Chronicles the six-month strike at Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, in 1985-86. The local union, P-9 of the Food and Commercial Workers, overwhelmingly rejects a contract offer with a $2/hour ...
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Chronicles the six-month strike at Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, in 1985-86. The local union, P-9 of the Food and Commercial Workers, overwhelmingly rejects a contract offer with a $2/hour wage cut. They 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?Written by
It may at times resemble an illustrated Bruce Springsteen protest ballad, but the tragedy in Barbara Kopple's Oscar winning documentary portrait of a Minnesota meat packer's strike is too rich to ignore, not unlike the film 'Roger & Me' but without Michael Moore's self-serving humor. The story begins in the mid 1980s, when the Hormel Company in Austin, Minnesota, tried to lower wages despite showing a healthy profit, leading members of Local P-9 to ignore their parent Union and hire an rhetoric spouting outside agitator (labor 'consultant' Ray Rogers), who transformed their grievance into a noble but ultimately self-defeating grassroots crusade. Kopple herself remains more or less invisible throughout the film, but her sympathy for the renegade P-9 underdogs (and her anti-Reaganomics attitude) is obvious, and she reveals the personal and civic consequences of labor disunion with heartbreaking clarity. The strike itself may not have made headlines outside the Mid West, but the story has some devastating implications for organized labor nationwide, and beyond that supplies enough drama and character to match any Hollywood blockbuster.
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