This Labor Day will be a celebration like no other as Virginia will premiere and discuss “Union Time: Fighting for Workers’ Rights,” a documentary narrated by Danny Glover. The discussion portion of the evening will consist of five panelists, including Assistant Professor Lynn Waltz of the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, and Hampton University alumnus, Jasper Brown (‘69).
The documentary, “Union Time: Fighting for Workers’ Rights,” follows the story of workers at the Smithfield Foods Pork Processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, who fought for safe, fair working conditions and won. The movie shows how people standing together can break the cycle of poverty and injustice, and demonstrates the convergence of labor rights and civil rights, carrying on the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both Waltz and Brown will be panelists during a discussion at the showing of the documentary.
“It’s wonderful to see individuals associated with Hampton University using what they’ve learned at our renowned institute to give back to the community,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey. “At Hampton University, we take pride in lifting as we climb. The greatest successors are those who are willing to listen and be thankful to those who have paved the way before us.”
Hampton University Assistant Professor Lynn Waltz of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications has been a professional journalist for more than 25 years, including 12 years as a senior writer at The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, VA. She holds her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University, is a Pulitzer nominee and the author of “Hog Wild: The Battle for Workers’ Rights at the World’s Largest Slaughterhouse.”
“This is a very exciting story of one of the largest union wins in decades. It pitted the world’s largest meatpacker against the largest meatpacking union,” Assistant Professor Waltz said about the documentary. “It took the government nearly ten years after it started prosecution to get a judgment against Smithfield Foods for violating hundreds of labor laws including illegally firing union supporters, threatening and surveilling union supporters, and intimidating workers so they could not make a free decision about whether they wanted a union.”
Jasper Brown, Hampton University alumnus (’69), is a long-time government prosecutor for the National Labor Relations Board and prosecuted Smithfield Foods’ illegal labor practice. His Smithfield Foods case was one of the largest labor cases in the history of the labor board. One of his most outstanding cases was against Holly Farms Tyson in North Carolina involving 200 truck drivers who were terminated. Brown won this case and all 200 workers were ordered to be reinstated with back pay.
“During this panel discussion, I’m going to share some of my experiences. That’s something I enjoy doing, passing on my practices. Those who follow me can learn some things with what I’ve experienced. I was taught to give back. My mentors taught me the value of sharing your experience with others, and I truly don’t believe that anyone has ever reached success by themselves,” said Brown.
Mr. Brown recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as an alumnus of Hampton University. Since he graduated, he continues to be a life-long supporter of this institution. For the past 20 years, Brown has attended Hampton University’s Homecoming and makes sure to participate in the annual tailgate by serving food under his Red tent. This is his way of giving back to his alma mater on a yearly basis. “I love Hampton. Always have. Hampton was a life line for me and provided the opportunity to enrich and enhance my life. It nourished me in so many ways, not just in education, but in exposing me to the arts and the wonderful people of Hampton,” said Brown. “Out of all of the schools I’ve been to in my years, Hampton is the one I miss the most. It’s just been a lifelong dream that continues to live in me.”
The Virginia Film Premiere and Discussion will be held on Saturday, September 1, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. at the Coastal Virginia Unitarian Universalists, 809 S. Military Hwy., Virginia Beach, VA, and is free and open to the public.