Labor Day tomorrow and once again millions of workers will take to the streets around the world to demand, among other things, decent work and humane wages, protection from employer arbitrariness and insurance rights that will help improve their lives.

Since the massacre of the labor demonstration in Chicago on May Day 1886, which was also the reason for the celebration of Labor Day, a long time has passed, with the struggles of the workers continuing.

Understandably, all this has also inspired important creators, from the years when cinema was still taking its first steps, in the 60s and 70s when political cinema flourished in Europe and especially in Italy, until today, with dominated by the iconic personality of Ken Loach.

On the occasion of tomorrow’s strike, we will remember five films that were identified with labor struggles and labor, but are also considered important creations, with their own cinematic value, classics today and definitely relevant.

The Strike (1924)

The workers of a factory rally and strike for their demands, until the mobilization is bloodied by the repression forces…

A landmark film for world cinema, as it is the debut of the pioneer Sergei Eisenstein and one of the first chapters on the cinematic language, through striking shots, inspiring crowd scenes and editing to star. At the same time, however, it is also a clearly political film, with all the class protagonists taking their share. The greedy capitalists with their cigars, the workers who are ready to sacrifice and the power to show its power by lining up the power of arms.

Keith Reeder in “History of World Cinema” writes about Eisenstein’s “Strike”: For Eisenstein what matters is not individuals as individuals but the social forces they represent. The film makes impressive use of metaphorical editing, especially in a sequence that juxtaposes successive images of a slaughterhouse where oxen are being slaughtered with images of the carnage between the strikers and the employer’s thugs – a point of great depersonalization power.’

Modern Times (1936)

A factory worker pressed by the inhumane rhythms of the standardized production line, mistakenly arrested as the leader of a labor demonstration, ends up in prison, then falls in love with a wanted beautiful homeless girl and dreams of a happy future…

From the masterpieces of the 7th Art, where Charlie Chaplin mercilessly and at the same time hilariously criticizes unemployment, the inhumanity of the elites and the mechanization of work and therefore society. A prophetic and at the same time incredibly timely film, one of the most political of the greatest artist, who in addition to directing also writes the script and of course keeps the lead role, delivering an unparalleled, delirious and at the same time moving performance. At the same time, he plays with the sound – and puts it in – since the sound “revolution” was already established in the cinema, while he insisted on built-in sound although not synchronized for most of the film. A film that has perhaps the most scenes that enter the anthology of world cinema and of course an unforgettable finale. The excellent Paulette Godard also stars with him.

The Earth Trembles (1948)

The fishermen of Aci Trezza, a coastal location near Catania, Sicily, are being cheated by the wholesalers. Donnie and his family rebel and mortgage their house to start their own business, but a few days later their boat is destroyed in a rough sea. The whole family is on the road with huge debts…

One of the most shocking films of neorealism, with Luchino Visconti, the “Red Baron” of Italian cinema, delivering his first masterpiece, with his disarming direction. Using real local fishermen as actors, with a local Sicilian dialect and in the form of a dramatized documentary, it moves and awakens. The French critic Andre Bazin wrote that “Viscotti’s Fishermen are true fishermen, but they walk like the princes of tragedy and the heroes of opera, while the dignity of the cinematography lends their rags the aristocracy of Renaissance embroidery.”

The Working Class Goes to Heaven (1971)

Masha is a model worker, which makes his colleagues dislike him. Everything changes when he has an accident at work. He will be fired, but after the workers’ uprising, he will be rehired, but as a striker…

Emblematic political film by Elios Petri, as its title became a trend in the press, as well as in the public debate. A film of awareness and labor solidarity, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but caused reactions, especially from the Left. Petri himself defended her saying “with my film everyone was controversial, trade unionists, left-wing students, intellectuals, communist leaders, Maoists. Everyone would like a project that supports their cause: instead it’s a film about the working class.” Next to the sensational Gian Maria Volode is Mariangela Melato, while the music is by Ennio Morricone.

The Salt of the Earth (1954)

Mexican immigrants go on strike over the miserable working conditions in an American mine, victims of brutal exploitation by American industrialists. When the police as an organ of the industrialists try to break them up, women will come forward…

It may seem directorially dated or even amateurish at times – after all, most of the actors are actual miners – but it has a rare charm, offering thrills and class-conscious political thought. Filmed primitively by Herbert Biberman, one of the “Hollywood Ten” who did not cooperate, did not surrender, to the Un-American Activities Committee and was put on the McCarthyist Black List. Biberman, after his release from prison, will make the film based on a true story and with the help of a series of artists and producers who were persecuted by Hollywood as communists. The film, which was banned in the US as anti-national and snubbed by the Hollywood establishment, also stands out for its feminist dimension, since women until they stood by the workers’ struggle were confined to their kitchens even by their men.

The films that praise the workers and their struggles, highlight their dead ends, their economic hardship or their social exclusion, are many and quite a few of them and important for cinema. One of the main directors who even today continues to highlight labor struggles, labor problems, is of course Ken Loach (“Bread and Roses”, “Paul, Mick and the Others”, “I, Daniel Blake” , while several of his compatriots are nearby, the most famous being Mike Lee (“High Hopes”, “Peterloo”. Films about labor struggles, however, have been made by many other great directors, among them the giant of ” Italian comedy” Mario Monicelli (“The Companions”), the leader of the “nouvelle vag” Jean-Luc Godard (“Everything Will Be Fine”), Fernando Leon de Aranoa (“Sunny Mondays”), while there are also the Belgians Dardenne brothers, with their restless social cinema. However, since the 30s, Charlie Chaplin had said and prophesied it all with his “Modern Times”. This is the real power of the cinema, the creator who returns his inspiration at the source, the workers themselves…