Regarding his support of Pittsburgh steel workers against layoffs in 1985; one of the most widely-known causes supported by David involved his producing a documentary for PBS, The Fighting Ministers, about the impact from the shutdown of the steel industryon Pittsburgh churches [and their flocks] and ultimately on his brother, Daniel, and himself. But David’s passionate support and advocacy extended beyond the fight to his very personal interactions with those affected. As he tells it: I went out to do a documentary for PBS, The Fighting Ministers, about the impact from the shutdown of the steel industry on Pittsburgh churches [and their flocks].
I committed the cardinal sin for a documentarian and I came around from behind the camera and got involved! I was arrested during protests, and my brother, a well-liked pastor, was defrocked for standing up for his flock. The church didn’t like the image of him doing this kind of thing; they defrocked him, for conduct unbecoming a pastor, for standing up for his people. It was really sick …
To be honest, as a documentarian, I was torn. I was supposed to be an objective chronicler of events, but I found myself a participant. As a video documentarian, I was constrained by rules of objectivity, but that’s a difficult position to maintain when I’d been witness to the forcible eviction of an unemployed family from their home … when I’d discovered a suicide victim hanging in a closet … when I’d attended the funeral of a baby buried in a shoe-box … when I’d witnessed and filmed the rage of an unemployed steel worker against his wife. I watched 20-year veterans of the steel industry, who would never see their pensions, weep as the blast furnaces (they were all called by women’s names) were blown-up. I ask you: Knowing the causes and witnessing the consequences, how does anyone maintain ‘objectivity’? I was arrested and then I turned around and sued the city for $50 million for violating my civil rights. I took this case on and tested it to the Supreme Court and ran out of money. I spent too much money; lawyers are very, very expensive.
NOTE: A feature article, Parents in a Lions’ Den, appeared in THE LUTHERAN on February 4, 1987. It chronicled the effects on the entire Solberg family of Daniel’s and David’s efforts on behalf of the steel workers and the personal challenges resulting from what transpired within the church itself.
Click here to see the trailer for The Fighting Ministers as it’s presented on David’s official website.