Chicago Film Screening: Matewan

The United States is one of the most diverse nations on Earth. Our linguistic, ethnic, and religious differences are frequently used as a wedge to divide us by our managers and bosses, while we try to stay united in the fight to improve our lives and leave behind a better world for our children. I know of no other film that distills this national struggle better than John Sayles’s Matewan.

Based on a true story, Matewan is set in early 20th century West Virginia. The local white miners are chagrined at the exploitative treatment they receive at the hands of the mining company. To add insult to injury, when these abused locals attempt to strike, black miners are hauled in by train to replace them as scabs. On top of this maelstrom is added immigrant workers who can barely speak English.

Enter an out-of-state labor organizer (Chris Cooper) sent to bring unity to the chaos, who finds himself in over his head early on. Can the organizer, the locals, and the outsiders find common ground on which to fight for their rights, their dignity, their families, and their community?

I frequently joke with friends that Matewan might as well be called Class Unity: The Movie, so well does it embody our core values. Now, as our organization works to reorient where we stand and look toward the future, we here in Chicago Class Unity will be holding a live screening of Matewan with a discussion, pizza, and socializing afterwards. This event will be held the evening of November 19th, 2022. If you’re in the area and can make it in person, Class Unity member or not, we’d love to have you. If you’re not in the Chicago community but would still like to attend, we will be providing links for streaming the movie and attending the post-film discussion virtually.

Please reach out to me with any questions at the email below. More details will be coming soon. We hope to see you there!

Watch the Matewan trailer here.

Chet Ozmun is a former Central Community member of Class Unity National and former Chair of Chicago Class Unity. He teaches English in the Chicago Public Schools. He can be reached at

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