Norma Rae (1979) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A young single mother and textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill despite the problems and dangers involved.

  • Like a lot of her family before her, Norma Rae works at the local textile mill, where the pay is hardly commensurate with the long hours and lousy working conditions. But after hearing a rousing speech by labor activist Reuben, Norma is inspired to rally her fellow workers behind the cause of unionism. Her decision rankles her family, especially her fiancé, Sonny, and provokes no shortage of contempt from her employers.

  • Thirty-one year old widowed mother Norma Rae Wilson lives in the southern US town of Henleyville, which contains one major employer, O.P. Henley Textiles. Like most of her friends and family, she works in Henley's mill - eight hundred on the line - those jobs on which the townsfolk rely to survive. Norma Rae is outspoken in her complaints about the working conditions at the mill, and will do most whatever to ensure a good wage for herself to support her two young children. She has a stable of casual sexual partners purely to relieve her boredom, she not having had a good history with men, with her one husband having died in a bar brawl, and the father of her younger child not having taken any responsibility at all after their sexual encounter. So she is surprised when she runs into a childhood mate, recently divorced Sonny Webster, the two who end up getting married. For Norma Rae, Sonny seems to be the kind of man who will make a good husband and father, the most important qualities in a man at this stage of her life. Like they do every few years, a Textile Workers Union of America representative, this time in the form of New York Jew Reuben Warshowsky, arrives in town, his goal to unionize the workers. They have been unable to do so as the workers fear losing their jobs, Norma Rae no exception. But as she begins to befriend Reuben and trust what he has to say is true, Norma Rae decides to work for him to unionize. As this union work takes over her life, her marriage is in jeopardy. But as the local face of the union, she may risk more in the form of her livelihood, her standing in the community and her family and friends, especially if they do not follow what she and Reuben are espousing.

  • Norma Rae is a southern textile worker employed in a factory with intolerable working conditions. This concern about the situation gives her the gumption to be the key associate to a visiting labor union organizer. Together, they undertake the difficult, and possibly dangerous, struggle to unionize her factory.

  • Norma Rae is a lively, but dependable, wife and mother in an Alabama mill town. Like her father, her mother and most of her friends, she works at the Henley mill, spinning and weaving cloth as the days go by without much apparent purpose. Her "nothing special" life changes when she and her coworkers meet Reuben, a dedicated, smart-mouthed labor organizer down from New York to teach the Henley crew about solidarity in a place where workers and owners alike think "union" and "trouble" are synonymous.


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