Peachy the Magazine October November 2014 - Page 121

BOOKS vilified him for bringing the petition and numerous former customers boycotted Vaughan-Bassett products. Nonetheless, he marched up to Washington with the requisite 51 percent, bivouacked at the Commerce Department and led a triumphant campaign. Had the petition been brought a decade earlier, before his peers had abandoned their factories, perhaps American furniture manufacturing could have survived. Instead, a good deal of production shifted from China to Indonesia, and most petitioners used their awards not to restore American manufacturing, but rather to expand their retail and import operations. Still, JBIII did save his own factories and, in turn, jobs for hundreds of workers. He used his awards to further improve his plants, raise wages, purchase more high-tech equipment and reopen a long-closed factory in Galax. While the turncoat higher-ups in his industry may have pilloried JBIII, his factory workers championed him and committed to work even harder. Vaughan-Bassett survived and is prepared to thrive as the housing market wakes from its derivative-induced coma. JBIII is quite literally the last man standing, producing furniture made 100% in America, and his persistent belief in and support of his workers saved not only his company but also the town of Galax. Epic in scope and piercing in the myriad emotions it evokes, JBIII’s tale needed to plied by a writer keen in her craft, and Beth Macy delivered with Factory Man, proving she deserves her panoply of journalism awards. The tale leaves one perplexed by the naiveté and short-term vision of American manufacturers, galled by the unfettered ambition and nefarious tactics of the Chinese, frustrated by the costly, protracted and arcane legal route to equity, and incredulous at the vast underestimation of the moxie of the American factory worker. JBIII witnessed an entire industry withering on a once thriving vine that everyone in the corporate board rooms gave up for dead. But the “sawdust in his bones” told JBIII that the vine was still alive. He believed in American manufacturing and so did the displaced factory workers who would “crawl on their bellies like a snake if it meant they could bring it all back.” Mr. J.D. wrote in his letter to his grandson in 1937 that he hoped he would do “big things,” and indeed he has, and Beth Macy has as well, in expertly telling the quite compelling and endlessly entertaining story of John D. Bassett III. n OCTOBER NOVEMBER 2014 119