A Second Wind For Blue Collar America

After holding several jobs in recent years, Steven B. Ball, 26, landed steady work last spring with a company that collects taxes for the state of Michigan. It only paid $12,000 a year, but he got off in time to attend night classes for a BA in management. Then, Ball's father-in-law told him that Chrysler Corp. was hiring. Ball hustled over to the auto maker's Jefferson North plant in Detroit, where the average age of the workforce is 54. By October, the son and grandson of boilermakers had a job on a Jeep assembly line that pays $30,000 a year, with overtime, and eventually will go to $50,000. "I went down as fast as I could," says Ball, whose wife's father and uncles all work at Chrysler.

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