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Labors reward title screen
Title film frame, Labor’s Reward

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Labor's Reward

The AFL’s Union Label and Trades Department intended the 1925 film, Labor’s Reward, to be didactic: it would “show the difference between the union shop and the anti-union shop; the difference between autocracy and democracy in industry, how unorganized employes are coerced into withdrawing requests to remedy grievances; how organized employes deal with employers through representatives the workers select. The union label will be shown as a symbol for sanitary products and for manhood and womanhood. The benefits of the eight-hour day will be emphasized, as will the struggle against child labor.”

To stimulate interest in the film, the AFL distributed to labor papers throughout the country verbal trailers such as that published in Rochester’s Labor Herald, “Lesson For All Union Men:”

Tom...was a union man....But he had a lesson to learn. A lesson that would show many more benefits could be gained through organized labor than merely the fact of belonging to a union. He was to learn that not only must a union man uphold the principles of his individual union and craft but he must aid all other union men in maintaining wages, hours and working conditions in their respective crafts.

One day Tom dropped into a hat store in Chicago and purchased a hat. As he left the store he met a friend of whom he asked: “ What do you think of my new hat?” The friend took the hat, turned it upside down, raised the band, apparently looking for something that should be under it. Finally he handed that hat back to Tom and said: “Tom, don’t you know that for every dollar you spend for non-union goods like this you are contributing to child labor, underpaid workers, long hours and unsanitary conditions? Why you are even hurting your Mary and her little sister.”

Tom was staggered. He walked up and down the street thinking over what he had been told. He rushed back into the store where he had purchased that hat and obtained the return of his money. He then went into the Union Label Store...and purchased a hat with the label of the United Hatters of America sewed to the lining. When he visited Mary that night he proudly exhibited his union-made hat.

The AFL developed an elaborate plan for the film’s distribution, involving “six complete motion picture projection outfits and twelve prints of the film.” “Salaried officials of state federations of labor and city central bodies will be requested to serve as lecturers where the picture will be shown. Their familiarity with local conditions will add to the effectiveness of the campaign.” Emanuel Koveleski, former Central Trades & Labor Council President and then Vice President of the New York State Federation of Labor was placed in charge of programming Labor’s Reward in New York and Canada. The film’s February, 1926 itinerary included New York City, Albany, Troy, Utica, Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester, Toronto, Hamilton, Buffalo, Jamestown, and Plattsburg. In Rochester it was shown at the Baptist Temple and at Carpenter’s Hall.

Rochester’s Card & Label League reported the screening a success. The AFL reported that nationwide Labor’s Reward was exhibited at nearly 600 meetings in thirty states, with a total attendance of nearly half a million — more than covering its production costs.