Remembering 1199’s History: 1967 Film Helped Paved Path

July 30, 2021

Screen Shot 2021-07-15_fa.jpgIn 1967, 1199 produced a celebrated film that movingly dramatized the plight of service workers and the vast improvements that came with unionization.

“Like a Beautiful Child” was directed and produced by John Schultz, a CBS TV editor who had made “Hospital Strike” in 1959 about the 46-day strike that established 1199 as the city’s foremost healthcare union.

The film, narrated by actor John Randolph, was told in large part through the experiences of Ida Mae Cameron, a Mt. Sinai dietary worker who lived in Harlem with her husband and eight-year-old son. Cameron and others described how prior to unionization they had worked six-day weeks, with little or no-benefits, for $30 per week.

“They used to treat us like boys and girls,” said one worker. “Now they treat us like men and women. They even call us Mr. and Mrs. We are vital to the hospital.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. New York Sen. Robert Kennedy and Republican NYC Mayor John Lindsay were among those who provided quotes to promote the film.

It was reviewed in many publications, including the Saturday Review, the Nation and The New York Times. 1199 Exec. Dir. Moe Foner wrote in his memoir “Not for Bread Alone,” that at the end of a screening, Times labor reporter Peter Millones, “he tried to wipe away tears before I could get the lights back on.”

The film generated sympathy and support. The next year, 1199 won the historic hundred-dollar-minimum wage, big improvements in health benefits and a Training Fund that became the envy of the country’s unions and non-profits.