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RIVETHEAD by Ben Hamper


Tales From the Assembly Line

by Ben Hamper

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 1991
ISBN: 0-446-51501-9

 Based on his ``Rivethead'' column that has appeared in Midwest newspapers as well as in Mother Jones, here is Hamper's tortured description of his wretched career as a General Motors worker in the factories of Flint, Michigan. A fourth generation ``shoprat'' (one uncle spent 45 years at the Buick Engine Plant), Hamper explains how an irresponsible father, numerous siblings, and his own penchant for laziness, drugs, and taverns pointed directly to a future in the plants, despite his inclinations toward poetry and music. In 1977, he reluctantly began work in the cab shop (a place with a noise level ``like some hideous unrelenting tape loop of trains having sex''). Ranging from this experience to his retirement ten years later, Hamper writes of the drudgery of factory labor; repeated layoffs and call-backs; extensive on-the-job alcohol and drug consumption by himself and fellow workers; ongoing battles with foremen and supervisors; and his quest, similar to that of his mentor, Michael Moore, director of Roger and Me, to go bowling with GM chairman Roger Smith. His ``Rivethead'' series hardly endeared him to management, nor did his often obnoxious behavior. In 1986, at about the time his column first appeared in Mother Jones, he began to experience ``severe panic disorder,'' or anxiety attacks, and has spent the past few years in and out of a mental-health clinic. Although perceptively critical of American business management, practice, and values, Hamper nearsightedly finds little of worth or integrity in his fellow workers, and is downright offensive toward women, who, in his world, ``lust for summer sausage.'' Rivethead indeed.