Silkwood

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Erica Pulte
PSC 105 Term Paper- Silkwood
Silkwood, a movie about a plutonium plant worker, features the struggle of a union worker activist to bring attention to the plant’s unsafe working conditions and health risks. Based on a true story, the movie shines light on civil liberties issues. It shows the variety of rights Americans hold that enable them to change issues facing them. Silkwood is a realistic, captivating movie about a plutonium plant worker changing the work conditions that successfully draws attention to civil liberties issues such as the freedom of the press and lobbying to an interest group. Silkwood begins when the main character, Karen Silkwood begins her day at work the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site, making plutonium fuel rods for nuclear reactors. In order to visit her three children for the weekend, she convinces a friend to work an extra shift in her place, but Karen is blamed for a contamination that happens in her section directly after she leaves because the plant knows she wants the weekend off. After two years of working at the plant, she becomes a union worker activist because she is worried about the unsafe conditions of the workers, mainly the possibility of being exposed to radiation. Because the firm is three months behind on a contract, all of the workers are assigned extra shifts, which results in the plant taking shortcuts and risking the health of the workers even more than before. After she is blamed for the contamination, Karen is transferred to metallography and discovers that the negatives of photographs are being retouched, making the fuel rods falsely appear safe. Through the union, she travels to Washington D.C to give her personal statement about the dangerous conditions of the plant. Upon coming home, Karen continues to communicate with union officials, but they want to focus on the publicity rather than the unhealthy conditions of the workers so she decides to investigate more on her own without their help. Unfortunately, Karen learns at this point that she is internally contaminated, which means her house is stripped, she must move houses, and she will eventually die from the radiation. Karen believes this is her last effort to speak to a reporter from the New York Times. The movie ends when Karen is driving to the meeting and dies in a car accident when she sees bright headlights approaching from behind. Silkwood successfully reminds watchers of the civil liberties Americans are ensured under a democracy and the constitution. The main constitutional right Karen Silkwood takes advantage of while fighting for better working and health conditions is the freedom of the press. Under the First Amendment, all citizens have the right to freedom of the press, which is the freedom to communicate ideas through the media, including published materials. Although the right has been taken away from Americans in the past, the freedom of the press is one of America’s most important rights. As our textbook states, “Jefferson, like many of the nation’s founders, realized the profound impact of a free press in society” (O’Connor, Yanus, & Sabato, 2011, 480). It is one of America’s most basic rights and it is exemplified in the movie. In this case, Karen used her right to post the information about the firm in the New York Times. Because of the First Amendment, Karen has the opportunity to legally speak to the reporter from the New York Times without the fear of arrest or other punishments. In many other countries, a worker such as Karen would not have the opportunity to speak to a newspaper or wouldn’t in fear of punishment, which is slightly portrayed at the end of the movie because Karen dies in a car crash, quite possibly on purpose, to keep her from speaking to the reporter. It is this right, the ability to publish information in the newspaper without fear of retribution, that is a civil liberty protected under the First Amendment and is shown in Silkwood. The other major...
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