Guitar Workers + Musicians United!

Solidarity concert @ NAMM Saturday, and a chance encounter with Cort’s CEO

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2011 at 5:47 am

On Saturday, January 15, in Anaheim, California, the Cort workers were joined in front of NAMM by many supporters, workers and musicians, some who were already at NAMM and others who were inspired to support the Cort workers after hearing about the struggle. This was an important day because it was the day of our scheduled meeting with Fender as well.

The day began with a contingent of supporters from United Steel Workers Local 675- and not just the workers themselves, but their families too.

Many of the union members helped to pass out fliers and explain to NAMM attendees about the Cort struggle. Having more voices and more hands to share the Cort workers’ cause was an incredible support.

A United Steel Workers supporter

A representative from United Steel Workers speaking on behalf of the union to NAMM. As he said, ‘No one should accept terrible working conditions or the continued loss of jobs to cheaper labor overseas. The Cort workers’ struggle is our struggle. ‘

Musician Phoenix Benjamin, invited to NAMM to display his 9-string guitar, addressed the musicians in the crowd. He told them to not lose their principles and their sense of justice just because they were being offered sponsorships and “free gear.” “Come on!” he urged. Musicians nearby gave him applause for his comments.

Daniel Carrillo, an organizer with ENLACE International, an alliance of low-wage worker centers and community organizations in Mexico and the US, also exhorted NAMM attendees to pay attention to the basic worker rights that everyone deserved.

ENLACE International staff Daniel Carrillo speaking

From 1pm – 5pm, musicians took over the mike, from California to Scotland, performing in a a marathon outdoor concert.  Some included musicians who wear many hats, including as guitar shop owners, such as Dan Doshier below.

He also owns a shop in Oregon. He told us that he didn’t know about the Cort guitar worker situation until NAMM – and promised that from now on, he would no longer stock Cort Guitars.

The band Aparato! heard about us through a tweet by Tom Morello. Their music, a bilingual, cultural hybrid of Latin and American music, along with statements of support for the Cort workers, was deeply felt.

For those of you who do not follow Tom @tmorello, here is the tweet he sent out, below, linking to this blog. We hope musicians who were led to this blog via Tom can continue to show their support, whether through their music or by spreading the word.

Aparato! with the Cort guitar workers –

The Shaun Cloutier band came to support again, this time with more band members. Lacking a drum, they made do with our water kettle – which sounded great. Shaun’s website will feature some video of the Cort worker from Korea speaking along with the band’s performance: stay tuned here.


Shin Kawasaki, musician, a long-time supporter of Cort guitar workers' campaign

At the end of the day, Korean drummers from LA joined us, and we wove a procession around the convention center, passing out fliers. The sound of the drums echoed against the glass curves of the center and made us impossible to ignore. While some attendees were too busy to pay any attention, many people sitting on the benches or walking by wanted to know what was going on. Some already knew about the campaign and raised their fists along with the beat.

Right before our meeting with Fender, in the Hilton Hotel lobby, who did we spot, coming from a meeting or a room, but the CEO of Cort Guitars himself, Mr. Yung-ho Park (see photo, center, below) . The Cort guitar workers confronted him – asking, “When are you going to resolve this issue? Why are you trying to block what is just and fair? Why won’t you re-open your factories?”

Mr. Park, however, said nothing. He mostly turned his face away, looking wordlessly at the tall men next to him.  Later, the man in the photo to the right tried to threaten the person taking the photo, saying we had to turn over the camera. While the workers did not get any response from Mr. Park, still it was serendipitous, that after all the years of campaigning in Korea, in Japan, in Germany, that they should come face to face with the man who had cut off their livelihoods in a hotel lobby in Anaheim.

A moment later, after hotel security gave us a warming, we sat down to our meeting with Fender. This update to come next.

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