The Work Life of Ben Hamper

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For Ben Hamper it was inevitable that he would end up working in the General Motors factory in Flint, Michigan. He was a third generation “shop-rat” following in the footsteps of his family and extended family. Working on the Rivet Line for General Motors was far from what Hamper wanted to do with his life. Unfortunately for Hamper this was the only job where he was receiving good pay and was able to drink throughout his day. Hamper faced many ups and downs being an American autoworker; the working conditions, labor-management relations and psychological problems to name a few. It would eventually be the psychological issues that would lead Hamper away from General Motors and the auto industry.

Hamper did not start out with a plan to work the Rivet Line as his career. He wanted to be an ambulance driver, but that later went away as he grew older. Hamper was a smart kid who would sometimes make the honor roll; though he complains that he had nothing better to do but homework. His father, Ben Hamper II was nothing but ordinary. Hamper II was married but rarely worked, and when he was not working he was at the closest bar he could find. Hamper’s father was also a Rivet Line worker, just like his father before him and so on. It was a family affair to work in the auto industry. Hamper describes “Flint, Michigan. The Vehicle City. Greaseball Mecca. The birthplace of thud-rockers Grand Funk Railroad, game show geek Bob Eubanks and a hobby shop called General motors” (15), most likely having to do with the fact that within the surrounding areas of Flint were ten other auto industry shops. It was as if Hamper was born into the Rivet line.

Prior to Hamper working at General Motors, he painted houses. Right after graduating high school Hamper found out his girlfriend, Joanie, was pregnant and he married her. He soon got a job painting houses, but that was not making enough profit for his family. Joanie then got a job while Hamper stayed home and...
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