DVD and Site/Local Streaming plus DVD
70 minutes, 2007 Director: Almudena Carracedo, Producers: Robert Bahar and Almudena Carracedo In Spanish and English with bilingual subtitles An online FACILITATOR GUIDE is available for this title.
ABOUT THE FILM
2008 National Emmy Winner
Winner, Henry Hampton Award, Council on Foundations
Ecumenical Jury Prize (SIGNIS), Voces contra el Silencio Film Festival, Mexico
Winner, Hillman Prize
Corky Gonzales Righteousness Award, East L.A. Chicano Film Festival, USA
Nominee, Pare Lorentz Award, International Documentary Association, USA
National U.S. broadcast on PBS P.O.V. Series
Made in L.A. traces the moving transformation of three Latina garment workers on the fault lines of global economic change who decide they must resist. Through a groundbreaking law suit and consumer boycott, they fight to establish an important legal and moral precedent holding an American retailer liable for the labor conditions under which its products are manufactured. But more than this, Made in LA provides an insider's view into both the struggles of recent immigrants and into the organizing process itself: the enthusiasm, discouragement, hard-won victories and ultimate self-empowerment.
Lupe Hernandez, the most self-confident of the women, orphaned from her mother at age 12, grew up on the tough streets of Mexico City and escaped to Los Angeles 15 years ago to work with her sister in the garment industry. María Pineda, trapped for 23 years in an abusive marriage and in abusive sweat shop jobs, struggles so her children will not have to follow in her footsteps. Maura Colorado, a single mother, left her three children, then 2, 3 and 4, in El Salvador to support them by working in Los Angeles; due to her "undocumented" status, she has not seen them for the past 18 years. Director Almudena Carracedo explains the film's broad significance: "If Made in L.A. accomplishes anything, I hope it provides a deeply human window onto the immigrant struggle, which is being repeated around the world, regardless of country of origin or destiny."
Lupe, María and Maura met at the Los Angeles Garment Workers Center, which provides legal aid for immigrant workers and helps them organize to confront the powerful garment industry. There they learned that other workers suffer the same conditions they do: working 10 to 14 hour days, locked in rat-infested factories, denied minimum wages or overtime pay, forced to take piece-work home, afraid to protest because of their undocumented status, deprived of their dignity.
The Center discovered that many of the labor abuses seemed to come from subcontractors for a trendy, new, national women's apparel chain, Forever 21, which produced 95% of its line in Los Angeles. The workers decided to target the company; 19 plaintiffs sued it for unfair labor practices in a cutting edge attempt to reform of the entire garment industry. As Lupe states at the beginning of the film, "When everything started, we didn't know what would happen; we just knew that we had to do something." Made in L.A. captures their struggle as it unfolds over three exhausting, sometimes demoralizing, but ultimately life-changing years.
Forever 21, like most retailers, claimed they had no knowledge of, or responsibility for, the conditions under which their products were made. The workers' attorneys argued that large consumer chains' demands for ever lower prices and faster turnaround times could only be met if manufacturers and their subcontractors impose sweatshop conditions on workers. While most U.S. industries are off-shoring production so capital can tap into cheaper foreign labor, some exploit cheaper immigrant labor to this country instead. Made in L.A. provides an intimate portrait of three women who represent the vast, controversial influx of "undocumented" workers concentrated in centers like the Los Angeles' garment district or the construction industries of the Southwest and among day laborers and domestic workers across the country.
The garment workers won broad community support, picketing Forever 21 stores, protesting that they were paid only $0.19 for a $13 blouse, and even demonstrating in front of the Beverly Hills mansion of the Korean immigrant owner of the chain. But a district judge dismissed their case as having "no merit," plunging them into the black hole of a 24 month appeal process. Meanwhile, Forever 21 counter-sued the plaintiffs for defamation.
In response to the company's attack, Lupe and Maura carried the boycott to Forever 21 stores across the country and spoke at various schools on immigrants' rights. In New York, Lupe visited the Tenement Museum and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Deeply moved by these experiences, she realized she was part of a long history of American immigrants who came here seeking a better life only to confront sub-human housing, unsafe factories, fourteen hour days and needing to organize themselves to fight for fair working conditions. Lupe comments: "It's just like that today."
Back in Los Angeles, the laboriously slow legal process took its toll. The fragile coalition began to fray; workers argued over who should do picket duty; some complained they didn't want to waste their limited free time on a futile protest. María, under pressure from her domineering husband, stopped going to the Garment Worker's Center entirely. Finally, the appeals court reversed the district court, holding that garment workers do have a right to sue retailers, who are indeed liable for infringements of labor laws by their subcontractors. At the risk of losing the workers' reinstated lawsuit, Forever 21 capitulated and, after tense negotiations, settled with the workers.
In the aftermath, Maura, realizing that higher pay will eventually drive garment manufacturers overseas in search of even lower wages, is learning English and becoming a naturalized citizen so she can move out of the garment industry. María, empowered by the boycott campaign, finally separated from her husband and continues to work in the industry - but for a 40-hour week at legal pay. And Lupe, who had applied and was hired as an organizer for the Center, demonstrated at the World Trade Organization's summit in Hong Kong, connecting the three women's struggle with that of workers around the world.
While Made in L.A. deftly interweaves the story of the path-breaking boycott and legal strategies, the focus is always on the women themselves, how they become agents of change, gaining self-confidence and self-esteem as they become more deeply involved in the struggle. They grow from victims into activists, determined to take control of their own lives. As director Carracedo concludes: "These women’s struggle mattered not just for its own sake but because it served as a catalyst for each of them, in her own way, to stand up and say: 'I exist. I have rights.'"
This film ties together so many critical trends in contemporary economic life in the Americas and around the world that it can be successfully used in courses including Labor Studies, Latino Studies, Women's Studies, Global Economics, Social Movements, Consumer Behavior, and Business Ethics.
A co-production of Semilla Verde Productions, Independent Television Service (ITVS), and American Documentary Inc./POV, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Additional funding provided by The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund.
Filmmakers Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar talk about the making of their film "Made in L.A." on P.O.V.'s Behind the Lens
Want to know what's happened in these women's lives since the documentary was made? Check out PBS's Film Update.
"Labor protest is not dead. Nor is it futile, according to Made in L.A., an excellent documentary about basic human dignity."
Andy Webster, New York Times
"Made in L.A. is a gem. It accurately portrays the lives and struggles of garment workers, and honors their development as leaders against sweatshop exploitation in a sensitive and poignant way."
Katie Quan, UC Berkeley Labor Center
"Better than any film I have seen, Made in L.A. depicts the real stories of women struggling for--and achieving--social justice for immigrant workers in the U.S. It is an essential film for educators interested in sharing with their students the struggle of immigrant workers in a globalized garment industry. A triumph."
Matthew Garcia, Professor, American Civilization, Ethnic Study, and History, Brown University
"Made in L.A. is a powerful documentary that reveals the shameful truth that sweatshops are thriving in our City of Angels. At the same time, this is an inspiring story of courage about immigrant women garment workers struggling for justice against overwhelming odds. For anyone who wants to understand the complex intersection of race, class, gender, immigration, globalization, and movement building, Made in L.A. is an excellent educational tool."
Kent Wong, UCLA Labor Center
"Told through the powerful stories of three immigrant women, Made in L.A. shows us how activists are made in struggle through working together to build a more just world. This powerful film brings alive the joy as well as the tribulations of the women who make our clothes in Los Angeles sweatshops, who refused to give up their fight against exploitation. Inspirational, educational, a stunning achievement."
Eileen Boris, Hull Professor and Chair, Women's Studies Program, University of California, Santa Barbara
"With Made in L.A., Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar show in vivid detail that, at a fundamental level, immigration is not simply an issue of competitive intermingling of people, but that it is also an issue of the assault on universal human dignity in the face of enormous global economic pressures. Ultimately though, they show that despite the political or economic vices twisting down upon the planet, the elementary human spirit remains the most powerful force at work."
New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson
"In fine cinéma verité style... Made in L.A. offers a vital look at the world of poor laborers, along the way illuminating some of the myriad complexities of the immigration issue. Highly recommended."
A. Jacobson, Video Librarian
"Shot and directed with a sympathetic ear and eye, it is a valuable and moving film--and entertaining as well--not merely for what it says about the continuing need for organized labor, and of the difficulty of keeping it organized, but also about how the process affects individual lives in ways beyond the wage. The film is not a white paper on, or an exposé of, abuses by the garment industry, but a document of an experience..."
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times
"Made in L.A. is a powerful teaching resource. Analyzing the film allowed my students to connect with the real characters in meaningful ways. Made in L.A. greatly enhanced our ability to discuss issues like globalization, immigration, as well as workers and consumers' rights. I would highly recommend it in any classroom."
Nikhil Laud, Los Angeles High School
"A rousing true story of solidarity, perseverance and triumph...Deftly interweaving legal battles, national boycotts, group dynamics and individual empowerment, pic offers a personalized history lesson in class struggle."