The Case of the Fishermen

16mm motion picture film of The Case of the Fishermen

Produced by
Marzani, Carl, 1912 - 1994
Union Films, 1946 - 1953
Owned by
Bowser, Pearl, American, born 1931
16mm Film (a): acetate film.
Duration: 21 minutes
Length (Film): 775 Feet
motion pictures (information artifacts)
Place filmed
Los Angeles, California, United States, North and Central America
A previously thought-to-be-lost Union Film, produced by Carl Marzani. "Made with the collaboration of the Los Angeles-based H. Arthur Klein, this film defended and publicized the circumstances of San Pedro, Calif., fishermen, who were being accused of monopolistic practices and price fixing."
16mm black and white Union Film production, produced by Carl Marzani in association with the International Fisherman and Allied Workers of America (IFAWA) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The film advocates for fishermen in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, who were being accused of price fixing and monopolization.
Consists of: 16mm Film (a).
2012. 16mm black and white film. Film opens with footage of fishing ships in the harbor while the introduction credits appear on the screen. The voiceover narration begins as fishermen are seen working on the deck of a ship. The narration describes the hard working conditions of fishermen as the footage continues to show the fishermen working. Then the footage shows newspaper headlines from August 23, 1946, and a document about allegations the fishermen violated the Sherman Anti-trust Act because the union cannot represent the fishermen since they are classified as independent businessmen and not employees. The document further alleges a price-fixing conspiracy between the fishermen and the fish dealers. The voiceover narration repeats the businessmen allegations as the footage again shows fishermen at work on boats. The voiceover narrator has a sarcastic tone as he compares the fishermen's work to office work. The narrator explains that the government considers the fishermen businessmen because they are paid according to a share of the catch rather than with wages. The footage continues to show workers on the boats. The next scenes show boats being repaired and boats coming in from the ocean and unloading the fish at a dock. The narrator explains that fishermen can only get better prices from the dealers by acting as a group through collective bargaining because the dealers have multiple options for preserving the fish, but fishermen must sell their catch immediately. This attempt by the fishermen to bargain collectively for fish prices before they go fishing is the main issue for the federal government. The footage shows one of the men mentioned in the case, George Knowlton, talking to a dealer on the docks. The next scene shows Knowlton at home with a woman knitting, probably his wife. The next scene shows the exterior of a labor union building while the narrator discusses the CIO. The footage includes CIO General Counsel Lee Pressman, and he explains the problems with the suit against the fisherman, particularly referring to the union as a monopoly. He speaks directly to the camera and also consults books about the definition of a monopoly. The scene cuts to fisherman in boats on the ocean before cutting back to Pressman. A graphic appears on the screen to illustrate the growth of fishermen due to the support of the labor union. After some footage of fishermen on the docks working, the footage shows Pressman again before another graphic appears that shows the growth in fish caught from 1936 to 1946. The next graphic explains that fishermen are not responsible for the eventual price consumers pay because of the involvement of other sectors of the fishing industry. Pressman uses the illustrations to make his point that the fishermen do not have a monopoly, especially when compared with concentration of wealth and control by corporations. A graphic shows how much eight corporations control of the economy, and an illustration of eight shadows of rich men turns an octopus. This represents their control of the economy through monopolies, price-fixing, and restraint of trade. The narrator contrasts this with the fishermen that want a decent standard of living for themselves and their families. To illustrate this, the footage includes several different domestic scenes. The next scene shows a meeting in a union hall, and the narrator explains the tradition of fisherman unions on the west coast and introduces the International Fishermen and Allied Workers of America, Local 33 of the CIO. There is a montage of fishermen engaged in various activities while the narrator discusses important achievements by the union. An illustration shows that more federal aid goes to farmers than fishermen, and the narrator discusses various advantages the farmer has compared to the fisherman. The film ends with a montage of fishermen working on boats while the narrator explains the unfair actions by the attorney general against the fishermen.
African American
Professional organizations
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Pearl Bowser
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Public Domain
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Collection title
Pearl Bowser Collection
Media Arts-Film and Video
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture

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