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American Factory

This documentary is set in Ohio and begins with the closing of a GM plant near Dayton in 2008. Fast forward to 2015, when a Chinese billionaire buys the building and opens Fuyao, which makes windshields for cars. The film is a fascinating analysis of what happens when two cultures collide in the workplace – two cultures with different ideas of worker’s rights and expectations regarding productivity.  Everything starts out well enough. There are high hopes for those who lost their jobs at GM. However, it doesn’t take long for problems to appear: the low pay – less than half of what they were making at GM; the complaints by supervisors that the workers are lazy and don’t work fast enough; the aggressive anti-union lobbying. There is a segment where managers from the Fuyao plant are invited to China and are provided what is clearly a highly choreographed attempt and changing worker expectations and what they are expected to give to the company. What emerges is a very disturbing picture of the changing realities of the global economy and what it means for workers, the implications of which reach far beyond Fuyao. Big thumbs up for a film that is rather unsettling and demonstrates that the problem is not only that our industries are being outsourced to foreign countries due to lower-cost labor, but that these same issues are happening inside our own borders. This is a worthwhile and educational watch for everyone. (2019; 4.5 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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