Saul Rubinstein Picture

"Either General Motors had to begin to look more like Saturn in order to be able to achieve that kind of performance or Saturn had to go back and look more like General Motors."

- Saul Rubinstein, Professor of Labor, Rutgers University

Kenny Duncan Picture

"We were being strangled by a corporation that didnít know how to handle us and at the same time by an organization, the international UAW at that time, didnít know how to handle us. "

- Kenny Duncan, Saturn Worker

Tom Hopp Picture

"We could have made it work if them UAW appointees would have been elected."

- Tom Hopp, Saturn worker

Mike Herron Picture

"The contract has changed but I have a lot of the same level of involvement that I did when we had the co-management model here."

- Mike Herron, Chairman UAW local 1853

Available in DVD NTSC, DVD PAL, and VHS NTSC

Running Time:

Stereo Mix


In 1990, General Motors and the United Auto Workers started making the new Saturn car in a bold and innovative labor-management partnership. GM launched the partnership with a new $1.8-billion plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. The partnership was acclaimed and copied around the world. But just 15 years later, management and the union abandoned their partnership to go back to their traditional national union contract. Why?

Through interviews with management, union leaders, academic experts and a wide range of Saturn workers, the film examines the reasons behind the abandonment of the formal labor-management partnership. Was it the loss of supportive leaders like Roger Smith and Al Warren of GM and Don Ephlin of the UAW and their replacement by less sympathetic replacements?

How well did the Saturn model work? What were its shortcomings? Could it have been saved? Should the leaders appointed by union officers have been elected instead? Did the experiment come at a bad time for the American automobile industry? Or was it just too bold for an industry that matured many years ago?

This 30-minute film gives a range of views from a range of people. The film also discusses the impact the Saturn experiment had on GM and the UAW. Saturnís lasting importance may be its impact on labor-management partnerships around the world. Yet strong elements of the partnership remain at Spring Hill on a less formal basis and have spread throughout GM.

What Happened to Saturn?  is a followup to Merrimack’s 1994 classic film on the GM-UAW partnership, Working Together: Saturn and the UAW. That 31-minute film, which received a 4-star rating from Video Rating Guide for Libraries, shows the Saturn experiment when it was perhaps the most influential example of labor-management cooperation in the world.

Handshake photo by Jim West, Photographer

“It is a good and very interesting film about a very important experiment that has fundamentally changed how unions and management work together.”

--David E. Cole, Chairman, Center for Automotive Research

What Happened to Saturn? is required viewing for management, academics, and students…This film engages viewers to learn from Saturn’s triumphs and setbacks and to retain faith in the potential for meaningful and long lasting labor-management partnerships.”

--Howard Stanger, Associate Professor of Management, Canisius College

"Sharply focused interviews with many participants from both labor and management… Especially useful for stimulating undergraduate and graduate students in industrial relations, human resources, political economy, and the social sciences.”

--Stephen Amberg, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Texas at San Antonio

Merrimack Films
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Belmont,   MA 02478