Norma Rae tells the story of a factory worker (Sally Field) from a small town in North Carolina. Facing intolerable working conditions, her concern about the situation gives her the gumption to be the key associate to a visiting labor union organizer. Together with her coworker, they undertake the difficult, and possibly dangerous, struggle to unionize her factory.
Norma Rae is encouraged after hearing a speech by a New York union organizer Reuben Warshowsky (Ron Leibman). When she decides to join the effort to unionize her shop, her husband, Sonny ( Beau Bridges), says she’s not spending enough time in the home.
The situation with work comes to a head when Norma Rae takes a piece of cardboard, writes the word “UNION” on it and stands on her work table and slowly turns to show the sign around the room. One by one, the other workers stop their mill machines, and eventually, the entire room becomes silent.
After all the machines have been switched off she is taken to jail, but is freed by Reuben. She then decides to talk to her kids and tell them the story of her life. After discussing with Reuben, Sonny tells Norma that there’s not any other woman in his mind and that he will always be together with her. Norma Rae then successfully orchestrates an election to unionize the factory, resulting in a victory for the union.
Director: Martin Ritt
Year of Release: 1979
Character to watch: Sally Field as Norma Rae.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?