Documentary distorts Chinese factories



August 26, 2019 - 10:26 AM

Netflix subscribers and theatergoers can now watch “American Factory,” a powerful new documentary about what happens when a manufacturing plant opens in a job-deprived town but the plant’s owners are callous to workers, hostile to unions and obsessed with profits at any cost.

It is a story that has played out in towns and cities throughout the country for decades. Over a lifetime of advocacy on behalf of workers, I have dealt with numerous company owners who have insisted on their “right” to pay workers poverty wages, bust unions and pollute the environment, just like the owners in “American Factory.”

There is a lot the documentary gets right, but there is also something that disturbs me. The film follows the workers at a car glass manufacturing plant in Dayton, Ohio, run by Fuyao, a company owned by a Chinese billionaire. The plant’s workers struggle with the outrageous expectations of Fuyao’s management (long work hours, lax safety standards, wage cuts), as well as with the culture clash between the differing approaches of workers and managers to production and safety. I won’t spoil the film, but don’t expect a Hollywood ending.

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