In the 2018 documentary, City Rising: The Informal Economy, viewers are invited to see what everyday life really is like for workers throughout California. As defined by the documentary, the informal economy is labor that is not effectively regulated or protected, leaving workers more exposed to risk.

Throughout the documentary, viewers are introduced to various workers. One such example is Daniel “Seko” Uaina, a truck driver and activist for truck driver rights. Uaina and many other workers can barely afford to live and do more demanding work than the average person.

“We are the ones who are moving all of the cargo,” Uania states. “For all of your big companies as Walmart, Amazon, Sony. All of these stores that everyone goes shopping at, us truck drivers are the ones that are bringing these goods that you need to have to eat, to clothe yourself. Everything that you need. We don’t have medical. We don’t have social security, disability. We don’t qualify.”

The battle over workers rights has been a long-fought struggle throughout history. The film makes it known that the United States was built, and continues to be built, on the backbone of marginalized and unprotected people. Whether that be African-Americans forced into slavery and picking cotton, or Mexican immigrants during the Bracero Program after World War II or present day- the large supply of cheap, affordable, and often disposable labor which benefits the economy is what has been fueling this country for centuries.

Lola Smallwood Cuevas, the director, and founder of the LA Black Worker Center explains reasons why many African-American people cannot find employment. 

“There is a direct connection between mass incarceration and employment,” says Cuevas. “This isn’t because black communities are somehow deficient. It’s because the economic underpinning of our families completely disappeared and in America if you don’t have an economic underpinning, you cannot survive.” 

According to the film, 1 in 5 people in Alameda County have an arrest on their record, most of whom are black, and therefore its hard to get a job, which is critically important to their well-being. 

City Rising: The Informal Economy gives viewers insight into how the United States treats it’s labor workers and people. It dives into the harsh conditions and policies that workers are continuing to struggle to fix while showing the drastic effects on their lives.

If you want to watch the documentary yourself, view the following link: