When shift supervisor Chris Smalls led a walkout at the Staten Island Amazon warehouse over their COVID policy, he was fired. Since then he has successfully led a campaign to turn that facility into the first unionized one in Amazon’s history. But that is just one small step within an American corporate culture that has turned wealth inequality into a crisis over the past 40 years. Cowriter (with fellow producer David Pederson and Christopher Seward)/director Sean Claffey outlines how the American worker is being “Americonned.”
Laura's Review: B
This is a call to arms documentary promoting unions to return a balance of power to the American worker. It also covers much of the same ground as Abigail Disney’s “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales” did last year, from outlining how the Reagan administration demonized the poor, especially single mothers, by portraying them as layabouts feeding off government assistance with its ‘welfare queen’ myth to reminding how economist Milton Friedman’s belief that all corporations should care about was profit took hold, culminating in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. It may surprise some to see a clip of the late Republican Senator John McCain calling Citizens United the most egregious legislation of the 21st century.
Claffey keeps returning to Smalls, the caring family man a solid focus. Smeared in an internal Amazon memo as not smart or articulate, Smalls turned out to be a very effective activist and union organizer. We also are shown examples of how hard working middle class people like a female trucker or laid off Oracle employee get mired deeper and deeper in debt and run out of options in a system rigged towards the wealthy (when that trucker, unable to afford to fix her vehicle and forced to bring her young son on jobs, admits to being tired and ready to just give up, it is heartbreaking).
Claffey also features a young man from Boston who, ruing bad choices made in his youth, now drives an Uber, but also wishes for a real life that doesn’t require working three jobs. He’ll be revisited later as a unionized construction welder having benefitted from former Boston Mayor (and Biden Labor Secretary) Marty Walsh’s Building Pathways program. Walsh is justifiably proud of Boston’s status as the most union friendly city in the nation.
Kurt Andersen, author of ‘Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America,’ provides a lot of facts and figures, advising that $50 trillion has migrated upwards since Reagan came up with trickle down economics and that if U.S. wealth was redistributed evenly, everyone would have a million dollars. That might be a Utopian ideal, but Smalls reminds us of a more realistic one in Selma when he reads the John Lewis quote ‘If you see something that is not right, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.’
Robin's Review: B-
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5), or so the King James Bible says. The truth is, though, that since then the meek have been screwed and the rich control the reins in “Americonned.”
In 1964, during Lyndon B. Johnson’s State of the Union address, he declared “an unconditional war on poverty in America.” Now, though, nearly 60 years after that declaration, the truth is, “thems that’s gots, shall get, thems that’s not, shall lose” (“God Bless the Child,” Blood, Sweat and Tears (1969)).
We hear lots and lots of stuff on income inequality in America. Well, back in ’63, the wealth discrepancy between the wealthy and the middle class was 6 to 1. By 2016, that difference was 12 to 1. Consider that gap that existed and is still expanding between the very rich and those living on or below the poverty line. It will be far greater than 12 to 1.
Director and co-writer Sean Claffey (with David Pederaon and Christopher Seward) puts forth lots of statistics about what the haves have versus what the have nots do not have. But, for many years (like since the 60s) I have known about that money gap – it is probably the main reason that I am an economic socialist – and the wealthy concept that “greed is good” (Gordon Gecko, “Wall Street (1987)”) has been the credo of the two percent since the “war” was declared.
Unfortunately, while the filmmakers are preaching to the choir (me), the problems they discuss are only getting worse, not better, and the wealth gap is ever increasing. At this rate, in a few years the “the gots” will get it all. Think about what THAT means to everyone else.
Shine The Light Films opens "Americonned" in select theaters on June 9, 2023 (it will screen June 5 at Brookline, MA's Coolidge Corner Theater). It will be available on VOD on June 13, 2023.