MetroFocus: September 15, 2020

From Minnesota to Rochester, NY the issue of race and policing in America has taken on a renewed urgency as protests continue to erupt around the country. But can police departments be reformed? If so, how? In 2016, Frontline and The New Yorker writer/historian Jelani Cobb traveled to Newark, New Jersey for a close look at efforts to change its trouble police department. Today they return to Newark to examine whether reform can work, and how police departments can be held accountable. As part of our Chasing the Dream initiative on poverty, justice, and economic opportunity in America, Jelani Cobb joins us to share their experience. 

New York’s skyline has soared to new heights in recent years thanks in large part to construction workers. But amid this building boom dozens have died on the job despite regulations intended to keep them safe. Workplace tragedies continue at job sites across the country. Now a new film, “Building The American Dream” is giving us a firsthand look at the fight for fair working conditions and the abuse of immigrant labor. Airing as part of Voces — the acclaimed PBS documentary series produced by Latino Public Broadcasting — the film takes us to Texas to depict the downside of putting business over people. As part of our Chasing The Dream initiative on poverty, justice and economic opportunity in America, the film’s Producer and Director Chelsea Hernandez joins us.

TRANSCRIPT

METROFOCUS IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ ROSALIND P. WALTER BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

> THE COUNTRY IS ON FIRE AND THEIR ANGER IS DIRECTED AT LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS.

A NATIONAL OUTCRY AND ONE POLICE FORCE TRYING TO CHANGE.

CAN THIS BE DONE IN A WAY TO RESPECT PEOPLE'S RIGHTS?

NEW YORK REPORTER JELANI COBB INVESTIGATES.

THE WAR MUST END.

THEY DON'T WANT TO RUN TO THE TRAFFIC STOP FOR A $20 BILL.

THEY DON'T WANT TO BE MURDERED.

WELCOME TO MARYETRO FOCUS.

I'M JACK FORD.

> RACE AND POLICING IN AMERICA HAS TAKEN ON A NEW URGENCY.

QUESTIONS IN EVERYBODY'S MIND INCLUDE DO POLICE DEPARTMENTS NEED TO BE INFORMED.

INDEED CAN POLICE DEPARTMENTS BE REFORMED AND IF SO, JUST HOW?

IN 2016 FRONTLINE AND HISS TORRIAN JELANI COBB TRAVELS TO NEWARK, NEW JERSEY, TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT EFFORTS TO CHANGE A TROUBLED POLICE DEPARTMENT.

NOW IN THE WAKE OF NATIONAL POLICE BRUTALITY, FRONTLINE AND JELANI COBB RETURNED TO NEWARK TO SEE IF ANYTHING HAS CHANGED AND WHAT COULD BE LEARNED BIR THEIR EXPERIENCES THERE.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THE RESULTING DOCUMENTARY ENTITLED 'POLICING THE POLICE: 2020,' AND PART OF OUR CHASING THE INITIATIVE DREAM ON POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN ERK AMERICA, WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE HISTORIAN AND WRITER GEL JELANIB BACK WITH US.

JELANI, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

LET ME START WITH WHY YOU WENT TO NEWARK.

I MENTIONED IN THE INTRODUCTION YOU WENT BACK BUT GIVE US A LOOK AT WHY YOU WENT TO NEWARK.

TWO THINGS.

ONE, THIS IS THE AFTERMATH OF FERGUSON AND THE CONTROVERSY THAT WAS HAPPENING AROUND POLICE AND RACE THEN, ALTHOUGH NOT NEARLY TO THE DIMENSIONS TO THE CONVERSATION WE ARE HAVING NOW ABOUT IT.

NEWARK HAS HISTORIC RESIDENTS.

IN 1967 WAS FAMOUSING TUPRISING IN THE CITY WHERE OVER THE COURSE OF FOUR, FIVE DAYS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLAR WAS DONE AND IT WAS ALL SPARKED BY AN INSTANCE OF POLICE BRUTALITY AGAINST A BLACK CAB DRIVER BY THE NAME OF JOHN SMITH.

AND TO MAKE IT EVEN MORE CONTEMPORARY, THE CITY OF NEWARK HAD JUST BEEN FOUND BY THE ERIC BE HOLDER DOJ TO HAVE VIOLATED A PATTERN OF PEOPLE'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.

ALL OF THOSE THINGS MADE NEWARK A FERTILE PLACE TO GO IF YOU WANTED HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT WHAT WAS HAPPENING WITH POLICING IN THE UNITED STATES.

SO YOU DECIDE TO GO BACK TO NEWARK TO SEE WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.

OBVIOUSLY, WITH THE BACKDROP OF EVERYTHING THAT HAS BEEN TAKING PLACE MORE RECENTLY HERE.

I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT A QUOTE THAT YOU USE EARLY ON IN THE DOCUMENTARY HERE.

YOU SAY RACE IS SHORTHAND FOR A SET OF LIFE PROBABILITIES.

RIGHT.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

SO, I MEAN, WE KNOW RACE DOESN'T EXIST AS A BIOLOGICAL CATEGORY.

IT'S JUST A CONVENIENT THING THAT WAS MADE UP BY PEOPLE, BASICALLY WE COULD CATEGORIZE BASE ON SKIN PIGMENTATION, WHICH WE THINK ABOUT IT FOR MORE THAN A SECOND, IT SOUNDS SILLY, BUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED IS THAT THIS CATEGORY HAS BEEN REIFIED AND MADE CONCRETE THROUGH THE INTERACTION OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS.

SO WE CAN LOOK AT A PERSON'S RACE AND HAVE A FAIR DEGREE OF UNDERSTANDING OF SOME THINGS IN TERMS OF PROBABILITY ABOUT EDUCATION, ABOUT INCOME, ABOUT LIFE EXPECTANCY, ABOUT INFANT IMMORTALITY, ABOUT LIFETIME INCOME, HOUSING, ALL THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT FORM AN INSTITUTION ALIVE AND WE SEE THOSE THINGS HAVE A ROUGH CORRELATION TO RACE, OF WHAT WE UNDERSTAND TO BE RACE IN THIS COUNTRY.

I TALKED WITH YOU ABOUT WHAT YOU FOUND IN TERMS OF THE ISSUES THAT ARE WOVEN THROUGHOUT, THE CRISES WE'RE EXPERIENCING NOW IN TERMS OF POLICING AND EQUITABLE JUSTICE.

AND I JUST WANT TO LET OUR VIEWERS KNOW YOU AND I ARE GOING TO CONTINUE THIS CONVERSATION TOMORROW NIGHT.

TOMORROW WE'LL TALK ABOUT POSSIBLE REMEDIES AND DIFFERENT APPROACHES THAT CAN BE TAKEN.

LET'S FOCUS NOW ON THE ISSUES, WHAT THEY ARE, WHERE THEY COME FROM.

AND ONE OF -- CERTAINLY ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT IS WOVEN THROUGHOUT ALL OF THESE CONVERSATIONS, IS AND YOU TALK ABOUT IN THE DOCUMENTARY, IS THE HISTORICAL MISTRUST OF POLICE ON THE PART OF THE BLACK COMMUNITY.

YES.

TALK ABOUT THAT.

YES.

SO ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I THINK ABOUT THIS IS THAT THERE'S AN ARC OF PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THIS CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE AND DISTRUST OF THE POLICE HAS BEEN, AND HAS BEEN FACILITATED BY THE USE OF CELL PHONE CAMERAS.

PROO IRTO THIS, PEOPLE LIVED IN TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT REALITIES.

BUT WHEN WE LOOK AT THE MAJOR CONFLAGRATION IN AMERICAN CITIES IN THE 20th CENTURY, IT WAS POLICE BRUTALITY.

THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED IN HARLEM IN 1965, HARLEM 1935, AND DETROIT IN 1967 AND WATTS IN 1965.

YOU CAN JUST KIND OF RATTLE THEM ALL OFF.

MIAMI IN 1980.

WE CAN GO INTO THE 21st CENTURY, FERGUSON AND MINNESOTA AND THE WAVE OF VIOLENCE THAT WE SAW OVER THE COURSE OF THE SUMMER.

AND SO I THINK THAT WE HAVE A KIND OF HISTORIC BASIS FOR UNDERSTANDING POLICE THAT IS TO A LARGE DEGREE IMPACTED BY WHAT YOUR SKIN LOOKED LIKE.

AND FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS, EVEN WHEN WE TALK ABOUT JIM CROW, THE POLICE WERE THE PEOPLE THAT ENFORCED JIM CROW.

SO IT'S HARD TO HAVE A CONCEPT OF THEM AS PUBLIC SERVANTS IS THEY WILL LITERALLY BE PEOPLE WHO ARE TELLING YOU, YOU CANNOT GO TO THIS SCHOOL, YOU CANNOT DRINK FROM THIS FOUNTAIN AND SO ON.

WHAT'S AGAIN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT JELANI COBB, HISTORIC WRITER OF THE DOCUMENTARY TITLED 'POLICING THE POLICE: 2020.'

AND YOU TALK ABOUT THE VISUAL ASPECTS OF SEEING POLICE INVOLVED WITH PEOPLE OF COLOR, THAT THE SELMA BRIDGE, IF YOU WOULD, WE SAW THE POLICE WITH THEIR BATONS AND YOU TALKED ABOUT ALL OF THE OTHER SCENES.

RODNEY KING, PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE, IF IT WASN'T FOR A NEIGHBOR WHO HAPPENED TO HAVE A CAMCORDER, ONE OF THOSE OLD, BIG BOXES YOU PUT ON YOUR SHOULDERS, WE WOULD KNOW NOTHING OF RODNEY KING AND HE PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN CONVICTED OF ASSAULTING POLICE OFFICERS AND THERE HAD NEVER BEEN A RODNEY KING CASE.

AND YOU MENTIONED SO MUCH OF THIS NOW IS THE RESULT OF THE AVAILABILITY OF VIDEO.

RIGHT.

LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT SOME OF THE OTHER ISSUES.

ONE OF THE THINGS WE TALK ABOUT AND YOU TALK ABOUT HERE IS THE NOTION OF A LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE POLICE DEPARTMENTS.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ABSENCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY OR LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY?

THERE ARE A LOT OF WAYS IN WHICH THIS PLAYS ITSELF OUT.

ONE IS ON THE LOCAL INTERMEDIATE LEVEL.

IN NEWARK WE SAW THIS.

VERY OFTEN THERE WOULD BE INSTANCES IN WHICH PEOPLE IN THE 2016 DOCUMENTARY PEOPLE COMMITTED ACTS OF VIOLENCE THAT WEREN'T CATALOGED AND WEREN'T RECORDED.

THERE WERE NOT REPORTS ABOUT WHAT THE POLICE HAD ACTUALLY DONE.

IN OTHER INSTANCES THE MECHANISMS OBVIOUSLY WENT TO MAKE A COMPLAINT TO INTERNAL AFFAIRS, EXTERNALLY OR FROM WITHIN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT ITSELF WERE DIFFICULT AND NOT LIKELY TO CULMINATE IN ANY ACTUAL DISCIPLINARY ACTION BEING TAKEN.

BEYOND THAT YOU HAVE THINGS LIKE QUALIFIED UNITY THAT MAKE POLICE ESSENTIALLY INVULNERABLE, REGARDLESS --

TALK ABOUT THAT A LITTLE BIT.

I KNOW, I'M A FORMER PROSECUTOR, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ATTORNEY.

PROSECUTED POLICE OFFICERS AND DEFENDED POLICE OFFICERS.

I KNOW PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT NOTION OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY.

THEY WILL SAY, THE POLICE CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT AND THERE'S NO LEGAL REPERCUSSIONS?

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

THIS IS ESSENTIALLY A DOCTRINE THAT LOOKS AT THE NATURE OF POLICING AS BEING SUCH THAT WE'RE ASKING PEOPLE TO USE FORCE ON BEHALF OF A SOCIETY AND THEY'RE IMMUNIZED FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT IN A WAY OTHER PUBLIC SERVANTS WOULD NOT BE, OR RAISES THE BAR TO WHICH PEOPLE CAN BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

AND THERE'S BEEN A LOT -- THERE HAVE BEEN OTHER KINDS OF LEGAL MECHANISMS, OR, EXCUSE ME, EXTRA LEGAL MECHANISMS LIKE WHAT THE POLICE UNIONS HAVE NEGOTIATED IN MINI CITIES, WHERE AN OFFICER IS INVOLVED IN A SHOOTING, YOU SHOULD 48 HOURS BEFORE YOU HAVE TO ACTUALLY SAY WHAT HAPPENED.

AND THAT'S CERTAINLY NOT A LUXURY THAT'S AFFORDED TO THE PEOPLE BEING ARRESTED FOR SHOOTINGS.

AND SO THERE'S A WAY IN WHICH ACCOUNTABILITY FOR POLICE LOOKS VERY DIFFERENT THAN IT WOULD FOR PEOPLE IN OTHER WALKS OF SOCIETY.

HOW ABOUT THE CULTURE OF POLICING?

AGAIN, LOOK, PEOPLE HAVE SAID THIS BEFORE, AND IT'S NOT AS IF THE MOVEMENT, THE CURRENT MOVEMENTS ARE TRYING TO CONDEMN ANYBODY WHO HAS EVER SERVED AS A POLICE OFFICER, OR ANYBODY WHO IS CURRENTLY SERVING AS A POLICE OFFICER.

BUT THE ISSUE HAS BECOME MORE THAN ARE WE JUST TALKING ABOUT A FEW BAD PEOPLE IN A PROFESSION, UNDERSTANDING ALL PROFESSIONS MIGHT HAVE A FEW BAD PEOPLE.

OR IS IT SOMETHING THAT'S MORE CULTURALLY IMBEDDED HERE?

FOR INSTANCE, YOU SAW WITH GEORGE FLOYD, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO USED TO THINK -- AND I INTERVIEWED SOME OF THEM, A FEW BAD PEOPLE, NOT EVERYBODY.

BUT MAYBE YOU WATCH THAT AND SAY MAYBE IT IS A CULTURED PROBLEM BECAUSE YOU HAD THREE OTHER OFFICERS JUST STANDING THERE, RELUCTANT TO DO ANYTHING.

RIGHT.

DOES THAT SUGGEST A MORE EMBEDDED CULTURE PROBLEM HERE?

AND YET YOU'VE GOT THE COMPETING SIDE IS THIS, YOU'VE GOT A POLICE OFFICER SAYING WE'RE THE ONES OUT THERE DOING THE JOB.

IF YOU REMEMBER THE LINE JACK NICHOLSON'S LIVE FROM A MOVIE 'A FEW GOOD MEN' WHERE HE SAYS, YOU WANT ME ON THAT LINE.

YOU NEED ME ON THAT LINE.

WELL, YOU'VE GOT THAT PART OF THE ARGUMENT FOR POLICE TOO.

AND THEN THE OTHER PART OF THE CULTURE IS, WE'VE GOT TO CIRCLE OUR WAGONS TO PROTECT OURSELVES BECAUSE WE'RE THE ONES OUT THERE DOING THE JOB.

HOW DO WE CONFRONT THAT?

THE PROBLEM WITH THE ARGUMENT, YOU WANT ME OUT THERE, YOU NEED ME OUT THERE, THAT IS MUCH MORE APPEALING TO PEOPLE WHO ARE RELATIVELY SAFE.

THE PEOPLE WHO ARE THE HIGHEST PROPORTION -- CHRONICALLY THE HIGHEST PROPORTION OF HOMICIDE VICTIMS IN THE UNITED STATES ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE LEAST LIKELY TO ENDORSE THAT KIND OF POLICING.

IT'S NOT THAT PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT'S GOOD FOR THEM, IS THEY'RE MAKING A CALCULATION ABOUT AT WHAT COST?

SO IN NEWARK WE WOULD SEE THINGS LIKE POLICE IN THE NAME OF PROTECTING COMMUNITY DOING STOP AND FRISK THAT ENTATELED STOPPING PEOPLE ON THE STREET AND PEOPLE AND PULLING THE WAISTBAND OF THEIR PANTS AND UNDERWEAR AWAY FROM THEIR BODY, LOOKING DOWN THE FRONT AND LOOKING DOWN THE BACK.

I THINK MOST PEOPLE WOULD BE AGHAST, CERTAINLY IF YOU WENT TO A SUBURBAN COMMUNITY.

IT'S NOT WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT TO HAPPEN AND IT'S NOT WHAT YOU WANT ON THE LINE.

JOHN, WE HAVE A LJELANI, WE HAV TO TALK ABOUT HERE.

I WANT TO REMIND PEOPLE THE DOCUMENTARY IS CALLED 'POLICING THE POLICE: 2020.'

CAN YOU GO TO METRO FOCUS.ORG.

YOU AND I ARE GOING TO CONTINUE THIS TOMORROW NIGHT AND FOCUS ON WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS NOW?

JELANI, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US AND WE WILL CONTINUE THIS CONVERSATION REAL QUICK.

TAKE CARE NOW.

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THE NEW YORK SKY LINE HAS SOARED TO HEIGHTS IN RECENT YEARS THANKS IN LARGE PART TO CONSTRUCTION WORKERS.

BUT AMID THIS BUILDING BOOM, DOZENS DIED ON THE JOB DESPITE THE REGULATIONS INTENDED TO KEEP THEM SAFE.

WORKPLACE TRAGEDIES CONTINUE TO HAPPEN AT JOB SITES ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

NOW A 2NEW FIFTH 'BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM' IS GIVING US A FIRSTHAND LOOK AT THE ABUSE OF IMMIGRANT LABOR AND FIGHT FOR FAIR LEGISLATION.

THE AUTHOR OF THE CLAIMED DOCUMENTARY SERIES PRODUCED BY LATINO PUBLIC BROADCASTING, THE FILM TAKES US TO TEXAS THAT SHOWS THE DOWNSIDE OF PRIORITIZING BUSINESS OVER WORKERS.

HERE'S A PREVIEW.

♪ [ SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE ]

ONE IN FIVE TEXAS CONSTRUCTION WORKERS ARE SUBJECT TO A INJURY OR FATALITY.

THESE ARE ONE IN TEN WORKERS THAT HAS THE HARDEST YOU CAN POSSIBLY DO.

[ SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE ]

AND JOINING US NOW AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA IS THE FILM'S PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR CHELSEA HERNANDEZ.

CHELSEA, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

GREAT TO BE HERE.

CHELSEA, FIRST OF ALL, WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE AND WHAT ULTIMATELY LED YOU TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT IT?

SURE.

SO I WAS ATTENDING COLLEGE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS BACK IN 2009, AND WHILE I WAS ATTENDING FILM SCHOOL THERE, THERE WAS A CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT NEAR CAMPUS, AND THREE WORKERS HAD FALLEN TO THEIR DEATH AFTER THE SCAFFOLD HAD COLLAPSED.

AND SO THAT KIND OF JUST WOKE ME UP TO REALIZE THAT THE WORKERS WHO WERE BUILDING IN MY HOMETOWN WERE DYEING OR BEING INJURED AT THE JOB.

AND I FOUND THIS ORGANIZATION THAT FRIENDS WERE VOLUNTEERING AT CALLED WORKERS DEFENSE PROJECT AND THAT'S WHEN I LEARNED TEXAS WAS THE DEADLIEST STATE FOR CONSTRUCTION AND THAT NEARLY HALF A MILLION -- HALF A MILLION OF THE WORKFORCE WAS UNDOCUMENTED.

SO I WAS JUST SHOCKED THIS WAS HAPPENING IN MY HOMETOWN AND HAPPENING ACROSS THE STATE AND REALLY WANTING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

I STARTED FILMING IN 2014 AND FILMED FOR ABOUT 4 YEARS.

MOST OF THE WORKERS IN THE FILM ARE UNDOCUMENTED, NOT ALL, BUT MOST.

THAT'S WHAT MAKES IT SO INCREDIBLY VULNERABLE TO ABUSE AND TO EXPLOITATION, RIGHT?

AS FAR AS THE LAWS ARE NOW.

YEAH, IMMIGRANT WORKERS ARE MORE AT RISK OF BEING INJURED ON THE JOB, FACING WAGE GAPS MORE THAN AMERICAN WORKERS AND THAT'S JUST THE REALITY OF THE INDUSTRY.

THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON A LONG TIME.

TEXAS IS THE ONLY STATE IN THE COUNTRY THAT DOESN'T REQUIRE COMPANIES TO PROVIDE WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION AND I THINK THAT LEADS TO A LOT OF EXPLOITATION ON THE JOB, ESPECIALLY IMMIGRANTS.

YOU KNOW, AS THE FILM PROGRESSES THE WORKERS IN YOUR FILM BEGIN TO ORGANIZE, BEGIN TO FIGHT BACK AND HAVE SOME SUCCESSES.

I DON'T WANT TO GIVE TOO MUCH AWAY, BUT THERE'S ONE PARTICULAR WORKER WHO'S VERY ACTIVE AND VERY IMPRESSIVE AND JUST AFTER SHE HAD SOME SUCCESS, SHE GETS PICKED UP BY ISIS.

IS THAT A COINCIDENCE OR RETALIATION?

YEAH, I'M NOT SURE IF IT WAS IN REGARDS TO HER COMING OUT AND COMPLAINING ABOUT NOT BEING PAID, BUT REALLY, IT'S THE FEAR THAT MOST IMMIGRANTS FACE, ESPECIALLY UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS, IS THE FEAR OF BEING DEPORTED.

SO NOT ONLY DOES SHE GO TO WORK EVERY DAY TO A DANGEROUS SITE WHERE SHE COULD POTENTIALLY GET INJURED OR DIE ON THE JOB, BUT ALSO FACE WAGE STATS SHE WAS GOING THROUGH OR EVEN JUST DRIVING TO THE GROCERY STORE OR PICKING UP HER KIDS, SHE COULD POTENTIALLY BE DEPORTED.

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF CAPTIVATING PORTIONS.

THERE'S ONE YOU FOLLOW A FAMILY WHOSE SON DIED FROM LEAST EXHAUSTION.

HE WAS WORKING IN OVER 100-DEGREE WEATHER TEMPERATURES WITHOUT A BREAK.

STILL, THE FAMILY GOES TO THE DALLAS CITY COUNCIL PUSHING FOR AN ORDINANCE THAT ASKS -- THAT REQUIRES TEN MINUTES -- A TEN-MINUTE BREAK EVERY FOUR HOURS.

EXTREMELY MODEST.

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I WAS SO SURPRISED TO HEAR THE COUNCIL MEMBERS ARGUE AGAINST THAT.

I WAS SURPRISED AND ANGERED.

I WONDER, WAS THAT YOUR REACTION AS YOU WERE WITNESSING THIS?

IT REALLY WAS.

I MEAN, I WASN'T SO MUCH SURPRISED THAT THEY WERE -- THEY HAD THIS ATTITUDE TOWARDS WORKERS AND TOWARDS REGULATIONS OF BUSINESSES AFTER RESEARCHING YEARS BEFORE WE STARTED PICKING UP THE CAMERA, I KNEW THAT THE BUSINESS -- OR THE POLITICAL SECTOR WAS DEFINITELY ON BOARD WITH LITTLE REGULATIONS AND WANTED BUSINESSES TO FLOURISH AND WASN'T LOOKING OUT FOR THE LITTLE GUY, THE EMPLOYEE.

BUT I WAS REALLY SHOCKED THAT THEY WERE SAYING SOME PRETTY MEAN STUFF IN FRONT OF THE FAMILY WHO JUST LOST THEIR SON TO HEATSTROKE ON THE JOB.

CALLING THEM AND THE GROUP THAT WERE FIGHTING FOR REST BREAKS CHARLATANS, TO QUIT TELLING BUSINESS NO.

THAT WAS REALLY SHOCKING TO ME THAT THEY WERE JUST SO OPEN ABOUT IT IN A PUBLIC FORUM.

IT WAS A PUBLIC CITY COUNCIL HEARING BEING RECORDED.

MEDIA WAS THERE.

THAT WAS REALLY SHOCKING TO ME BUT I THINK IT'S ALSO EMBLEMATIC OF HOW GOVERNMENT AND THE INDUSTRY WORKS TOGETHER HERE IN THE STATE.

BUT YOU KNOW THE INSULTS ASIDE, THE FUNDAMENTAL ARGUMENTS THAT THESE COUNCIL MEMBERS ARE MAKING AND THAT TEXAS -- TEXAS, BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT, TENDS TO MAKE, TEXAS HAS HAD ITS ECONOMIC SUCCESS, THE TEXAS MIRACLE, BECAUSE IT HAS SO FEW REGULATIONS, BECAUSE IT HAS SUCH A RELATIVELY CHEAP AND DOS ILL W DOCILE WORKFORCE.

AND IF THEY LOSE THOSE ADVANTAGES, EVERYBODY LOSES THE WORKERS.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

I THINK IT'S REALLY NOT TRUE.

YOU KNOW, IN TEXAS THERE'S A LARGE SHORTAGE OF WORKERS, AND MANY HAVE FLED BACK TO THEIR HOME COUNTRIES BECAUSE THE FEAR OF RETALIATION, THE FEAR OF DEPORTATION, ESPECIALLY IN OUR CURRENT TIMES WHERE WE HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO IS FEELING ANTI-IMMIGRANT RHETORIC TO PUBLIC.

BUT THE MYTH OF THEM TAKING AWAY JOBS, OR IF WE ADD ON REGULATIONS, BUSINESSES ARE NOT GOING TO MANY COULD.

OFTEN IN DALLAS MOST HAVE REST BREAK ORDINANCES AND COMPANIES CONTINUE TO FLOURISH.

SO WE DON'T SEE THE LACK OF BOOM THAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS STATE, AND IN REALITY I THINK WE COULD REALLY ADD TO THE WORKFORCE, AND HELP FILL THAT SHORTAGE OF WORKERS IF PEOPLE KNOW THAT THEY'RE GOING TO A SAFE WORK ENVIRONMENT, THAT THEY WON'T GET KILLED ON THE JOB, MAYBE THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY CAN ACTUALLY EXPAND AND REALLY DO WELL AT PROTECTING THEIR WORKERS.

YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THE FILM DOES SO WELL, 'AMERICAN DREAM' IS IN THE TITLE AND THAT'S A PHRASE BY MULTI GENERATIONS OF AMERICANS ARE SEEN AS A SLOGAN OR CLICHE BUT CERTAINLY NOT THE PEOPLE YOU FILM.

FOR THE PEOPLE YOU FILM, THE AMERICAN DREAM IS VERY REAL.

NOT ONLY THAT, THEY ARE ALREADY BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAMS IN THEIR LIVES, EVEN WITH ALL OF THE OBSTACLES THEY FACE.

YOU SHOW THAT VERY SUBTLY.

YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT IT BUT YOU SHOW IT.

THE FAMILIES ARE DOING WELL, THEY'RE HARD WORKING AND THEY'RE KIND OF CONSERVATIVE.

AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE, OZZY AND HARRIET, MUCH MORE THAN MOST AMERICANS ARE.

AND THESE PEOPLE WOULDN'T BE ORGANIZING AND FIGHTING IF THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO.

THEY'RE WORKERS AND CONSERVATIVE AND SAY THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, AND IT'S IRONIC WHO THE CONSERVATIVES THAT SHOULD SEE THEM AS CONSTITUENTS THAT ARE KIND OF FIGHTING THEM.

IS THAT CHANGING IN TEXAS, BECAUSE IT'S CHANGING NATIONALLY A LITTLE BIT?

WHAT'S YOUR EXPERIENCE?

YES, YOU'RE SO ON POINT AND THESE WORKERS ARE VERY PRIDEFUL TO BE IN THIS COUNTRY.

I KNOW CLAUDIA, ONE OF THE ELECTRICIANS FEATURED IN THE FILM, SHE WAS ALWAYS WEARING T-SHIRT THAT'S HAD THE AMERICAN FLAG AND WAS KIND OF BOASTING THESE PATRIOTIC IMAGES AND SO THEY'RE VERY PROUD TO BUILD WITH THEIR HANDS AND BUILD THESE BUILDINGS THAT MAKE UP THE SKY LINE.

BUT I DO THINK THERE IS A CHANGE AND CURRENTLY WITH THE PANDEMIC HAPPENING, PEOPLE ARE REALIZING THAT WORKERS ARE ESSENTIAL, AND SO I THINK -- ESPECIALLY CONSTRUCTION WORKERS, YOU KNOW, IN TEXAS, CONSTRUCTION WORKERS WERE WORKING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC.

THEY WERE CONSIDERED BY THE GOVERNOR AS ESSENTIAL BACK IN APRIL.

BUT KNOWING THAT THEY DON'T HAVE -- THEY DIDN'T HAVE THE SAME CONDITIONS BEFORE THE PANDEMIC, WHO'S TO SAY THEY WILL BE PROVIDED THE SAFE CONDITIONS NOW DURING THE PANDEMIC?

I THINK PEOPLE ARE REALIZING WORKERS ARE IN DIRE SITUATIONS AND NEED BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS.

SO I DO THINK IT IS CHANGING AS FAR AS THE ATTITUDE TO PROTECT WORKERS AND HAVE THAT PATRIOTISM FOR THE COUNTRY BUT FOR THE WORKERS THEMSELVES FIRST.

QUICKLY, I KNOW THE FILM IS ABOUT TEXAS BUT NOT NEW YORK.

BUT YOU KNOW A LITTLE BIT ABOUT NEW YORK.

NEW YORK IS CONSIDERED A PROGRESSIVE STATE.

HOW DOES IT COMPARE IN TERMS OF WORKER SAFETY AND GENERAL STATEMENTS OF UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS?

YEAH, I MEAN, NEW YORK DEFINITELY HAS MORE UNION WORKERS THAN TEXAS.

I BELIEVE TEXAS IS ABOUT 1% UNIONIZED SO IT'S A LITTLE BIT HARDER TO FIGHT FOR LAWS AND THAT'S WHY WORKER CENTERS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT AND COLLABORATE WITH UNIONS TO PUSH FOR LEGISLATION.

NEW YORK IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT BECAUSE THEY DO HAVE A BIGGER UNION WORKFORCE.

HOWEVER, IS SINCE THE CITY BUDGET, THE STATE BUDGET HAS KIND OF DECREASED THEIR FUNDING FOR CITY PROJECTS, THAT'S WHEN YOU TEND TO SEE COMPANIES, DEVELOPERS HIRING CONTRACTORS THAT ARE NOT UNIONIZED THAT DON'T HAVE A RAPPORT AND THEY END UP, YOU KNOW, GETTING WORKERS ON THE STREETS WHO DON'T HAVE ANY TRAINING.

I DO KNOW THAT IN NEW YORK, I THINK THEY JUST PASSED A LEGISLATION NOW WHERE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS DO HAVE TO GET AN OSHA CERTIFIED TRAINING, WHICH IS REALLY GREAT FOR THE CITY IN MAKING SURE THAT PEOPLE ARE WORKING CORRECTLY, PROVIDING THAT SAFE ENVIRONMENT AMONG EACH OTHER.

BUT, YOU KNOW, YOU CAN SEE WHEN THERE'S A LACK OF SAFETY ON THE JOB, YOU'LL HAVE MAJOR ACCIDENTS HAPPEN AND IN NEW YORK, THEY'VE HAD ACCIDENTS INCREASE OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS.

THERE WERE HORRENDOUS CRANE ACCIDENTS THAT HAPPENED THERE.

AND IT MAKES YOU WONDER WHAT KIND OF WORKING CONDITIONS WERE THOSE WORKERS IN, IN THE FIRST PLACE?

WE ONLY HAVE ABOUT 20 SECONDS LEFT.

ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE WORKERS IN AMERICA IN GENERAL BUT SPECIFICALLY THE UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS?

YES, I'M VERY OPTIMISTIC.

I DON'T THINK IT'S GOING TO CHANGE OVERNIGHT, BUT I THINK THERE'S A GROWING MOVEMENT AND I HOPE THAT THIS FILM ENCOURAGES OTHER WORKERS TO STAND UP AGAINST EXPLOITATION AS WELL AND PUSH FOR MORE CHANGES IN LAW.

CHELSEA, IT'S A WONDERFUL FILM.

I HOPE A LOT OF PEOPLE SEE IT.

I KNOW HAD WILL HAVE A GOOD IMPACT.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU HERE.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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