by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
Yoav Potash, Hillman Winner, Pens WSJ Op/Ed
Yoav Potash, the winner of a 2012 Hillman Award for his documentary, Crime After Crime, writes in the Wall Street Journal about the making of the film and its impact.
At first, Potash wasn't sure if Debbie Peagler's story would make a good movie. She Peagler wasn't most people's idea of an sympathetic victim railroaded by the system. In 1982, she lured the father of one of her daughters into an alley where gang members murdered him. She was sentenced to life in prison for helping to kill a man who had savagely abused her and forced her into prostitution. In 2002, two lawyers began a campaign to get Peagler released from prison under a novel California law that allows women convicted of murdering their abusers to present evidence of the abuse they suffered as a mitigating factor.
A face-to-face meeting with Peagler convinced Potash he had a compelling documentary subject after all:
By the time I wheeled my camera gear out of the prison gates, I knew I would indeed make a film about Debbie Peagler. She, her lawyers, and I had no idea that her saga would soon take an unpredictable course, eventually making it the most contentious test of California’s unique law and the reasoning behind it.
As news of her legal battle and my film about it spread, Peagler came to represent many victims of domestic violence who have suffered in silence for years, if not decades. Now, as funding for domestic violence shelters is being slashed and legislation like the Violence Against Women Act comes under attack, her story has more resonance than ever. [WSJ]
Potash is proud Debbie's story has fuelled efforts to enact similar laws in other states.