Paul Clemens

  • Aired:  01/19/11
  •  | Views: 48,807

After Paul Clemens spent a year watching men disassemble a Detroit stamping plant, he discovered that taking apart industry is its own industry. (6:09)

>> Jon: MY GUEST TONIGHT AN

AUTHOR.

HIS NEW BOOK IS CALLED,

"PUNCHING OUT: ONE YEAR IN A

CLOSING AUTO PLANT."

PLEASE WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM,

PAUL CLEMENS.

"PUNCHING OUT."

I JUST WANT TO SAY, THANKS FOR

WRITING THIS.

THIS IS ONE OF THOSE STORIES

THAT I FEEL LIKE PEOPLE WOULD

NEVER HEAR WERE NOT FOR THE

DILIGENCE AND PATIENCE AND

OBSERVANCE OF A JOURNALIST SUCH

AS YOURSELF WHO GOES IN THERE.

YOU SPENT A YEAR WATCHING SOME

GENTLEMEN IN MICHIGAN PACK UP A

STAMPING PLANT.

>> YES.

FOR ABOUT 11 MONTHS, I WENT AS

OFTEN AS I COULD TO THE BUD

PLANT, WHICH IS ON THE EAST SIDE

OF DETROIT.

IT WAS BUILT IN 1919.

A RICH HISTORY.

ITS CLAIM TO FAME WAS IN THE 19

FICHTs IT STAMPED AND

ASSEMBLED THE BODY OF THE FORD

THUNDERBIRD, AS ICONIC A CAR AS

DETROIT PRODUCED IN THE 20th

CENTURY.

WHEN I SAW THAT THE PLANT WAS

CLOSING IN 2006, I THOUGHT THAT

MIGHT BE A NICE WAY TO GET INTO

THE TOPIC I WANTED TO WRITE

ABOUT, BLUE COLLAR DECLINE AND

UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS AND SO ON.

>> Jon: WHICH MAKES SENSE.

YOU HEARD ABOUT IT FROM A NEWS

LETTER CALLED "PLANT CLOSING

NEWS."

>> THAT'S THE OPENING CHAPTER OF

THE BOOK, THE PROLOGUE, AND

THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I

KIND OF DISCOVERED AS I WAS

WORKING ON THE BOOK THAT TAKING

APART INDUSTRY IS SORT OF ITS

OWN INDUSTRY.

TRUCKING FIRMS, DEMOLITION

COMPANIES, SCRAP COMPANIES, THEY

ALL GET INVOLVED IN PLANT

CLOSINGS.

AND, YEAH, THERE'S AN INDUSTRY

NOW THAT TAKES APART INDUSTRY.

THAT'S SORT OF WHERE WE ARE.

>> Jon: AND IN SOME

RESPECTS, HAS SUPPLANTED ACTUAL

INDUSTRY IN DETROIT.

IT IS A THRIVING-- THESE ARE

GENTLEMEN THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN

WORKING THE LINE.

>> YEAH, THAT'S ONE OF THE SAD

THINGS.

THE BOOK HAS ITS HUMOR, BUT IT'S

FUNDAMENTALLY A SAD STORY.

AND IT'S THE SAME SKILL SET.

, YOU KNOW, IT'S THE SAME SORT

OF MUSCLE MEMORY THAT USED TO BE

GOING TO MAKING THINGS CAN NOW

BE APPLIED-- DETROIT IS STILL

PRODUCING CARS AND WILL

CONTINUE, BUT IN PART, THAT'S

THE SKILL SET USED TO TAKE APART

THE EQUIPMENT THAT USED TO MAKE

THE CARS.

>> Jon: THE CRAZIEST THING

TO ME IT'S LOCATED BETWEEN TWO

CHRYSLER PLANT.

>> THAT'S CORRECT.

>> Jon: AND THESE GUYS WHO

ALL SEEM TO HAVE GREAT REVERENCE

FOR THE COUPLE-- THE PLANT WAS

NOT FUNCTIONING.

THIS IS A YEAR YOU SPENT WITH

THEM AS IT'S DISASSEMBLING.

>> AFTER IT CLOSED, CORRECT.

>> Jon: WHERE DID THEY SEND

THE PLANT ONCE THEY DISASSEMBLED

IT?

>> WELL, A LOT OF SCRAP STEEL

WENT ABROAD.

ONE OF THE LINES, STAMPING LINE

IN THE PLANT --

>> LINE 16.

>> YEAH, THAT ONE WENT TO

CENTRAL MEXICO.

AND ANOTHER LINE WENT TO BRAZIL.

IT WAS A REALLY DIVERSE CAST OF

CHARACTERS.

PORTUGUESE, SPANISH, GERMAN ON

ANY GIVEN DAY IN THE PLANT.

THAT'S-- THOSE ARE THE

COUNTRIES-- BRAZIL AND MEXICO --

>> THE INTERESTING THING AND

WHO-- WHAT COMPANY BOUGHT THE

MATERIALS TO REASSEMBLE IT IN

MEXICO?

>> A SPANISH COMPANY NAMED

GURKS, STAMP BUT THEY ARE MAKING

PARTS FOR THE DODGE JOURNEY, A

CHRYSLER CAR.

YOU MOVED A LINE THAT WAS IN A

PLANT BETWEEN TWO CHRYSLER PLANT

1800 MILES SOUTHWEST TO PRODUCE

A CHRYSLER CAR.

>> Jon: THIS IS THE POINT I

WAS GETTING TO.

( LAUGHTER )

HOW ARE WE GOING TO COMPETE WHEN

THE COMPANY THAT IS RIGHT THERE

BELIEVES IT IS IN THEIR BEST

INTEREST TO LITERALLY PICK UP

SOMETHING, AND IT TAKES THEM A

YEAR TO UNBOLT IT FROM WHERE IT

WAS, AND MOVE IT TO ANOTHER

COUNTRY?

HOW DO WE IN AND WAY BATTLE THAT

KIND OF--

>> THAT'S WHY THE BOOK IS CALLED

"ONE YEAR IN A CLOSING AUTO

PLANT."

THE BOOK DOESN'T REALLY HAVE A

THESIS BECAUSE I DON'T REALLY

HAVE AN ANSWER.

IT'S DESCRIPTIVE.

AND IT JUST STARTS TO LAY OUT

THE PROCESS.

I HADN'T SEEN ANYONE DESCRIBE IT

AND I TRIED TO DESCRIBE IT AS

BEST I COULD.

I WISH I HAD A THESIS.

WHEN I FINISHED IT MY EDITOR

SAID,"THIS IS KIND OF A WEIRD

BOOK."

>> Jon: A GOOD THING TO

HEAR FROM YOUR EDITOR.

>> IT'S NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO

HEAR.

AND I THINK WHAT HE MEANT AND HE

WAS RIGHT, THERE WASN'T

SOMETHING I WAS TRYING TO PROVE.

IT WASN'T HOW UNION GREED RUINED

AMERICA OR HOW NASA RUINED

EVERYTHING.

( LAUGHTER )

>> Jon: ARE YOU-- ARE YOU

GOING TO BE USING ANY OF THOSE

TITLE OR IS THAT NOW UP FOR

GRABS?

>> YOU CAN HAVE THEM.

>> Jon: ALL RIGHT.

>> BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE THEIR

OPINIONS, AND HONESTLY, I DON'T

REALLY KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT IT TO

ARTICULATE A GOOD ARGUMENT.

I JUST WANTED TO DESCRIBE WHAT

HAPPENS-- WE SEE HEADLINES ALL

THE TIME-- "PLANT TO CLOSE."

AND IT'S NOT JUST DETROIT OR

AUTO OR THE UPPER MIDWEST OR

MICHIGAN.

IT'S ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.

THE SITING IS DETROIT AND AUTO

BUT IT'S NOT THE SUBJECT.

THE SUBJECT OF THE BOOK IS BLUE

COLLAR DECLINE AND HOW WE GOT

WHERE WE ARE.

>> Jon: THE HEART OF THE

BOOK REALLY IS THESE CHARACTERS

THAT YOU SPEND YOUR TIME WITH

AND THE ARKANSAS BOYS AND THIS

GUY NEDRAS FROM BOSNIA.

THE INTERESTING THING I THOUGHT

IN THE BOOK WAS THIS DELINEATION

OF BLUE COLLAR WORKERS, PROUNION

AND ANTIUNION, WHO COME FROM THE

SAME NEIGHBORHOODS, SAME WORK

ETHIC, GO TO THE SAME CHURCH,

HAVE THE SAME SORT OF POLITICAL

BELIEFS, JUST ON ALMOST OPPOSITE

SIDE.

>> YEAH.

BUT I THINK THE PRIDE, THE

WORKING CLASS AND BLUE COLLAR

PRIDE IN THE-- THAT JOINS PEOPLE

PEOPLE.

AND THERE ARE A COUPLE OF GUYS

FROM THE BOOK.

THERE'S ONE MOVING PASSAGE WHERE

A GUY TALKS ABOUT THE CARE HE

WANTED TO TAKE IN TAKING APART

THE PRESS LINES THAT HAD

SUPPORTED NILD-CLASS AMERICAN

FAMILIES FOR YEARS, AND HE HOPED

IT WOULD DO THE SAME FOR MEXICAN

FAMILIES AND I FOUND THAT A

REALLY MOVING MONOLOGUE WHEN I

HEARD IT, AND THAT'S WHY IT'S IN

THE BOOK.

>> Jon: IT'S A TERRIFIC

BOOK AND FOR ANYBODY WHO WANTS

TO UNDERSTAND THE HUMAN ASPECT

OF THIS PROSPECT, OUT OF SIGHT,

OUT OF MIND, YOU HAVE TO PICK IT

UP

Loading...