Collision Course traces the dramatic rise and fall of workplace cooperation at Eastern Airlines. In so doing, the film uncovers the deep-seated assumptions which underlie our culture of industrial relations and prevent us from breaking out of our industrial impasse.
Collision Course begins in 1983 with Eastern hurtling towards bankruptcy, beset by years of labor-management hostility, high wage cuts, and a poor service record. An informative history traces this adversarial relationship back to the dawn of the wage system and the rise of scientific management.
When Eastern once again demanded wage cuts, the machinist union responded with a bold counter-proposal reconceiving the traditional "wage bargain" by giving workers both a 25% ownership stake and an unprecedented say in the company. It was the most profound change in labor-management relations in any major American Company.
The results were stunning. Autonomous work teams took over the shopfloor. Wage increases were tied to productivity improvements. Encouraged to use their brains, newly motivated "cost teams" invented ways to save the airline $100 million.
Yet when competitive pressures re-emerged, the innovative agreement was pulled apart by the very people who put it together. In 1986, Eastern was sold to Frank Lorenzo's notoriously anti-union Texas Air and soon thereafter went down in flames. Eastern's rise and fall provides a vital case study of the do's, don'ts, and maybe's of workplace cooperation.
"Collision Course is an eloquent statement and sadly accurate portrayal of labor-management relations in America. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't profit enormously from seeing it - production workers, managers, citizens. If it were up to me, I'd project it on a mountainside and have the audio boom over valley and stream." - Robert Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor "No American businessman or labor leader can afford to ignore the lessons of this important film. It demonstrates the tremendous potential of workplace cooperation for improving productivity and business performance - and the price paid for neglecting it. An hour of Collision Course is worth volumes of case studies." - Adam Smith "Superb! Clearly gets across the message that workers must have a voice in the management process because it's more democratic and because it unleashes worker initiative and creativity." - Douglas Fraser, former president, United Auto Workers (UAW) "This dramatic, eye-opening study of a crucial experiment in labor-management cooperation provides unions and management vital insights into why they work apart and how they can work together." - Robert McKersie, Sloan School of Management, M.I.T "The film presents vivid reminders of the importance of trust and communications in building teamwork and its correlative, productivity, far more effectively than lectures and articles. It clearly tells us we're playing for mortal stakes and we'd better understand the context and control of corporate cultures which are successful and those that are failures. There are lessons here that management, unions, legislators, and ordinary citizens have to take very seriously." - Warren Bennis, University of Southern California
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