Chicago banquet salutes Salt of the Earth labor heroes

CHICAGO – This year marks the 50th anniversary of the production of the groundbreaking movie, Salt of the Earth. Celebrations have been taking place across the country. On Saturday, Nov. 15, Chicagoans will have their turn when the annual People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo banquet honors lifelong trade union activists Anita and Lorenzo Torrez, who both played roles in the movie.

The event, held under the theme “Stand together: Fight back. Keep the dream alive,” will be held at UNITE!, 333 South Ashland Ave., beginning at 6 p.m. Also being honored with the Chris Hani/Rudy Lozano award are PWW/NM writer and Editorial Board member Fred Gaboury, the Chicago Community Film Workshop, and the Chicago Student Labor Action Project.

The award is named for Chris Hani, the late general secretary of the South African Communist Party, and Rudy Lozano, a trade union organizer and leader of Chicago’s Mexican American community who was assassinated in 1983.

Participants in the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride and strikers from the Congress Hotel picket line and other local struggles are expected to participate, as well as trade union activists, elected officials and cultural performers.

Gaboury has a long history in the trade union movement, beginning as a rank and file leader of International Woodworkers of American in Washington state. As editor of Labor Today, he gave leadership to Trade Unionists for Action and Democracy, a forum for rank and file activitists in the AFL-CIO during the 1970s and ’80s. Gaboury represented the World Federation of Trade Unions at the UN and has been a prodigious writer for the PWW/NM, especially on labor, economic and health care issues. He is a longtime leader of the Communist Party USA.

The Community Film Workshop of Chicago, led by Margaret Caples, is the oldest and the first media arts center in Chicago. For 31 years it has conducted classes and made documentaries about life in the community, particularly Chicago’s African American and working-class communities.

The Student Labor Action Project, part of Jobs with Justice, has been active in building labor-student unity in Chicago, bringing students to local strike picket lines, building anti-sweatshop committees on area campuses and mobilizing against the Iraq war.

Salt of the Earth, which depicts the Empire Zinc strike in New Mexico, was produced at the height of the McCarthy period by blacklisted Hollywood filmmakers. The film featured striking miners and their wives who played themselves, including Anita and Lorenzo Torrez. The movie, which has received many cinematic awards, was banned in the U.S. for years. Happily it is enjoying a rediscovery by a new generation of viewers.

While they are in Chicago, Anita and Lorenzo Torrez will speak with students at several area universities where the film will also be shown.

Prior to the PWW/NM banquet, the movie will be shown in the Lincoln Room at UNITE! at 4 p.m. Banquet tickets are $45. For reservations and more information call (773) 446-9920 x 208.