By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jun 08, 2001 at 1:02 AM

If you've ever felt guilty about having someone clean up after you, or were too lazy to do something yourself so you hired somebody else to do it, you should see "Bread and Roses" to appreciate them and the work they have done.

"Bread and Roses," the latest from acclaimed British director Ken Loach ("My Name is Joe"), is about hard-working people being pushed around, stepped on or ignored altogether. It's about people that do their best doing the things no one else would want to do, so that their families can eat.

Maya (Pilar Padilla) crosses the border and moves from Mexico to Los Angeles. Like many other illegal immigrants she is looking for a better life. Her older sister Rosa (Elpidia Carrillo) has a job cleaning an office building and Maya wants work there, too.

After a brief stint at a trashy bar, Maya is able to get a job where Rosa works thanks to the diligent efforts of her sister. Along with many others of all ages and races, she cleans up after rich white lawyers and businessmen who pay them no attention. One man calls his work clothes his "invisible suit."

Before long a man named Sam (Adrien Brody, "The Thin Red Line") has challenged the way the workers think. He pleads with them to organize and protest their low wages and lack of any kind of benefits. He explains to them how good janitors working for a union have it.

Starting with Maya, slowly but surely, the workers begin to listen. Soon they are holding meetings to discuss their options, protesting and holding peaceful demonstrations and crashing the parties of the rich and powerful they clean up after on a daily basis.

Of course, they face stiff opposition. Their mean boss begins firing them and Sam is in hot water with his superiors for continually getting into trouble with the law and always ending up on the news.

You can't dislike a movie like "Bread and Roses." It is noble, earnest and sincere, all the while addressing a serious issue most people don't think twice about. Its heart is definitely in the right place.

The weaknesses lie in the predictability of the story. The outcome isn't hard to predict and the villains are all caricatures. They overact shamelessly to make sure that the viewer knows they are supposed to despise them.

Still, Padilla and Brody give appealing performances and you can't help but pull for the workers. "Bread and Roses" doesn't break new ground on a dramatic level, but it works simply because the story is one that should be told. Hopefully, the message won't fall on deaf ears.

Grade: B

"Bread and Roses" starts Fri., June 8 at Landmark's Oriental Theatre.