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Teamsters' bitter standoff at Overnite

Review by Joe Allen | July 5, 2002 | Page 9

DOCUMENTARY: American Standoff, produced by Barbara Kopple for HBO.

AMERICAN STANDOFF, the story of the Teamsters' ongoing strike against Overnite Transportation, is one of the most pro-union films to air on TV in years.

Produced by Barbara Kopple, the Academy Award-winning director of the classic documentary Harlan County USA, the film tells the story of the little-known but important battle of the Teamsters, under the leadership of James P. Hoffa, to organize one of the country's largest nonunion freight companies.

American Standoff exposes the ruthless, criminal behavior of Overnite and profiles rank-and-file activists who put their jobs on the line to fight for dignity at work.

While the strike against Overnite is still technically "on," it is clear that the Teamsters have suffered a defeat that will have wide-ranging implications for them and the labor movement in general.

Though it's clear that Kopple made American Standoff with the cooperation of the Hoffa administration, that doesn't mean that Hoffa escapes criticism. Early on in the film, Hoffa expresses reservations about striking Overnite because it could adversely effect his re-election. The harshest criticism comes from a striker, who says they "were promised the support of 500,000 union members and we didn't get shit from the Teamsters."

Union activists in and out of the Teamsters should be encouraged to watch and discuss American Standoff. The lessons of the Overnite strike will be important for all of us to learn for years to come.

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