“American Factory,” a documentary movie released on Wednesday on Netflix, follows automotive glass maker Fuyao as it opens a U.S. plant in Moraine, Ohio, at the site of the former GM plant. The movie, which has earned rave reviews, is a tale of clashing cultures and how it can affect a business.
The movie opens with GM closing its plant, which affected 2,000 families. Then Chinese auto glass maker Fuyao purchases the plant, opening Fuyao Glass America, and putting many of the same people who lost employment back to work with its near $500 million investment.
“This is the best game in town right now,” said a former GM employee who was then hired at Fuyao Glass America.
Viewers see American and Chinese employees working together on a line, but the camaraderie and sense of hope doesn’t last long.
A female employee seen in the film tells the story of how she made “$29 and some change an hour with GM and now makes $12.84 with Fuyao.” Filmmakers shared stories of employees who lost their homes and vehicles.
The turmoil continues from there as the different Chinese and American work ethics clash.
“American workers are not efficient and output is low,” says Fuyao Group Chairman Cao Dewang. Even American workers, on a trip to China, noticed the distinction. One employee commented after watching production, “It’s nonstop.”
The approach to safety protocols was another cultural difference portrayed in the film. When Fuayo Glass America executives traveled to China they were perplexed to see Chinese workers sifting through a mountain of glass parts. One American employee commented on how they weren’t wearing safety glasses or cut-resistant gloves.
All of this strife then turned into a battle to unionize and the employees splitting into those voting yes and those voting no, some employees were fired in the fight that ensued. Ultimately, the employees voted no to the union.
“We all went in with optimism and growth and the future looked bright. Today it’s a 180,” said one employee, near the films end. “They don’t respect you.” Another employee commented that 3,000 people have come and gone.
AGRR interviewed Fuyao Glass America president Jeff Liu in November 2017. To read that interview, click here.
Fuyao Glass America did not respond to glassBYTEs with comments on the documentary as of press time.