Thirty years ago Sally Field won the Best Actress Academy Award for her gritty portrayal of Norma Rae, a widowed small-town Southern textile-mill worker. Even those who haven’t seen the entire movie have viewed stills or clips of a sweaty Field standing atop a work bench holding over her head a piece of cardboard with UNION written in black letters.
The scene portrayed happened verbatim to the woman who inspired the movie, Crystal Lee Sutton, who acted in defiance after being fired for copying a flyer put up by the mill that claimed black workers would run the union she and labor organizer Eli Zivkovich were agitating for at the J.P. Stevens textile mill in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.
Ms. Sutton passed away September 11th, a victim of brain cancer, and union leaders are using her death to rejuvenate interest in the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). As membership in unions has plummeted in the last half century from over 35 percent of all workers in 1945 to just over 12 percent currently — and only 7.6 percent if government workers aren’t included — labor leaders view EFCA as the magic bullet to increase union membership and, in turn, union political influence. FULL ARTICLE