By Rod Bastanmehr

Workers from Los Angeles are demanding fair wages, working rights, and a logical balance of both. This isn’t the writers’ strike on its last legs; it is another story, boiling within the walls of a modern-day sweatshop. A story of how three female immigrants stood up against the clothing conglomerate, Forever21, now under investigation for their workers’ conditions.

Stevenson College will screen the 2007 documentary “Made In L.A.” on March 3. The film chronicles the battle that Lupe Hernandez, Maura Colorado and María Pineda, three Latina garment workers, went through to get their rights.

“We all expect to purchase quality clothing, and to purchase clothing cheaply. What we do not always see is who makes the clothing and under what circumstances,” said Rosale Cabrera, director of the Chicano Latino Resource Center, one of the main organizers behind the screening.

Cabrera’s goal behind the screening is more than presenting an exposé about the rights — or lack thereof — of the given workers.

“Screening ‘Made in L.A.’ offers us an opportunity to see that immigrant labor is used to make many of the products we purchase,” Cabrera said. “So although there is a heavy anti-immigrant sentiment in this country, the bottom line is we still want cheap products.”

“Made in L.A.” aired in 2007, as part of the television channel PBS’s independent documentary showcase. Although the documentary put the plight of the three Latina immigrants at the forefront, Cabrera is quick to point out that the story isn’t about three women — it’s about garment workers as a whole.

“Although the film highlights three women, the film really is about L.A.’s Garment Worker Center and their efforts to organize workers,” Cabrera said. “[It] allows us to see this organizing through the eyes of these three women.”

Cynthia Rojadas, a second-year community studies major, remembers her reaction upon seeing the film on PBS early last year.

“It was hard to watch, to be honest, knowing that this kind of [problem] was going on around me,” Rojadas said, “but I guess that kind of realism was the entire point.”

Rojadas brings up a key point of contention, one that Almudena Carracedo, the film’s director, sought to fix: the lack of true public awareness about the working conditions in the garment industry hinders the possibility for change. After Carracedo found inspiration from stories about the deplorable working conditions in Los Angeles, she could not let go of the topic.

“I approached a nonprofit that serves immigrant garment workers that had just opened in Los Angeles,” Carracedo said. “Initially I intended to do a little film about working conditions, but as I spent time with the women and I saw their humor and their depth, I realized that it was a much bigger story … I was able to capture some of the women’s intimate fears and joys, and also their deep transformation as they were impacted by their struggle.”

With limited funding, Carracedo went ahead with the filming of the documentary. But much like the strike itself, this was no six-week shoot. “Made in L.A.” took five years to make.

“The first four years we had limited funding,” Carrecedo said. “But in a way, that became a strength, because we had to continue working bit-by-bit and captured the characters’ development over time.”

While the courage and strength of those involved with the strike leaves an indelible mark on viewers, “Made in L.A.” has managed to impact the youth in more ways than just inspiring them to stand up for their rights.

“I don’t shop at Forever21 anymore,” Rojadas said. “I used to all the time, but after seeing the film, regardless of the outcome, I knew what I wanted to do … it was my way of playing a part.”

Discussing the political implications of the film and the upcoming elections, Cabrera pointed out that solving long-standing problems facing garment and low-wage workers will not be solved by legislation alone. Instead, it is people, and perhaps a documentary film or two, that will force the change, she said.

“The issues raised in the film will not be solved only by the election,” Cabrera said. “With anti-union and anti-immigrant sentiments prevalent in the U.S., the message and insights [matter]. People matter. Thinking about the issues matter. And our willingness to support workers as they organize is important.”

_For more information about “Made In L.A.” visit Learn more about the movie and other PBS documentaries at