Synopsis (National Film Preservation Foundation):
Produced by the American Federation of Labor, Labor’s Reward is probably the earliest surviving film sponsored by an American labor union. Although only the third of five reels survives (along with a shorter fragment), the reel makes for a relatively self-contained story. In the lost earlier reels a father is injured at a nonunion machine shop. Receiving no workers’ compensation, his family must rely on the wages of the elder daughter, Mary, who toils at a nonunion bookbindery. As reel 3 begins, friend Tom finds Mary bedridden from overwork.
When Labor’s Reward was made in 1925, the American labor movement was struggling after the suppression of more militant unions. Labor’s Reward was intended to turn the situation around by demonstrating the AFL’s “constructive methods” and by appealing to “the purchasing public” to buy union-made products. With its female focus, the film also addressed the AFL’s history of regarding women workers as low-paid competitors. It is women who here show Tom the importance of buying a hat with a union label. Widely advertised, Labor’s Reward was screened for free. The AFL-affiliated American Federation of Musicians provided the live accompaniment.