Go Rent “American Dream”

dreamsAfter a Ross Southern Club blowout last night at Diamondback Saloon, I’m taking it easy tonight, but that gives me a chance to tout a documentary everyone should see: American Dream, directed by Barbara Kopple.

I’m not exactly on the ball here, as this movie was released in 1990, but the prof screened it today as part of an all-day MO 512 negotiations class simulation that was based on the events depicted in American Dream. I must say it was a pretty tangential thing to watch in negotiations class, but the movie was, in a word, real. It’s all about the strike at a Hormel processing plant in Austin, Minn., in 1985-86 and the relationships and conflicts that take place between management, the local union leadership, national leaders at the United Food and Commercial Workers — in a random personal fact, I was once a member of the UFCW — union rank-and-file and other interested parties. It’s tragic and sad to see, and yet by avoiding taking any particular side in the story, the film is more effectively illustrative of the Reagan-era decline of unions and the real-world impact that had on workers and their families. The meat-processing scenes will also make you want to take some time away from pork, but appetite for bacon is a small price to pay for one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time.

Too many people here at b-school like to stereotype union members as greedy, obstructionist ogres, which gets old fast to a dude from Pittsburgh with union family and friends. (This is at one of the more liberal and friendly b-schools; I can only imagine the vitriol going around elsewhere.) I’d recommend this movie to them: unions can go too far and have self-interested leaders, just like management, but there are real people on both sides of the divide and that’s an important thing to keep in mind as a future business leader.

So go rent American Dream; you’ll be glad you did.

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2 Responses to “Go Rent “American Dream””

  1. I will Neflix this movie (that’s a verb?). My experience with unions is a little different – my dad managed incompetent people who were in a union and he couldn’t fire them. It drove him nuts – literally took over half a year to fire people who put in the absolute minimum effort and face time to keep their jobs.

  2. That happens too, obviously, but the truth is somewhere in the middle, if you ask me.

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