'Rivethead' by Ben Hamper


Absolutely riveting.

Wow, I haven’t thought about that book in a while. Time to dig out my copy and re-read it. It’s one of those books that would be brilliant satire, if not for the fact that Howie Makem and all the rest of it was real.

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Well - good thing we moved so many manufacturing jobs overseas so we don’t have to subject people to things like Howie Mandel. Excuse me, Howie Makum.

Slacking off while helping to build some large metal object that moves at speeds upwards of 65 mph and possibly packed with human beings? Hi-LAR-ious.

Great book. I thought I was the only one who loved it.

All of us who grew up around factory culture (Dad was at Allis-Chalmers, Badger Alloys, then Harley-Davidson) recognize all the stories as true.

And to the snarky commenter…Every person I knew in the shops worked really hard. They were proud of what they made. But they were also beat down by foremen passing along unreasonable Management demands. And the jester of every factory; the engineers who “improved” everything in a vacuum totally deprived of common sense. Most ‘slacking off’ was at the expense of Management, not the product.

Shout out to all the 1970’s RustBelt kids who walked a picket line with dad, went to file for unemployment during Shutdown, and visited the shops to see where mom/dad worked on Family Day.


My take-home memory from that book was that an industrious person could do the work of two normal people.

My memory of this book was that the industry had too many variants into what one person was supposed to be able to do. Hamper describes some workers as never having a moment to spare, as well as a tremendous amount of actual heavy lifting, where other workers had had their jobs worked out to such a degree that (like Hamper himself) they were bored senseless by how slow things went. So doubling-up became a common practice. Everything was based on the cars coming down the line to a particular spot at a particular speed, and this often did not work out so well for some workers.

He also mentions that his area was noted for high quality workmanship - rivets where they were supposed to be, parts in the right order, etc., etc. Impressive when you know that he occasionally drank his way through more than one forty-ouncer of beer at lunch…

Ben Hamper was co-host of “Take No Prisoners” Flint’s very best (and only) Punk Rock radio and public access show.

Radio Show (archive.org)

TV “Best of Take No Prisoners” (youtube)

I can see a fair few industrial music fans decrying this as bait-and-switch.

Interesting book that made me much less sympathetic to unions

Unfortunately this type of managerial insanity is rampant in this and probably every other country. I saw it at Hughes Aircraft in the 80’s, AST Computers in the 90’s and now well everywhere. It has always astounded me how these idiots get to be where they are and remain there. I just had a friend at work the other day who got fired because he went to his Citizenship ceremony. Horrible/Funny thing is that he worked at Mundo Fox, the latino TV station.

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