The challenges ofblue collar employees
For instance, monotony of work was one great challenge that Hamperand many employees can relate with. He writes that he was so bored bythe monotony of his work on the assembly line that he resulted towriting just to kill time. He started to write record reviews on tinygrease-covered pieces of paper not so much to hone his writing but topass time. It is this boredom and monotony that also preoccupied hismind at the workplace as opposed to the work itself. He writes thathe would spend so much time thinking about the monotony of his workthat it started to haunt him. Eventually, he suffered panic attacksthat saw him hospitalized. While the author appreciated the job as itenabled him to pay his bills, he also acknowledged that the boredomwas eating him from the inside. Even other workers at the plant werenot comfortable with their jobs as many of them planned to work onlyfor one year and move on. To cope, many employees sneaked away fromtheir work stations to do drugs and alcohol. All these are practicesthat modern day employees can relate with especially regardingmonotony and their jobs being a source of mental health problems.
To majority of readers already in employment, they can share thatsense of hopelessness brought about by monotony and boredom in thework place. I sympathize with the author in that he felt almostsimilar to part of the machinery in the whole system. Poororganization of work made the work monotonous and left him with toomuch free time. The fact that employees used drugs and drank alcoholduring working hours shows that they were poorly supervised and werenot given the chance to feel as valued professionals. It is clearthat employee opinions or even suggestions on ways to improve workand efficiency were not sought. In fact, Hamper despised all attemptsto make the workplace interesting. To the middle and uppermanagement, workers like Hamper were there just to follow orders. Itthus easy to see that employees at the plant were not motivated andthey were not engaged as a result of poor organization andmanagement. I personally reckon that this can be frustrating.
Another reason that I sympathize with the author is because poorsafety in the workplace and low job security. The workplace itselfwas characterized by risks as one section of the plant had cables allover the place and sparks were always flying about. Furthermore,substance abuse in the workplace by workers operating machineryendangered their lives and that of others. Again, when businessdeclined, employees were laid off without much regard about theirsubstance.
I sympathize with the author because he feels that the uppermanagement at GM was no doing enough for him and the workers. Manyemployees in the 21st century can also elate with thus.While the pay was good at the plant, workers like Hamper consideredthemselves as “rats”. They did not feel valued by the system andthus concludes that big firms are primarily interested in profits anddo not give much attention to the personal lives of their employees.When the firms are faced by difficult market conditions, they justlay off employees to cut costs. Most blue collar employees can relateto these truths and the experiences of the author (Retro Review). Byalso sharing these truths, Hamper reveals some issues that might beunknown to senior corporate managers about their employees and theirattitudes towards work.
Similar sentiments are shared by John Marchese who feels that thebook tells of the challenges of being an employee at GM. Marchesewrites that the book captures a defiant spirit in the author in thesense that the corporate world and senior managers at variouscorporations do not treat blue collar employees well. In essence, itdeviates from the common trend where accomplished individuals such asBenjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs write autobiographies (RetroReview). To Marchese, the book also inspires readers on ways thatthey can overcome challenges and how they can transform thesechallenges into opportunities. While I may agree with this view, Ifeel that the motivation for writing these letters in a column was tofeel relevant. He started his writing by making unsolicited recordreviews in a local magazine managed by his friend Moore. It is thisrole as an author that made him feel important and relevant in lifeand also provided an alternative income source after his GM days.
All in all, the book is very interesting and offers the audience anopportunity to relate with the author as a regular blue-collaremployee. This is different from the regular autobiographical bookspublished by renowned corporate heavyweights or famous individualswho regular readers can hardly relate with in terms of their jobs andlifestyles. By sharing his experiences and that of his fellowemployees and people in his life, Hamper makes it easy for one tosympathize with him and also appreciate his efforts better at writinggiven his health conditions.
Hamper, Ben,Rivethead: Tales from the assembly line. New York: WarnerBooks, 1991. Print.
Marchese, John, Ashot rat’s tale. New York Times. 1991. Web.
Retro Review:Rivethead-Tales from the Assembly Line by Ben Hamper. The bookselfblog
2014. Web. <https://thebookselfblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/retro-review-rivethead-tales-from-the-assembly-line-by-ben-hamper/>