When Dolly Parton sang “9 to 5,” she was doing more than just shining a light on the fate of working women in the United States. Parton was singing the true story of the 9to5 movement that started with a group of secretaries in the early 1970s that wanted change in their workplaces. Their goals were simple: equal pay, fair work, and an end to sexual harassment. As the movement went national, it encapsulated the unique intersection of the women’s movement and the labour movement, as the women worked hard to unionise and press for real change in their workplaces. Featuring interviews with 9to5’s founders, 9to5: The Story of a Movement documents the struggle that changed workplace culture in the United States, and echos today.
In post-industrial United States, the Chinese company Fuyao opens a car-glass factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring thousands of blue-collar American and Chinese workers. Through an an observational format, American Factory presents the two distinct cultures, comparing and contrasting each other, as well as weaving subtle commentary revealed from the workers’ themselves about the nature of manufacturing work; their differing cultural and generational attitudes on labour rights and unionising; as well as observing upper management methods and corporate politics. The film is a collage of self-revealing messages about the cultures of high-tech China and post-industrial United States, shown through the lens of capitalism and the changing status of each country in the global economy.