Phillip Bannowsky

 

Autoplant: A Poetic Monologue

Broken Turtle Books, 2007

author@phillipbannowsky.com

If you like Autoplant, you may books by other current and former autoworkers:

Ben Hamper: Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line.

Jim Ray Daniels: In Line for the Exterminator,  Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies, Places Everyone, Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry and anything else he's written.

Cover Art by Phillip Bannowsky

The early seventies was an era of both spiritual yearning and political revolt. In AUTOPLANT, a tale of redemption as well as rebellion, we meet SDS radical-turned-autoworker Phillip Bannowsky and his shop mates, Big man, Billy Goat, Warthog, and Gravy, who torment each other to pass the time and then come together one thirsty summer night in a wildcat strike.

With this Second Edition, Bannowsky adds a preface to condemn the economic policies that closed the autoplant that employed him for thirty-one years
 

PRAISE FOR PHILLIP BANNOWSKY’S AUTOPLANT

Phillip Bannowsky's a straight shooter. In AUTOPLANT, he writes with authority and insight into the factory world. He brings his lively cast of characters to life, puts us there with them on the job. The book is funny, irreverent, and touching.

Jim Daniels

One day in August of 1969 I wandered INTO

the world of the assembly line, the world of the one minute occupation, the great American amputation. I had been anxious to support my family and I wanted to get ahead in life, so, I hired on with Chrysler Corporation for the union wages and big benefits. I was hoping the arrangement would be temporary. It wasn’t. . . .

Autoplant at the Wilmington Fringe

       

"Gas You Like It": 2007 Review in Philadelphia Weekly by Tara Murtha

Redemption on the Assembly Line: Featured in 2007 Uwishunu: Philly From the Inside Out

Review by Gary Soulsman in News Journal of Original 1992 Performance at the Bacchus Theater, University of Delaware.

Excerpts

In the Body Shop's jungle, however, as in the rest  of the Autoplant, economics, not ecology, shapes the organism—shapes you—until you are not even a complete economic entity.

You do not plan the operation, select the materials, and fashion them into any kind of end product utilizable by a consumer with whom you freely negotiate a price. Not that there are not trade-offs for the division of labor and the economies of scale. But, could you teach the same minute's worth of Shakespeare five hundred times per day? Think about it. Could you travel as far as a minute seven seconds by plane would take you to negotiate international business deals but then start the same trip over and over every time you had gone just that far? Think about that. Could you dance just ten or twelve steps and repeat them for forty or more hours per week and not end up like the dancing girl in The Red Shoes?—love lorn, legs lost, body and mind exhausted, without breath, bereft of spirit.

Now take automobile production. What details, calculatable in hundredth of a minute, could you break that sort of work into?

 

(Surrealistic sounds punctuate the steps)

  • Move to roof rack: 7/100 min.

  • Aside dunnage and pull out roof.: 3/100 min.

  • Carry roof to front of dolly: 14/100 min.

  • Unavoidable delay waiting for the right side operator (flip cigarette from pack into mouth): 6/100 min.

  • With right side operator slide roof over clamps: 9/100 min

  • Pull down overhead spot welding gun and make three welds at lower right side windshield opening and three welds at lower left: 22/100 min.

  • Light cigarette on last red glowing left side weld before it cools to gray if you have gained any 1/100 min. And

  • Tag any items you had not time to complete: No/100 min. for that.

In his Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the poet William Blake tells us,

 

The hours of folly

are measured by the clock,

but of wisdom:

no clock can measure.

 

The folly of the assembly line is that it assumes the replaceability of human parts or at least the availability of whole human replacements—sort of like throwing the whole elephant to the scavengers just to poach its ivory, or killing a bull just to barbecue his balls. . . .

 

All photographs and text © 1986-2011 Phillip Bannowsky