In honor of Labor Day, PBS stations around the country this weekend are airing “From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Dock,” the story of Harry Bridges, the fiery San Francisco labor leader who founded the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and set the standard for dockworkers’ rights. Check your local listings for day and time.
The one-man play was developed by actor Ian Ruskin, who portrays Bridges, and the Harry Bridges Project. The performance was directed by Academy Award-winning director and cinematographer Haskell Wexler.
The film was shot before a packed house of 1,000 longshore workers in San Pedro, Calif. It includes appearances by Elliott Gould, Ed Asner and members of ILWU Local 13, and music by Jackson Browne, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Tim Reynolds, Ciro Hurtado and others. It also features the world premiere of Woody Guthrie’s song about Bridges, sung by his granddaughter, Sarah Lee Guthrie.
It tells the story of Bridges who, according to the project’s biography of the union founder, was
an extraordinary labor leader and social visionary whose life and work encompassed all of the important issues and events of his day, including immigration, depression-era policies, red-scares, McCarthyism, the cold-war and labor issues. His story provides a springboard into understanding these times and realizing their significance today, as we face parallel issues of globalization, the growing gap between rich and poor, increasing governmental surveillance and the war on terror.
Ruskin has toured the play throughout union halls across the nation, including a November 2006 performance at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. The play encorporates Bridges’ words from his rallying speeches of the 1930s and his testimony at his trials along with the words of his contemporaries, in union halls, schools, churches and other venues.
Check your local PBS listings for times.