, after a harrowing border crossing, joins her sister Rosa (Elpidia Carrillo) in L.A. and gets a job cleaning the buildings which house the offices of the powerful and wealthy businesses of the city.

A fated meeting with Sam (Adrien Brody) a passionate U.S. union organizer, leads to a guerilla campaign against their employers. The fight threatens their livelihood, family, and risks their expulsion from the country, but leads to a new dignity for janitors across the city. The film has some romance but does not romanticize the hardships of trying to live on low wages or the difficult conditions organizing a union in the U.S. in the '90's.

The leading roles are played by professional actors, but, like Salt of the Earth, many roles are played by nonprofessionals using the personal experience of their roles as workers in L.A.'s office buildings.

This writer saw the film in April, at a preview showing at the meeting biannual meeting of Labor Notes. At that event it was introduced by one of the participants in the campaign, as it has been around the country to union audiences.

The film was shown to great acclaim at this year's Cannes Film Festival and was released nationwide in June.

Bread and Roses will be shown at the Hippodrome Cinema August 17-23. In Spanish and English, with the Spanish subtitled. (Released by Lion's Gate Films.) More info:

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