HISTORICAL NOTE: During World War II, unions generally did not strike because of the urgency of the war effort. Afterward, that changed because of pent-up frustrations with inadequate pay and poor working conditions. Then in 1947 Congress passed the Taft Hartley Act, which criminalized certain union tactics, including wildcat strikes, solidarity strikes and mass picketing. At the same time, the House Unamerican Activities Committee subpoenaed hundreds of people suspected of being Communists, and many lost their jobs. Some went to prison. In the film industry, some of these people were known as the Hollywood Ten. Salt of the Earth is known for defiance, having been written, produced, directed and shot by blacklisted Hollywood artists. It was financed by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.
Based on a true story, the script depicts a Mexican miners’ strike in New Mexico. The miners strike and picket to be paid as much as Anglo miners and for commensurate working conditions. Then they’re served with a Taft Hartley injunction, and face being jailed if they continue. Against the miners’ wishes, wives insist on taking over the picketing because they are not subject to the injunction. An early feminist bent is one of the film’s claims to fame. Most of its actors are townspeople, which aligns the production with Italian Neo-realist films of he 1940s.