Thursday, August 25, 2011

another HBO Doc in the Box

Once again HBO Documentary Films has created another suspect tear-jerker, 'No Contract No Cookies', which, if you have HBO is in the 'on demand' section. I encourage everyone to watch it.

The film chronicles the year long strike and culmination of the Stella D'oro Cookie Company. Here is How HBO describes the 'synopsis':

And here is the accompanying whine bar retort from our Tin Foil Friends at Huffpo:

"The new HBO documentary, No Contract No Cookies: The Stella D'Oro Strike, premiering on HBO2 tonight at 8pm, tells the story of a beloved Bronx bakery, founded by Italian immigrants in 1932, that now lies shuttered, like so many factories all over America. The saga of how the company went from a thriving family-owned enterprise to a gutted equity fund acquisition is a success story only if you're rooting for our modern day robber barons. For the dwindling middle class and the unwashed masses, it's an American tragedy that's being repeated all over the country.

No Contract No Cookies puts a poignant face -- or 138 faces, to be precise -- on the massacre of manufacturing jobs that CEOs routinely commit in the name of prosperity. At the Stella D'Oro factory, folks from 22 different countries worked convivially alongside New York natives and gained a foothold in the American middle class, only to be kicked off the ladder when Brynwood Partners, a private equity fund, bought the company. In 2008, when the workers' contract expired, Brynwood demanded a 30% pay cut."

Ahh, yes. The storyline defines itself: picture the nameless, faceless, evil corporate overlord raider known as Brynwood Partners, or as I will refer to them BP.

The bakery was founded in 1932 and the immigrant family that owned the factory sold it to Kraft Foods in 2002( CHA CHING!) . After 4 years, Kraft food sells it to BP. BP operates it from 2006-until fall 2008 ( when the econimy went in the sh*tter ) and goes and tells the Union bosses in the Bronx "hey, we need to cut costs. Were taking it in the pants. Help us out here. Were paying 18$-22$ an hour for unskilled labor with 9 weeks paid leave! Lets back that down for 5 years until we get out of this slump. Is that reasonable?'

The Union Bosses say 'Say What? Your talking going from 18$ and hour to 13-14$? And less paid leave?! Hells to the No. Why dont you show me your books so we can see how much a 'jam' you are in ,and then we will talk'.

Show me your books, please. Where have I heard that one before?

So at this point, the strike in on. Now your the Union Boss: your job is to look out for the laborers. I get it.

And I also see BP's dilemna. They were already not showing 'good enough profits' and with the strike they werent making any more. The scabs could not produce what the Union Laborers could do. So now the brand and the bottom line is starting to feel it. And c'mon. 9 weeks paid vacation and 23-24$ an hour? Its UNSKILLED LABOR that can be performed by those without a significant grasp of the English language, as per it's founder. I know, it's the Bronx, but that is an incredibly sweet deal!! Right? What to do?

Well, the way HBO and the director Jon Alpert look at it: BP is out to 'screw' the laborers. And they do this with heartfelt imagery, of the immgrant founder to the 130 odd non native born workers. The Greek mechanic that dines with the Vietnamese machinist ponders his life here and curses the picket crossers.

And the music swells, the juxtapositioning of stills and people tearfully leaving thier job for good should be a harbinger for industry in the Northeast. After a long, long strike the laborers agree to the 'deal'. BUt in that time, the company's worth and projected profit had taken a nose dive. So, BP sells out to King Cracker: Lance Corporation from good ol' North Cackalacky.

Lance then decides to repay the striking workers by shuttering the damn thing, sending up trucks to get thier equipment out of there, loading up and moving to Ashland Ohio, where there is no Union.

Now, since the doc has come out the Union won a decision against BP that it had 'negotiated in bad faith' and will probably get a couple million dollar settlement. Thats going to mean alot of Union Atnny fee's and Union recompense so in the end the workers that went on strike will get paid what they would have made had they not gone on strike for a year or so. But the 'job' is long gone. The factory that had been an integral part of the Bronx is now empty, and a nice new facility in Ohio is employing slightly less. And still putting out those Swiss Fudge cookies that the Orthodox Jews up there die for, they arent made with butter or milk.

The interesting thing to me is how the documentary filmmaker declines to show the ugly side of the Union that helped bring on the factories demise. It really is glaringly obvious to the naked eye. No follow up on the 'new non union' employees in Ashland Ohio, only focusing on the mostly immigrant class that ends up losing thier 'bread and butter', so to say. To be sure BP is not guilt free here, but they are made to look quite Darth Vader-ish.

Watch the doc and read the signs:

'Boro Jobs Before Profits'?! For real?

'My Job is my Right'? Your WHAT?!

'Taxpayers and Workers OWN Stella D'oro'. Okay stop right there.

How would you deal with these idiots? I would do exactly what they did. Close up and move to where the employees arent that 'special'.

How how did it all work out?

So what has happened to the people in the documentary?

Some found other work, and some are on the dole. In an interview the director said about 35% of the workers were still employed. The rest retired, or went on assistance.

Lance is now making the cookies, just not in the Bronx anymore. As long as they turn a profit, they will be around for years to come.

The Union bosses still got paid thier high salary, and the lawyers made thie hours, the original owner made $$ and sold it, BP broke even and sold it, and Lance Crackers now runs it.

The only losers here were obvious to see.

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