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Documentary Studies

Previewing our next documentary film selection, “9to5: The Story of a Movement”

The Econ Extra Credit Team Jan 28, 2021
Heard on:
Documentary Studies

Previewing our next documentary film selection, “9to5: The Story of a Movement”

The Econ Extra Credit Team Jan 28, 2021
Heard on:

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The 1980 comedy “9 to 5” starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as secretaries who took revenge on their sexist boss by kidnapping him. But the inspiration for that movie started eight years earlier in Boston, where two office workers — Karen Nussbaum and Ellen Cassedy — began circulating a newsletter among the city’s female clerical workers. Over the next few years, their organizing efforts went national, leading to strikes and union efforts among office workers in several cities. Our film selection this month, “9to5: The Story of a Movement,” chronicles the real-life 9to5 campaign — how getting women together to share their stories with each other led to concrete changes in the workplace.

As women became a larger presence in the workforce in the 1970s, the women’s and labor movements began to converge. By the mid-1970s, female clerical workers outnumbered men working in manufacturing and construction; by the decade’s end, there were 12 million more working women in America than there had been 10 years earlier.

The 9to5 movement extended through the 1980s. Some of the more poignant moments in the film detail the later struggles of clerical workers to unionize during the rise of union busting. The film shows how this movement laid the groundwork for today’s female leaders organizing child care and domestic workers and taking part in campaigns to raise the minimum wage.

Our February documentary selection, “9to5: The Story of a Movement,” premieres Monday, Feb. 1, on PBS stations and the PBS video app. Several stations are also holding virtual screenings, which you can register for here.

Don’t forget to send us your thoughts and reactions to the film. What did it make you think about? What do you think the filmmakers did well? And where do you think it missed the mark? Email us at extracredit@marketplace.org. We’ll feature those audience reactions in an upcoming newsletter.

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