Final Friday Film: American Dream by Barbara Kopple

Directed by Barbara Kopple
USA, 1990, 100 min

 In 1984 the Hormel meat-packing company offered the union workers in Austin, Minnesota a new contract, cutting their wages from $10.69 per hour to $8.25 per hour—benefits would be cut by 30 percent. The workers were not filled with joy. The company had just declared an annual profit of $29 million, the cuts were inspired by owners wanting to maximize profits beyond that on the backs and cuts in health and life spans of the workers and their families.

American Dream chronicles the six-month strike that followed during 1985 and 1986 at the Hormel meatpacking plant in Austin, Minnesota. The local union, P-9 of the Food and Commercial Workers, overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer with a $2/hour wage cut. Following this the meat workers strike and hire a New York consultant to manage a national media campaign against Hormel. Despite support from P-9’s rank and file, FCWU’s international disagrees with the strategy. In addition to union-company tension, there’s union-union in-fighting. Hormel holds firm; scabs, replacement workers, brothers on opposite sides, a union coup d’état, and a new contract materialize. The film asks, was it worth it, or was the strike a long-term disaster for organized labor?

In many ways, the Hormel plant in bucolic Minnesota seemed like the least likely site for a labor-management inferno. The company’s founders had been of a paternalistic bent, and Austin’s hourly wage of $10.69 was the industry standard. But in 1984, despite profits of $29 million, Hormel announced plans to cut that wage by 23%. “What are we going to have to give up,” one worker worried, “when they show a loss for the quarter?”—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, March 1992

Barbara Kopple, who had previously covered an extended miner’s strike in the acclaimed 1976 documentary Harlan County, USA, focuses on the personalities and emotions behind the strike, creating a highly charged portrait of labor that is sympathetic to the workers’ distress without ignoring the strike’s greater ambiguities.

 

Ticket prices are sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay.

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It Spread Like Wildfire! A Celebration

A Teach-In and support meeting around capital’s new assault against university labor and how faculty and student actions secured a temporary victory.

Spread like Wildfire: Faculty Lockout, Student Walkout. An evening with Members of the LIUFF discussing their struggle and the most recent and egregious attack on Higher Education and how faculty with students have secured a temporary victory.

Join us in a discussion on the fight for academic freedom , equal pay for equal work, and the ongoing struggle of contingent faculty and the omnipresent student debt crisis.

Michael Pelias, LIU Brooklyn
Vidhya Swaminathan, LIU Brooklyn
Melissa Antinori, LIU Brooklyn
Manny Ness
and more to speak

Join The Institute for the Radical Imagination, The Marxist Education Project, Theater or The Oppressed, and other organizations and groups for a night of solidarity with the teaching faculty workers who were locked out of their jobs at Long Island University. Historically, this is the first time that capital has locked out an entire teaching body at a university.

There will be report backs from union members, students and members of the community.

Speakers and other organizational sponsors to add.

We have been one, we shall be all!

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