Academy Award-winning American documentary filmmaker Julia Reichert and ILR Dean Alex Colvin discuss Reichert’s Oscar-winning film, “American Factory,” as well as the recent upturn in union activism, the rise of B Corps and the future of work.
To learn about Reichert’s connection to the ILR School, read: ILR Expertise Utilized by Academy Award Winner
Fill out this short questionnaire to provide feedback, or to suggest a guest or topic for a future episode.
Learn more about ILR by visiting us on the web at ILR.Cornell.edu!
Julie Greco 0:03
Work is all around us. It defines us. The future of work impacts nearly every person on our planet. And the ILR School at Cornell University is influencing policy and practice around the world.
In this episode of "Work! Exploring the future of work, labor and employment Dean Alex Colvin speaks with Academy Award winning American documentary filmmaker, Julia Reichert.
Alex Colvin 0:29
Today, we have the real pleasure to have with us on the podcast, Julia Reichert, one of America's foremost documentary filmmakers. She has a long career of fantastic films exploring issues around women, American society, labor issues. She's a four time Academy Award nominee for her films, Union Maid in 1977, Seeing Red, Stories from American Communists from 1984, The Last Truck, Closing of a GM Plant in 2010. And most recently, American Factory in 20 19, which won the most recent Oscar for Best Documentary. She's also had a part of her career as a faculty member at Wright State University. And it's a real pleasure to have her today on the on the podcast. Welcome, Julia.
Julia Reichert 1:16
Thanks Alex. This is gonna be fun. Okay.
Alex Colvin 1:19
Yeah, looking forward to it. So one of the things that really interests me is that you decided to start exploring a set of issues when you started your career as a documentary filmmaker, around women and labor that really haven't been, you know, the mainstream focus in American films. What kind of got you interested in this direction?
Julia Reichert 1:43
Well, first of all, I come from a working class background. My dad was a union man. He was a butcher. He was in the butcher, meat cutters, butcher workman union, which became the UFCW I think, eventually. But looking back, what I remember, there were like no books in my house or pictures on the walls. But we had a secure life, there was never a thought that the lights are going to be turned off. And we had vacations that eventually, through the union, my, my dad got five weeks vacation. So we traveled, we had a little trailer or we go and car car camping. But you know, as a working class person, we had a rich culture, but it wasn't an intellectual culture. There were no like discussions around the dinner table with glasses of wine, you know, but it was a secure life. As a working class person, you know, I think, I really think these days, when I look around at the factory workers in American Factory, all those people I know who lost their jobs at the GM plant, these people do not have secure lives, they are paycheck to paycheck, they don't get much vacation, they have very little say over their life. So working class life to me, has really changed. And I think that has at least in part to do with the decline of unions. And I'm sure, I'm sure you I don't know if you experienced any of this yourself.
Alex Colvin 3:09
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, in kind of maybe a couple of ways. We actually emigrated from, from Britain in the 1970s, when the post war models started falling apart in Britain. And,
and we see it in the data too, you know, as acadmic research required that period from the 70s to the present, when we see this, you know, a stagnation of wages. As productivity kept rising and working class wages didn't rise, if you look to the present, and so, you also obviously, different, you know, in terms of what you do is, is some showing that kind of lived experience that people are going through. You know, we do the kind of relatively dry academic tables and numbers and stuff, but, uh,
Julia Reichert 3:57
Well, we rely on you guys to make sure that what we're documenting isn't a unique situation. We do do a lot of documenting right around where we live here in southwest Ohio, as you probably could tell from from the films. And, you know, for me, I got to go to college, which was the I was, I was the only person I knew who ever went to college. And the next person in my family was 30 years later, went to college. But anyway, um, when I was in college in the late 60s, I started learning through some young professors. You know, I started reading like Marx, you know, all those folks in philosophy class. And then there was activism all around. So I think that made me realize that class was not something, my class background was not something to be ashamed of, or I was lesser than, or I didn't know all this stuff. Other people knew who grew up in middle and upper middle class families, but it was something to be proud of, and something to think of as a motivating force in history. And I think just
Coming out of that, like actual working class background, and then learning, like the meaning of class and class relations and, and then of course, you had the women's movement.
So pretty soon, you have a life path set
to cover certain issues that never have gone away in American life. You know, it isn't like I hooked on an issue that went away.
Alex Colvin 5:25
We didn't solve that problem.
Julia Reichert 5:27
We didn't solve the problem of women, the situation for working class people is worse. Women have done a lot of fighting and have won a lot, but not everything. So anyway, that's what kind of set my path is both personal and my education.
Alex Colvin 5:43
Something that really has interested me in when I see, you know, the kind of documentary films that you make is, you know, as a researcher, when I'm trying to study labor issues and trying to get worker perspectives, one of the challenging things is often that, if you want to get in and talk to the workers, you go into a factory, is that management may or may not want to let you get access. You know, so I'm curious about, you know, when you're making your films, how do you deal with that? You've gotten some amazing, amazing film access, and how do you deal with those challenges?
Julia Reichert 6:20
You know, that's a great question. You, there's two, like, sort of polar opposite things. American Factory, which probably a lot of people might have seen who are listening, you see, we had amazing access. We were able to walk into that factory anytime we wanted day or night. And we had a crew of sometimes upwards of five people. That was because the ownership, of course, the person who brought the factory to the United States to Southwest Ohio, Dayton, was chairman Cao. We approached him about making a film there. They wanted to initially like pay us, but we said it would take no money, they would have no editing rights, and we would have to have access to come and go, go to meetings, etc. And he said yes, like amazing. He said, yes.
To his credit, and he never took it back. He never took it back. Even when things got rough. And we had to of course, I always say as a filmmaker, like getting access, and getting trust are two different things. Yeah, getting a worker to trust you to really be honest about the working conditions, their life, getting HR people, management supervisors to be honest about their challenges. It's not just a matter of you have permission, because they'll give you the BS line, a lot of times. They figure, you're working for management, I better be careful. Or you're on the side of the Union. That's obviously what you're doing, which we were in a way.
But you have to get trust. And that just takes time. And I don't know, as a researcher, we went in there every day, every day at times, and it was over three years. Starting slow and gradually. And I think when people like see you around, and you keep being interested, you keep waving and saying hi, and how's your day, you know,
I think the time matters. Once you get the access. The time matters on the other side, just quickly. Yeah, the GM closing plant, which is a really good film. It's on HBO, and it's still available. It's called The Last Truck Closing of GM plant. And it really is of a piece with American Factory. They're like one story.
Right, because the GM plant closed, then eight years later it reopens, some of the samep people are int there. We appealed and appealed and appealed to GM to be able to go into the factory. Yeah, but you've heard of Roger and Me. Yes, the movie by Michael Moore. And
I think GM felt they didn't want any more filmmakers in their factories. So it was a no go. So what we did there just briefly, was we actually toward the end, as the last days were coming, and we had gained trust of workers through working through through like befriending people that we would meet in bars or in their cars after work and so forth. Eventually, we actually trained workers to use these little flip cameras. This is pre iPhones. They would shoot in there. So, so most of the footage in that, which is a lot of footage in the plant, they shot.
Alex Colvin 9:31
Oh, wow. So it's like
data gathering almost.
Julia Reichert 9:34
Yeah. And they were and their names are in the credits. Yeah. And they, they're not allowed to shoot in the plant. But everybody would say like, what are they going to do fire me, you know, what are they going to do,
close the plant, you know? So. So people went ahead and worked with us.
Alex Colvin 9:53
Oh, and that's really fascinating because it's very parallel to some of the challenges we have as as researchers getting in and
You know, that similar kind of approach kind of trying to get the trust of the informant, right, that we're, we're dealing with, you know. Getting the worker to believe that that we're actually there to, to find out their perspectives. And that always takes time to build that up.
Julia Reichert 10:17
It does and here's the thing to me, I mean, how do you do this? You have to, the workers, if you're going after workers stories have to believe that you're not just going to go right up to HR and report them.
You know, and why would they trust you? And especially if you cannot get rid of your tail on from an HR person,
The person who usually wants to sit there and listen in right? Do you have that problem?
Alex Colvin 10:44
Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. And it's interesting which workers will talk or not I, I still remember once going around a Canadian postal facility. And managers we're going around with me and and they have very strong, really strong Marxist militant union, and postal workers who are typing in the postal codes. So they looked up and he saw some shouted out, this woman shouted out to me, "Don't believe anything they say! It's management! Don't believe what thy're telling you".
Julia Reichert 11:14
Well, you know, and we often would, with the management, we did lots and lots of interviews with management HR with, of course, the boss Chairman Cao.
And they would say, "Oh, yeah, don't worry. Yes, we're supplying water for everybody. It's really hot. Oh, yeah, we're dealing with this, we're dealing with that." And then you go on the floor.
And the workers are like, "What are they talking about?" And you know, they would, the management people actually believed it. They actually believe they were dealing with problems. But you have to get both sides. And I'll tell you one quick story here, the workers have to believe that you're not going to report them. They really have to believe that because why would they risk their job to talk to some pointy headed intellectual from as a filmmaker or from a university? So we are, you know, you walk miles and miles and miles carrying heavy equipment. And, and sometimes after a long day, you know, one of the management people will zoom by on those little golf carts. Right. And the workers don't get golf carts. And so maybe they'll say, "Hey," you know, "Hey, Julia, wanna ride?" And I'm like, "Yeah, come on," and then you whiz, and you're on the cart, and you whiz by all these workers you've been talking to, they're like, "Oh, she's with management. I don't get to ride on a golf cart." So we had to stop doing that. So anyway, just have to be super careful and try to lose your handlers. Yeah.
Alex Colvin 12:36
Has that changed over time? Has it gotten harder or easier over the course of reforms?
Julia Reichert 12:41
What has really hardened is the view of management toward unions and unions toward management.
It's a different subject than your asking, but I found it really, really interesting. We've traveled with the film a lot in the past year and a half. And both to business schools like Harvard Business School, we've traveled to Union stuff, we did a
city tour with of factory places like Louisville, Kentucky, Detroit, Indianapolis, etc. To Dayton of course, and we've also been with, like, Chase Bank, and events that are supposedly for wealthy people to figure out how to spend their wealth in a people friendly way, environmental friendly way, you know, kind of both sides of this.
One of our real goals with our outreach campaign for American Factory, in other words, our outreach, how we hope to impact the world has been to bring together
unions, workers, worker voices, and management, owners,
to the same table to like say, "Hey, you know, let's talk about some of these issues that film raises. Let's talk about automation.
Let's talk about worker power worker voice." And you know, what you get on both sides. And I say my union comrades are very tough on this. It's like, "Oh, we tried that. That doesn't work. We did a whole thing on that. We spent a lot of money," both sides, you know, the amount of sort of suspicion and a kind of giving up of possible trust was really, really impressed me as very sad. Yeah, we're gonna move forward on things like automation,
which I know it's something you think a lot about. Yeah, absolutely. One and I'd like to know how you think we're going to do this. But one of the things I really noticed, there's very little talk on the corporate side, the high value people side of
where the worker voices, where's the workers seat at the table. The corporations are supposed to figure it out. Maybe they have government helping them figure out like automation and the future of automation and workers
Who will get displaced by automation, the training and
there's rarely I found a thought of like, we gotta get workers involved in this, which would be unions a lot. So I don't know what you think about that.
Alex Colvin 15:13
I think that's right. And I think it's, it has deteriorated. You know, as you're talking, I was thinking back to when I started as a researcher in the 1990s. And, and there been some experiments with kind of doing cooperation in Saturn, great GM experiment, the UAW and in the airline industry did some experiments on that. I was sort of I was sort of
studying those things. And I got a, you know, good advice from my PhD advisor, that he thought these things were going to not succeed. And I decided to study conflict. And, you know, that wouldn't go away. And, you know, he was right on that, sadly. But you know, what I think about today, I think there has been a hardening, of the conflict between management and labor, and and on both sides. I mean, I think labor's kind of given up to some degree on some effort, and management has as well, you know, it's one of the things I wonder, as the covid 19 pandemic may at least create an opportunity to start rethinking that a little bit. You know, we are in a situation where it's requiring collective social action, and it's resetting a lot of stuff, you know, I don't know if it's going to do enough to kind of change our path. But, you know, when I sort of look at other places, you know, like Denmark, sort of a good example, where they've, they've had some really good responses to the pandemic, but their employment rate is like, you know, 4 or 5%, still, due to cooperative planning and decision making by labor management and the government. And it seems like there's a lesson out of this is that our inability act cooperatively is hurting us.
Julia Reichert 16:56
Oh, yes, I totally agree. I found it really saddening shocking that my friends at the AFL, and other and even SEIU to a degree. And then of course, the owners, the big owners are just they're just like, "No, we just can't." I mean, hard to even get them to come and sit down to dinner together in a group setting after our film. Although it did happen
in a number of cities, actually, which was good, the conversation, but the change. But I, you know, something I learned about? Are these like B Corps. The whole concept of the triple bottom line. There's a bottom line of not only the stockholders, but the environment and the workers. Yeah, I think that's the triple bottom line.
Alex Colvin 17:41
That's right. Built into the charter. Yeah. of the company.
Julia Reichert 17:45
Built into the charter. Yeah. Actually, the, the company that actually funded our film is a B Corp. So thing is, does it shift any power relations? Okay, so maybe there's a much stronger committee for workers to have their problems known. And they won't, they won't be punished the way workers might be in a factory, like the one we filmed in. They were fired because they wanted a union. No question about it.
Okay, so But does it shift the power like does the head of a B Corp, want to have workers on the board of trustees or want to actually share power on some issues, as opposed to just kind of benignly being better with people? So I'm curious if you think this sort of triple bottom line thing is, is a hope for the future? Kind of?
Alex Colvin 18:33
Yeah, I think there is some hope. But I think there's a couple of cautions. You know, so one is the one you've just mentioned that, you know, how fundamentally does it change things? It's a little bit like sort of being a consumer who identifies with brands that have like positive world images. You know, Patagonia is one of the great examples and kind of a, an ethical corporation. And if we had a economy full of Patagonia's, it would be a better place. But you know, there's an aspect of you buy the Patagonia t shirt, or you like the worker cause, you know, on social media. Is that really building worker power? And I think I think the answer is not really. It's a limited intervention. The other the other thing that I think is a issue, and this is often been the case with these kind of experiments is how scalable are they across the economy? You think about things like B Corps, worker cooperatives, you think of the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain that people who like cooperatives often study and I know there's some good examples in Ohio of efforts around cooperatives in the Pacific Northwest as well and in some forestry industry. The problems always been scaling that up so that you have that across more of the economy. If it's, you know, it's 1% of the economy. You know, it's a nice model, but it's not
fundamentally changing our society. It'ss changing from for people who work for those companies or those cooperatives. But you know, can you make this a bigger scale thing? And how do you do you have a public policy set forth. You know, our system is set up around a for profit, shareholder value cooperation. And that's what the public policy centers around. And so until you kind of get that sort of support to really scale things, it's hard to do. RIght. you think about that, like, with like, unions back in the 30s, you know, you had union organizing, but you also had FDR, saying, you know, "I'm supporting unions" and things work together to scale up.
Julia Reichert 20:40
Well, let me ask you, you're the Dean of ILR, you know, where I mentioned, my daughter actually went to Cornell and took classes with folks there. We've heard in the course of the last year and a half, that there's a shift going on in business schools, or labor management schools, toward students, and teachers being more interested in talking about the triple bottom line talking about B Corps talking about worker, like, what are we going to do, I mean, the income inequality is so glaringly obvious that there's a shift from like, let's just talk about how we're going to make more profit, to like, okay, let's look at the bigger picture of our country. And it's the health of our country, do you see that happening?
Alex Colvin 21:25
I definitely see that shift. There's some faculty kind of interest around these models that are rising, but where I see the bigger shift actually is, is increased student interest around these ideas. Over my career as a professor one of these things is always seeing the kind of generational changes among students. And certainly those ideas are much more interesting to contemporary students. And the interesting thing, I think, is that they're very interested in sort of hybrid type things, socially responsible businesses. It's not that they don't want, you know, private sector or private businesses, there isn't that but they're also they really love the idea of kind of things with a social mission, and a different way of thinking about things. You know, I think that's sometime when the surveys and they'll say, you know, there's much more popularity for socialist, right amongst current generation, right. Which is interesting, right, but also, when you sort of, I think you drill down in that it's not sort of old school, you know, Marx's kind of socialism, right? It's this kind of newer version of kind of a more socially responsible, ethically responsible way of running the economy. So that, you know, you still have businesses, but the purpose of the economy shifted. And I, you know, there's a real interest among students for that. You certainly see that amongst our students.
Julia Reichert 22:52
Do you might talk about that just a little more.
Alex Colvin 22:55
Julia Reichert 22:56
I mean, I'm interest in this, you know, coming, I'm 73. So, I come out of the 60s, okay. And there's been plenty in between.
Like, I know, in the 60s, people came out of college, or whatever university with these new ideas, and the idea of equality, racial equality, gender equality, I don't know how much we were thinking about class equality, I think that the working class at that point, had pretty good union representation. But
not that many of us came out of the working class, they came out of more middle and upper middle class, you know, professors, engineers. We had a different atmosphere. And then if you remember, there was a long in between where everybody wanted to work at Wall Street. And the goal was to have your fabulous apartment, penthouse and all that stuff. It wasn't a thought to like the lives of the workers. And now you're saying there's a shift? Is that because of Bearnie, is that because of more working class kids coming in? What is it?
Alex Colvin 23:54
I think it started before that, and you know thinking about, you know, our students do go down to Wall Street. Wall Street recruits heavily up in our students, and they were recruiting heavily through like, 2008. And then there was a sudden stop in the Great Recession. And I think that we sometimes underestimated the long term impacts of the Great Recession. In terms of, you know, the economic and social impact have had and how it's influenced the generations that have grown up in the wake of that. Because I think it really changed that kind of faith in in unrestrained capitalism, right. And I, I think back to the film, Wall Street from the 80s. Gordon Gekko is kind of the villain of the movie, but he really gets portrayed as the hero of the movie. And I think there was a real breaking of that with the Great Recession. I think we've sort of underestimated, you know, things like the impact of the Occupy movement as kind of an expression of that kind of just frustration with the economic system. I think that's why you see things like the Fight for 15.
campaign succeeding much more, I think than I expected. And I think Bernie campaigns, is somewhat reflecting that. But I think there's a, there's something broader than that, you know, I think that generations growing up with just a lack of certainty and confidence in the economic system, right. I think some of the shift of risk to the worker has now really come to roost that kids have grown up seeing their parents not sure if they're going to have money for retirement. Not sure they're going to have health insurance, and
if you grow up in that, you have a different perspective on the world. And I think we're really starting to see the impacts of that. And climate change, right. You know, they've grown up knowing the climate is deteriorating, and, and and then that changes their worldview. It really does.
Julia Reichert 25:50
So you're saying that these young people, you're seeing groups around the time of 2008, the crash, Occupy, climate change, and of course, there's income inequality, and let's not forget the election of Donald Trump? Yeah, let's you know, it's like that's partly because of the disinfection of American working class people, especially Midwesterners. So that colors, see in our generation, when we came out of college, the last place we wanted to go is Wall Street, Well most of us became like, teachers, social workers, right, because we didn't want to have to do with capitalism. And now you know, with a now, people actually want to try to sort of fix it. Because they realize it is like the owner class, which they're going to become part of, actually is responsible for, like making a huge difference. And they have to think differently than the Gordon Gekko era, let's say. So you're really seeing that as you talk to students?
Alex Colvin 26:50
Yeah, I mean, it's a running joke, you know, inside of admission is that, you know, everybody who's applying to Cornell has, like started a nonprofit in high school. You know, social entrepreneurship, right is kind of the buzzword. But, you know, everybody's excited about, you know, it's interesting, some entrepreneurial kind of fashion, but it's around social, social issues. And so, you know, it's a different, yeah, it's definitely a different mentality. You know, that sort of the 80s 90s, early naughts kind of go go capitalism, you know, thing has changed. Even the people who go to Wall Street have a different kind of perspective, right, but they haven't kind of, they haven't bought in on the , The Wolf of Wall Street.
Julia Reichert 27:31
Wow, that is so interesting. I'm glad you brought that. So maybe that will begin to displace through aging, like that last generation. That's really, really interesting. But it makes me think of just since we're talking about film here.
With American Factory, we went to a lot of, we were invited to a lot of conferences,
and gatherings. And often, they were about like the future of work, like The Atlantic had one. And there was thing called SoCap, and it would be about the future of work. So we would go. And of course, in our film, you see that that the union, there's a strong anti union company that's brought in, Labor Relations Institute.
And those kind of companies, most people have no idea were like active all, in almost any big union battle, a company like that is brought in. That's a real big secret to most Americans. It was to us even. We documented we were able to document a little bit of it. Much to the delight of the labor movement that they
had actually kept, is that we, I mean, we didn't do it for that reason, but it was part of the story. Anyway, so we got invited to a lot of this stuff.
And we would, after a while, we started looking at who's the participants in these discussions about the future of work? And there were academics. And there were corporate leaders. And there were foundations. But were there ever unions? Were there ever worker voices, like Fight for
15? There weren't. So we started, if we're gonna appear, we as the filmmakers,
there must be worker voices also represented on this, on this day of discussion or whatever it was. That's the little piece we could do to get like worker voice in there and to raise that awareness. You know, if we're going to talk about the future of work, it can't just be again, corporations and government. I also think like, there's that huge rift between corporate thinking, as we've talked about, and unions. I also have observed from when we made The Last Truck to American Factory, the idea even the word union
is becoming better understood. Like, at that time in '06, there was, the country was very, I mean, the country culturally generally, was really anti union.
Even people who didn't really know what a union was were like, "Oh, those are bad.
Right? Those are corrupt. Right?" We heard that a lot in discussions with the film. People who had never been in the Union. And even the TV news here in Dayton was you could you really could tell they were, they would film the most drunk guy in the bar who was a union member. And when we started trying to make that film, The Last Truck, workers did not want to talk to anybody with a camera. It was very difficult.
I don't know, if you find this. And in the last, what, 12 years, I think the country has become more positive toward the idea of workers organizing. Yeah.
And what does that mean? That means, mostly, it means some kind of union. Right?
Alex Colvin 30:43
Yeah, we're seeing that.
Yeah, we're seeing that in the surveys we're doing on attitudes towards unions,
those increased over the exactly that sort of last decade period, to a much more positive use of union. And I think one of the most interesting kind of recent organizing waves has been in the new media sector.
Things like Vox and Talking Points Memo and those kinds of organizations, where we're seeing this wave of unionization among sort of younger tech workers, educated yeah, educated, and it's really interesting how much they've embraced unions,
you know, all of a sudden. And that's, that's a real signal shift. I think that's something that could have broader implications, because it's in such a prominent
role in terms of shaping the thinking, in, in, in our society. The future policymakers are being influenced.
Julia Reichert 31:41
In our field, it's, some of it is the folks who do like video game design. Oh, yeah, who do special effects. And those people are kind of saying, you know, some of how we're treated is not fair.
In New Media. You know, we've had May Day. And from my understanding is that a lot of like, delivery people and workers who have those kind of jobs that are really under pressure now
actually walked like, didn't, walked out or had in New York city. Did you hear about that?
Alex Colvin 32:14
Yeah. And this happened, you know, across the country in different places. Yeah, there was an online effort to organize it. That was really interesting. So, you know, people are doing in different places, but there was a coordination.
Julia Reichert 32:26
Wow, sparked by who?
Alex Colvin 32:29
A mixture of groups, like some union activists, but alt-labor groups. You know, there was a real coordination. So you know, the bigger unions, UFCW and some organizors from Amazon, they were pushing it, but but there was a lot of different groups, which is what I thought was interesting, right. And that kind of connection between the unions and the the other activist groups, is something that's changed. Over that period, back in the 70s, when some of the industrial unions have the real split from the social left. And, you know, it's interesting, I think that's that Is that
one of the big changes this kind of real coming together of both the left and the unions.
Julia Reichert 33:10
And understanding that we yeah, we need to work together, you you just hope, I hope that some of my friends in the labor movements will
be a little more flexible. I mean, the labor movement to me is a very, very important but very lumbering, there's a bit of
Alex Colvin 33:29
Like an oil tanker. Right, you know.
Julia Reichert 33:31
Right. So, so I, I think there needs to be more broad thinking both on the part of owners and the part of unions and loosening of some of the old and I do think loosening up some of the old saws, right on each side. I think will happen as we get some of your people like the younger labor leaders who come out of the ranks, and some of the younger corporate leaders, who maybe will see that if the country is going to be a good country, we have to find our common interests.
Alex Colvin 34:08
That's right. That's right. Now, I do want to before we finish off, take a moment to just hear a little about your new film that's going to be coming out 9 to 5. I'd love to hear a little about that.
Julia Reichert 34:20
So we have a brand new film, which was supposed to have premiered at South By Southwest. But anyway we have a brand new documentary, which is a which is about a movement. Now. Most people know the song 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton and the movie. Yeah, it's like a classic.
People love it. Everybody knows, many people know that song. But what people don't realize is there was a movement for almost 10 years before that movie came out that gave rise to the movie. We decided, we thought this is an important part of American history.
And women's history. It's important part
Labor history. And it also, the more we learned about 9 to 5, from its organizers, we started doing interviews and getting to know people, there were a lot of what I would call lessons for today.
Remember, we started like, before we started American Factory. So within the anti union period, it was in the aftermath of 2008 in the economic collapse, but these were like people who instead of, they used humor. Yeah. They like used shaming of the boss
They didn't put up heavy picket lines with shouting, they more bought brought balloons downtown.
You know, they were secretaries. They did things that made sense for their community, which was, you know, as white collar workers, secretaries. Yeah. They would say like, "Well, we're not coal miners, you know, we don't want a union," but they would, but they came together under the 9 to 5 banner. And the stories are wonderful. And the archival footage we we, over years, we unearthed like some really cool archival footage.
Alex Colvin 36:05
Julia Reichert 36:07
So it's, it's done.
And we hope to bring it to Cornell.
Alex Colvin 36:11
Excellent. We'd love to have it. No, it would be great. You know, I think that'd be great for our students to
Julia Reichert 36:17
to be able to see it and talk about it. And one of the people who works at Cornell down in New York City is one of the stars of the film. Kim Cook.
Alex Colvin 36:26
Julia Reichert 36:27
Yeah. Kim Cook is very much in the film. And she's a wonderful character, as well as I'm sure a really good teacher down there in New York City.
Alex Colvin 36:35
Yeah, she's a great colleague.
Julia Reichert 36:36
Yeah. So lots of connections.
Alex Colvin 36:39
Great. Well, thank you, Julia. This is this has been a super pleasure having this conversation.
Julia Reichert 36:45
Same here. It was great to get to know you a little.
Alex Colvin 36:48
Julie Greco 36:50
Thank you for listening to work. You can subscribe to our podcast at work.ilr.cornell.edu or on iTunes. Do you have a recommendation for a guest or topic to be discussed on a future episode? Just click on the link in the show notes of this episode, and leave your suggestion. Again, thank you for listening.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai