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Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant

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I downloaded a newly-released book last night on my new Kindle, and while I'm only a few pages in, I'm fascinated already.

It's called Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant, and it's written by Paul Clemens.

The review from In These Times, by Steve Weinberg:

"Punching Out is an excellent example of how time equals truth in journalism. Spending almost every day for a year observing any story up close is bound to yield familiarity with sources (including the main characters) and processes unknown to journalists hampered by deadlines.

"Born in 1973, Clemens watched the city of Detroit decline in conjunction with the American automobile industry. The sites of automobile parts plants that used to employ thousands of proud, well-compensated laborers now sit empty. After the Budd Company automobile parts stamping factory closed during 2006, Clemens decided to investigate the reasons for the closing and observe what would become of the gigantic building in its abandoned state. (Stamping plants manufacture specific parts, such as doors. Engine plants manufacture, naturally, engines. Assembly plants put the parts and engines together until a finished vehicle emerges.)

"He learned that heavy machinery from the closed factory would be transported to Mexico by truck to perform the same functions as before, while Detroit workers drew unemployment checks from the state of Michigan and perhaps the federal government. Eventually, Clemens made the journey to Aguascalientes, Mexico, to view for himself the bitter irony of machinery from the Budd plant—which had been situated between two Chrysler-owned factories in Detroit—stamping parts for none other than Chrysler’s Dodge Journey line."

Businessweek writes that Clemens "...spent more than a year talking to former workers and union members before the closing, watched the auction of the plant's massive equipment, and documented the disassembly of the massive press lines, which did the stamping. In this excerpt, he meets riggers, truckers, and scrap crews—the workers charged with taking apart American industry."

Dwight Garner of the New York Times, didn't love the book. But that's what makes a horse race. And besides, he had some praise for it, as well.

Garner writes:

"What I admired most about the book, I think, is the lack of sourness intermixed with its blue funk. Detroit’s loss, the author realizes, will be someone’s gain somewhere. As Mr. Clemens watches a piece of large machinery being disassembled, he listens to a man named Duane, who says to him: 'You can’t measure it. You can’t measure the lives, you can’t measure the lunches, the allowances, that people were able to give their kids.'

"Duane goes on to say, in the most uncommonly patriotic comment I’ve read in a long time, that he hoped that Mexican families might now benefit as much as his own had. ‘It’s why we’re taking such care getting this thing out of here.’"

I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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