Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert's “AMERICAN FACTORY”
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
Viewed at Traverse City Film Festival July 31, 2019
The Chinese came to the US hoping to recharge a shuttered GM factory to build glass for autos and trucks. In return for hiring chronically unemployed in the Dayton Ohio area they hoped that US workers would participate despite low wages and unsafe working conditions given their lack of other job opportunities.
The culture clash was nontrivial despite repeated attempts to get American workers to adapt to Chinese productivity and management demands, Yet, a unionization vote still failed.
Bottom line: all manufacturing jobs are threatened by automation, not just those currently held by Americans. Some cultures are willing to accept the pressure to produce, while others resist. The closing scenes of this three-years-in-the-making documentary are a thinly disguised warning that all factory workers can be replaced by automation, not just Americans.
Review copyright (c) 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald