The workers at the Momentive plant near Albany, New York didn’t get as much attention in the weeks surrounding Donald Trump’s election as did those at Carrier in Indianapolis, but in many ways they are similar. While the Carrier plant was closing down, the workers there had faced repeated demands for givebacks in their contracts like the ones the Momentive workers fought against. And like Carrier, in the state from which Trump drew Vice-President Mike Pence, the Momentive plant too had a Trump connection: Steve Schwarzman, billionaire hedge-fund titan and Trump economic adviser, had been part of the team of private equity investors who owned the plant once it was spun off from GE. Yet when filmmaker Cecila Aldarondo began visiting the workers on the picket line they walked outside of Momentive for over 100 days, she found that many of them had voted for Trump. Her short film, Picket Line, is part of Our 100 Days, a short film initiative from Firelight Media and Field of Vision examining America after Trump, and we talked about stereotypes of Trump voters, the power of the union in resistance, and how to talk to people on the other side of the political line drawn by the 2016 election.
One of the things that has already sort of bothered me and troubled me a little bit is in seeing how people have reacted to the film since it was released, is people making knee-jerk statements about the white working class. Mostly people who think of themselves as liberal, who are rabid anti-Trumpers, who are essentially saying, “I am sick of hearing the story about the aggrieved white working class. These people are idiots,” etc. and “Thanks for screwing us over.” Something like this.
The first thing that I would say to that is, “First of all, this is not a universal… These people are not all white” and like you said, they are not all male. I would say this area is largely white, but there were a lot of people of color that I talked to for the film. I think that these sort of bumper-sticker narratives are things that people have been clinging to to explain very complicated and much longer-running issues around the growth of economic inequality, the erosion of union power in this country, etc.
Anyway, I just want to say, this is a film that really tries to challenge those kind of monolithic understandings of not just what happened, but what is happening to working people in this country. That includes all working people of all ethnicities, all genders, etc.
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