By Patricia Foxen, Deputy Director of Research for the National Council of La Raza
A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting Almudena Carracedo, the director and co-producer of the documentary Made in L.A., at a conference on low-wage women workers. Her film is a poignant portrayal of a brave and spirited group of Latina immigrant garment workers in California who organized to resist exploitative labor practices by their employer, popular clothing retailer Forever 21. Made in L.A. has won numerous awards in different industries—including an Emmy Award and a Hillman Prize for broadcast journalism—and has received nominations and special mention for many others, including NCLR’s very own ALMA Awards.
Upon viewing the film I was so moved that I immediately organized a viewing at our NCLR offices in Washington, DC. With the co-sponsorship of Amnesty International and Sojourners, the screening and ensuing panel highlighted the moral imperative to reform our current immigration system and eradicate unfair labor practices such as wage theft, discrimination, dangerous working conditions, and many more that are endemic to low-skilled jobs filled by Latinos.
These intersecting issues are not only vividly exposed in the film but at the center of NCLR’s work, including our advocacy for fair and comprehensive immigration reform and improved working conditions for low-wage workers. With congressional discussions on a viable immigration bill still in the works, we must continue to push for broad-scale change that will allow not just immigrant workers but all low-wage workers—those who pick our produce, prepare our food, and make our clothes—the right to fair and dignified treatment in the workplace and beyond.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, and with funding from the Sundance Institute, Made in L.A. is now available in a digital format and can be viewed by audiences throughout the country. Anyone who wants—or needs—to see the human faces and hear the human stories behind our current policies should watch this film; they will learn a great deal about the tragic real-life consequences of our broken system, but they will also leave feeling deeply moved by this touching story of perseverance and hope.