The Man Corporations Love to Hate (working title) is a feature length documentary about Ray Rogers, a world renown labor and human rights activist.
At various times, Ray has been compared to Gandhi, and St Francis of Assisi, described as a “legendary union activist” and derided as the Ayotollah of Austin, during the landmark Hormel workers strike.
He devised and led a pioneering corporate campaign against the notoriously anti-union J.P. Stevens & Co. on which the Academy Award winning film “Norma Rae” was based. He defined the corporate campaign as a “mechanism to confront power with power.”
The famous quote of Gandhi’s ” be the change that you want to see in the world.” exemplifies the way I see Ray living his life. I realized how unique this is, and wanted to follow this thread which has run consistently through his life.
I met Ray more that twenty years ago, when as a photography student in New York, I saw on TV that the National Guard had been called out to break the Hormel workers strike in Austin Minnesota. I found it fascinating that the military force of the state was being used to essentially break a strike.
Ray Rogers, a labor strategist based in New York had been contacted by the Local union P9 , to develop a campaign against the Hormel Co. By the time I arrived in Austin he was in jail, charged with criminal syndicalism, an obscure charge that had not been used since 1920. This statute was later declared unconstitutional.
During that period Ray became one of the most controversial figures in the labor movement. He was featured in the Barbara Kopple documentary American Dream, which won an Academy Award in 1991. I am hoping to uncover and utilize some of the “lost ” film footage of Ray from the strike.
I started shooting video, and stills in 2008 when Ray asked me to tape a speech he was giving at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. He was speaking to students across the county in an ongoing campaign to kick coke products off campuses.
After watching that speech, and seeing the way his words resonated with students today, as they had when I was a student, I decided that I would follow him around and document his current activities.
In addition to the Universities, I also traveled to Coca Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta Georgia to shoot Ray with a mobile billboard he created that cruised around the perimeter of the World of Coca Cola. This was the day before Coke’s shareholder’s meeting where he has raised sensitive issues for the past six years to three different CEOs. As he enters the building, security guards immediately begin talking into their walkie talkies.
In 2009 and 2010, I went to the tobacco fields of eastern North Carolina where he is working with FLOC a farm labor union, to improve the dismal working, and living conditions of the migrant laborers harvesting tobacco. Working with FLOC, Ray has brought this issue to the shareholders meeting of Reynolds American. As the corporation that produces tobacco products they are at the top of the supply chain.
The issues that have been brought to the the public’s attention through Ray’s Campaign to Stop Killer Coke are truly global. With funding, I will film Ray in Colombia with union leaders of Sinaltrainal whose lives are in constant peril while representing coke workers.
For more information, visit Kickstarter.com.