Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

The American Experience

  • Sit Down and Fight - Walter Reuther and the Rise of the Auto Workers' Union
  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $59.95
  • Date: Copyright 1992. Released 1993.
  • Descriptors: Reuther, Walter. United Auto Workers. Labor history.
  • Production Information: Live action, Stills. Produced by Charlotte Mitchell Zwenn. Color, b&w. Closed captioned. 60 min.
  • Production Company: The History Consortium
  • Available from: PBS Video 1320 Braddock Pl. Alexandria, VA 22314-1698 (703)739-5380
  • ISBN: ISBN 0-7936-0908-9.
  • Cataloging: 331.880'92 Reuther, Walter, 1907-1970|| Labor leaders - United States||Internation Union, United Automobile Workers of America (A.F. of L.) - History
  • Print Entry #: 4:1466
  • Reviewer: Rebecca S. Albitz

    From 1936 to 1970, Walter Reuther was the mastermind behind the formation and perpetuation of the United Auto Workers (UAW). By employing nonviolent means of protest, specifically the sit-down strike, Reuther was able to dramatically increase the quality of life for employees of the Big Three auto makers: Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors. This video, part of PBS' The American Experience series, is an excellent history of this labor movement.

    Using documentary footage, still photographs, recent interviews, and an oral interview with Reuther himself, this video captures the workers' enthusiasm for the establishment of the union. Particularly notable is the inclusion of the important role played by both blacks and women in the establishment and growth of the UAW. Perhaps the only thing lacking is a clear and in-depth discussion about why the union was necessary, and thus so successful. Those interviewed mention terrible working conditions, including the high speed of the assembly line and the intolerance of management, but this is not explored further.

    Technical qualities are excellent. The archival footage is clear, and its mixture with recent interviews contextualizes these historic events. Although there are some minor fluctuations in volume, the use of sound, particularly folk songs written to support the union, appropriately augments the visuals.

    Sit Down and Fight documents an important period in American labor history in an engaging fashion. No matter what one might think about unions in general, this title portrays the UAW, under the leadership of Walter Reuther, as an organization committed to the betterment of its membership. Strongly recommended for high school and college students and adults.

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