Author Archives: Bess Watts

About Bess Watts

Bess Watts is President of CSEA Local 828 and national Vice President of Pride at Work AFL-CIO, a constituency group that represents the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.

Pride

Pride-still

Welcome to tonight’s showing of the 2014 British film Pride, an award-winning biographical comedy-drama which was inspired by an extraordinary true story.  The screenplay was written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus.

In the summer of 1984, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and his evil twin, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in power in the United Kingdom. More than 100,000 coal miners organized the longest strike in British history against the closing of 20 coal pits, which would lay off tens of thousands of workers and effectively bust the mineworkers’ union.   This bitter strike prompted a group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families.  After all, both groups were being victimized by the same government.  Initially rejected by the union, the gay group targets a tiny mining village in Wales and heads there to make their donation in person.

The co-founder of “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” (LGSM) Mark Ashton, who is played by Ben Schnetzer, displays engaging passion and dedication to the cause, as he challenges lesbians and gays to donate and join hands with the miners: “Mining communities are being bullied just like we are.  What they need is cash”.

Many people who are depicted in the film, both miners and former LGSM activists, have expressed appreciation for how honestly their struggles are portrayed in the movie Pride.  History and real people come to life on the screen, and by the end of the film, you know and love them.

The movie depicts what it means for ordinary people to work together for the common good and against insurmountable odds.

Mike Jackson, the other co-founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, thought this story would never be told.  He said: “You could glimpse a wonderful revolution, that spark of the dream of people being together. The film gets that so right. (LGSM) changed my life, it is the proudest thing I’ve done”.

Sian James, played by Jessica Gunning, says: “We have waited 30 years for this story to be told.” She was a new bride during the strike, and she was one of the first to embrace the gays, in part, she said, because she was thrilled to finally see some men on the dance floor of the union hall.

Sian is a crucial character in Pride because the events depicted in the film led her to become a political activist herself.  She said: “The nicest thing in our relationship with the gay men is that they were the first supportive men in our lives who weren’t family. To have men saying to us, ‘You’ve got skills and talent and you can’t allow that to pass,’ …it changed my life.”

LGSM was not a huge movement. But at the beginning of 1985, there were 11 LGSM groups around the United Kingdom. These groups contributed more to the strike funds than any other organization. Such determination — and solidarity — paid off.  After the strike had ended, LGBT people benefited from changes made to Labour Party policies when they were voted through with the support of the National Union of Mineworkers.

The year-long strike by the National Union of Mineworkers is still widely remembered in Britain, as both a high point of Thatcherism and as the beginning of the end of the country’s strong trade union movement.  In the 30 years since the strike, unions have been on the defensive, and there have been fewer opportunities for social justice movements to link up with workers.

Pride shows us that solidarity can and must be forged with unlikely alliances… and that through this process, workers will learn that they can set their sights higher for what is possible.  As Jerame Davis, Executive Director of Pride at Work notes, “The cause of labor is the cause of every LGBT person. Solidarity isn’t transactional, it’s transformational. ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ is more than just a slogan for the labor movement. We should adopt it as our own.”

Thank you and VICTORY TO THE MINERS!

 

 

 

Kinky Boots

Film stillKinky Boots, the 2005 British-American comedy-drama written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth and directed by Julian Jarrold, was the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical of the same name that just won 6 Tony awards.

The film tells the story of a 5th generation men’s shoe-maker, Charlie Price (played by Joel Edgerton), who inherits the failing family business and struggles to rescue the factory which is at the economic  heart of the little village of Northampton, England. Continue reading