Director Yu Gu follows several former cheerleaders through their legal and personal journeys in a David and Goliath fight, as they fight for minimum wage and end 50 years of inequality inflicted by the NFL in her new documentary A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem. The documentary will have its World Premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, April 27, 2019.
Football and feminism collide in this documentary following former NFL cheerleaders fighting to end the wage theft and illegal employment practices that have persisted in the league for 50 years. In 2013, Lacy T., an Oakland Raiders’ cheerleader, found herself in a mountain of debt at her team’s behest in paying for beauty upkeep, transportation, and clothing while waiting for a single paycheck that would compensate her for less than the legal minimum wage. In 2014, she enlisted a group of all women labor attorneys, LVBH, to sue her team.
NFL mascots and water boys are paid more than $60K per season, concession workers are paid the legal minimum wage plus gratuities, while most NFL cheerleaders were unpaid or paid below the legal minimum wage. Women make up nearly 50% of the audience, yet the NFL abuses the only visible women on their field. Lacy T.’s media blitz ignited four more cheerleader lawsuits. Beyond labor code violations, a culture of toxic masculinity was exposed in cheerleader handbooks setting archaic double standards and rules. On the heels of the #metoo movement, over a dozen more lawsuits were filed by NFL cheerleaders exposing myriad stories of sexual harassment.
In the wake of lawsuits, minimum wage salaries have been quietly implemented across the NFL, several lawsuits have settled, and California legislation, proposed by an assemblywoman, was signed into law ensuring the fair treatment of cheerleaders of major league teams as employees.
Director Yu Gu is a filmmaker and visual artist born in Chongqing, China and raised in Vancouver, Canada. She explores themes of identity, migration and artistic freedom with a lyrical and visceral approach. Yu’s hybrid documentary A MOTH IN SPRING premiered at Hot Docs International Film Festival and was licensed and distributed by HBO. Her first feature documentary, WHO IS ARTHUR CHU? premiered at the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival, showed in competition at Hot Docs, and garnered two Best Documentary Awards on the festival circuit. In May 2018, the film was broadcast on Emmy Award-winning series America Reframed on PBS and released across all digital platforms. Her second film, A WOMAN’S WORK, is supported by the Sundance Institute, ITVS, Tribeca Film Institute, Firelight Media, Film Independent and the Rockefeller Foundation. In collaboration with artist Gu Xiong and Academy Award-winner Mark J. Harris, Yu is directing INTERIOR MIGRATIONS, a multi-platform project documenting the memories of migrant workers in Canada. The first 3-channel short documentary from this series premiered at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s “Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood” exhibit in 2017. Yu received her MFA in film production from the University of Southern California.