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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.

Taking Action at NAMM (Day 1), Press Conference

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2011 at 10:56 am

Cort worker at NAMM 2011, with a drawing of Cort CEO Yungho Park

ACTION ALERT: Please sign the petition all day FRIDAY, JANUARY 14, addressed to the CEO of Cort and the CEO of Fender. Find it here, at this link: http://action.laborrights.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1172

Cort workers speaking with Uprising Radio, 90.7FM KPFK

MEDIA ALERT: Listen to an interview with the Cort workers FRIDAY MORNING January 14, 8am – at Uprising Rising KPFK 90.7FM.The segment will probably air at 8:20am. http://uprisingradio.org/home/

Fox 11 News covered the press conference and interview the Cort and Cor-tek workers from Korea. The coverage aired Thursday 1/13 at 10pm and 11pm, and will also air tomorrow morning. The coverage will be available online starting at www.myfoxla.com

Tefere Gebre from the Orange County Federation of Labor speaks at the press conference.

Press Conference in front of NAMM, 11am

Today was the first official day of NAMM, and the Cort workers were gathered outside, launching an 11 am press conference.

Thinking about last year’s actions at NAMM, it seems the weather always gets warmer around NAMM. This is great for us, since we spend all of the day outside Anaheim Convention Center.

Cort union officer speaking at press conference

In the leadup to NAMM, the workers went to various community events to present their struggle.

Love and Live LA, at KIWA Cultural Education Center

Cort workers at the Love & Live LA event

Cort worker picket-making to prepare for NAMM actions

Cort workers fight into the year 2011

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Woody Guthrie by Shephard Fairey

Woody Guthrie, a singer-songwriter who was seminal to the American folk music tradition, frequently performed with the slogan “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his guitar.  Guthrie said,

“I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling.

I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built.

I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.”

In this vein, the Cort and Cor-tek guitar workers are fighting for their jobs back, because they take pride in their work. As they fight, alongside them are the musicians and cultural workers who stand with the Cort and Cor-tek guitar workers

Even into the cold fall and winter months, Cort and Cor-tek workers did a daily protest in front of Cort headquarters.

Cort workers' daily protest outside Cort headquarters

Even when conducting this peaceful, non-violent action, the workers encounter violence from the management of Cort Guitars.

Placard ripped by Cort manager

The monthly shows at Club Bbang in Hongdae, Seoul, have also continued without pause, all year long, hosting performances and art with the Cort workers.

Cartoonist Dongsoo Yi draws the performers

Throughout 2010, we contacted Fender, asking for an update on the investigation. They knew about the seriousness of the Cort union’s matter with two direct meetings with the Cort and Cor-tek workers in January and March (You can read about those meetings here and here). What had they to tell us by September? That they were still translating documents, at expense to themselves.

That is why the Cort and Cor-tek workers, who have been struggling for their jobs since 2007, cannot rest and cannot stop fighting.

In January 2011, the NAMM Show again opens, bringing the music industry together to promote and sell their products. Cort, Fender and Ibanez will all be there.

And the Cort and Cor-tek workers will be there. Flying from Korea to Anaheim, to again make it known: a guitar worker is not disposable. Demanding fair conditions on the job should not be penalized with mass dismissal.

And we must stand with them.

So once again- January 13- 16th @ Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, California – stand with the Cort and Cor-tek guitar workers of Korea. Contribute whatever you can – whether its outreach, talking to passerby, or by sharing your music, your art, your voice, your hands.

Remember, as Woody Guthrie knows, your guitar is not for the same-old status quo. It is for fighting against a world where people and their work are devalued.

Please contact us through this blog or at cortguitar.action@gmail.com.

Song for Workers, a woodcut by artist Yoon Yup

Raining support at Fuji Rock Fest

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2010 at 4:07 am

Fuji Rock supporters of Cort Action

Did the thugs that beat the workers at the sit-in site stop them? NO –

Did the winter winds that blew up high on the electricity tower where the workers did a hunger strike for 30 days  stop them?  NO –

Did a libelious, false charge against the workers by conservative Dong-a Newspaper stop them? NO – and the courts ruled that Donga News had falsely reported that the union had caused Cort to shut down. Incredible – since their website and industry show appearances show that Cort is clearly speeding on in production in Indonesia and Japan.

So … did the constant rain at Fuji Rock stop the Cort and Cor-tek guitar workers and the cultural workers who came with them from talking to the Fuji Rock attendees?

And did the rain stop Fuji Rock attendees from supporting the Cort workers?

NO and NO. As you can see from the pictures above, the workers and the Fuji Rock attendees were able to talk across language barriers and share the situation of Cort, Fender and Ibanez…

With support from One Day as a Lion (including Zack de la Rocha) and Ozomatli, this Fuji Rock 2010 carried not only the sounds of the musicians, but the voices of the workers who have been making the music possible through their labor —

A Fuji Rock fan writing a solidarity message

Cort guitar workers from Korea with Fuji Rock supporters

A Japanese cultural activist talking about the Cort worker campaign with Fuji Rock attendees

We will post video and photos of the Cort workers speaking during One Day as a Lion and Ozomatli’s performances soon! Stay tuned!

@ Fuji Rock Festival – living like lions

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 7:15 pm

photo credit: Village Voice/ Rebecca Sweyne

For those of you following Cort Action on Facebook, you may have already known, but the Cort and Cor-tek guitar workers are at NGO Village at Fuji Rock Festival.

Fuji Rock Festival, which takes place in Nigata, Japan, is the largest rock festival in Asia, and takes place this year July 30 – August 1st.

Cort worker and their cultural workers in solidarity with them are especially excited since two bands in the lineup at Fuji Rock will support their demands to Cort, Fender and Ibanez.

One of the bands is Ozomatli :

Ozomatli's guitarist, Raul Pacheco, holds up "No Cort' during the samba line (July 2010)

Ozomatli. Source: beatcrave.com

And the other band is One Day as a Lion, featuring Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine and drummer Jon Theodore from Mars Volta) who released an EP in 2008 and only began performing this year.

Zack de la Rocha performing in One Day as a Lion at Eagle Rock, LA (July 2010). Source: LA Times

One Day as a Lion

These dynamic bands, who have long stood up for worker rights all over the world, bring some incredible energy to the Cort worker campaign.

We hope that at Fuji Rock, music fans and the music industry will be paying attention to the truth – that the cheap guitars of Cort, Fender and Ibanez should not be made at the cost of worker exploitation!

Or, as the inspiration for One Day as a Lion’s name goes, IT IS BETTER TO LIVE ONE DAY AS A LION THAN TO LIVE A THOUSAND DAYS A LAMB.

Musicians standing up for guitar workers’ rights – this is the world we are aiming for.

Oh the promises they make – Shame on Fender! photo campaign

In Uncategorized on April 29, 2010 at 5:29 am

Cor-tek worker traveled from Korea to LA  March 11 – 20th –

In that brief amount of time, he was tireless in meeting with local unions, community organizations, and speaking at concerts.

In that time, he met with Fender’s PR representative. However, it was clear that Fender has not done much, if anything, to move the investigation along.

So it is time to take it global –

We need to make sure Fender and Cort know that the world is watching them– For Fender, it is shameful to make excuses about language barriers when you clearly have been doing business with Cort for decades.

In addition, FENDER is opening stores in Korea, managed by Cort CEO’s brother. The relationship is much deeper and interwoven than meets the eye. This means that a lot is at stake, but that is also, perhaps, why Fender is so reluctant and revealing so little about what they have done.

This is something everyone can do: Take a picture of yourself- of a musician friend, a music lover who cares about worker rights- and hold a sign or put one on your guitar that says, “SHAME ON FENDER!” or “FENDER WATCH!” Hopefully, with the pictures of hundreds and thousands, we will send the message, loud and clear. Email your picture to: cortguitar.action@gmail.com.

See the updated album at: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=213712&id=344810266124&ref=mf

or at our new FLICKR site.

P.S. Join the Facebook group if you haven’t already – Cort Worker Action at : http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Cort-Worker-ACTION/344810266124 and stay continually updated.

MC Khingz saying "SHAME ON FENDER"

MC Gabriel Teodros says, FENDER, MUSIC not SWEATSHOPSDJ Boo also supports the Cort workers

Hanumpa, 한음파, Korean indie rock band, saying NO CORT

Kingston Rudieska, indie ska band in Korea, No CORT!

이한철 Lee Han-cheol, singer and former band member of Bulldog Mansion, korean indie band, saying NO CORT!

Hydrophonics, MC - supports Cort workers

Ceejay of DEEP Foundation, Shame on Fender!

시와 Siwa, Korean Indie musician, NO CORT!

Michelle Yunhee Profitt, vocals for the band Hiretsukan

LA Round 2! Concert 3/18 and Fender Meeting

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2010 at 5:30 pm

This week, Cortek guitar worker and Cort documentary filmmaker Kim Sung Gyoon are here in LA from Korea – and in just a few days, they have already presented to the 300-delegation gathering of the United Steel Workers Western Division in San Diego and marched on Sat. 3/13 with the Mother’s March organized by Global Women’s Strike – because Cort workers are also mothers and women who are fighting back.

This week, starting TODAY, the Cort worker will meet with FENDER for the second time, which as promised to conduct a fair and independent investigation.

And after a full schedule of meetings with organizations and unions far and wide all over LA, the week will culminate in a concert:


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

BRING BACK THE MUSIC!  Cort Worker Solidarity Concert
– Musicians taking action with guitar workers for worker rights

Thursday March 18th , 7-10pm
@ SIPA, Search to Involve Pilipino-Americans
3200 West Temple Street, Historic Pilipinotown

$3 suggested donation

This is not just a regular show. This is where musicians and the workers who made their guitars are taking action together.

Meet a Cort/Cor-tek guitar worker from Korea who has been making Fender and Ibanez guitars for decades in Cort’s sweatshops. When these workers asked for fair conditions, they were all fired by Cort.

FENDER has agreed to investigate, but your support is needed. Come to the show, and remind these corporations what guitars are for- for MAKING MUSIC!

Contact (regarding concert) : 714- 553-5874

Find out more at the blog:
cortaction.wordpress.com
Join the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cort-Worker-ACTION/344810266124?ref=nf
email: cortguitar.action@gmail.com

Guitar workers back in Korea- but one returning to LA in March!

In Uncategorized on February 14, 2010 at 8:23 am

Needing to earn livelihoods, Cort and Cor-tek guitar workers picking apricots at a farm in Northern Chuncheong province last summer

The Cort and Cor-tek workers from Korea are now back with their families and their fellow workers. But the reality of struggling for over 1000 days is a difficult one. Many workers have had to move from their original homes – to rent, to take smaller places, in order to continue this fight. They have had to rely on one income, or turn to day jobs and temporary jobs to try to put food on the table. A group of them even turned to farming – working as day laborers on a farm in exchange for apricots, which they squeezed into a pepper paste to sweeten it and sell jars of over the winter. But no matter what, they go to the factory sit-in daily, support other workers’ struggles in Korea, and they have traveled to Germany, Japan and the US to fight for their rights.

If it was just about their own lives, or the money, then they could have moved on. But that is not the essence of why they struggle.

While working alongside Mr. Bang Jongoon, the Cort union officer who came to LA from Incheon, Korea, it was  clear to me that, above all else, he wanted justice. He did not believe workers should be trampled upon, or lied to, or treated so inhumanely, as Cort had done. If he didn’t fight, it wasn’t just him that suffered- it was everyone he had worked with, those who had worked before him, and those who would work after him.

Everywhere we went in LA and Anaheim, he showed the photos of his colleagues and fellow union members, struggling for breath in hospital beds, seriously and chronically diseased by the lack of safety equipment in the factories. He pulled out the more than thirty certified cases of industrial injury that had been recognized by the Korean government and showed it to journalists and passerby in LA and in Anaheim. He showed these certificates to Fender’s legal counsel and public relations.

As another Cort /Cor-tek worker said (you can see this in the video) – she fights so that not only her but her children, as workers, can lift their heads and be treated humanely as workers. It is not just about her,and it is not just about the present.

I was also reminded of this passing by Disneyland on the way to the NAMM Show in January, and reminded of this when we met with UNITE HERE Local 11 workers, who worked in food service at NAMM in the Anaheim Convention Center itself.

At the Disney gates, workers stood holding up banners. They have been in contract negotiations for over two years. Likewise, workers in the Anaheim Convention Center, part of UNITE HERE Local 11, have also struggled over various parts of their contract with management for more than year.  Since early February of this year, the 2100 workers of Disneyland hotels have begun a week of actions, including a 7-day hunger strike.

The fact is that affordable health care for oneself and one’s loved ones, full-time job security, and many other working rights are under threat. As workers are relieved and as layoffs continue, the workloads of remaining workers increases greatly, to the detriment of their health.

Sometimes, these very protections – for a regular working day, for health insurance coverage, are not even mentioned, nor even dreamed of, when US companies choose to outsource abroad.

While the specific demands of each of these struggles might be different, at the core of it, the passion for justice is the same.  Despite the actions of multinationals and corporations, workers are not disposable. Work that is difficult and backbreaking, whether changing hotel beds repeatedly or making the neck of a guitar, is work that requires breaks, health insurance , workers’ compensation, and adequate safety protection.

Today, a familiar ally and supporter of the Cort guitar workers performed for Disneyland union. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Night Watchman and Street Sweeper Social Club.

Feb. 13, 2010. Morello performs at a Disneyland workers' rally. Source: Orange County Register

And back in Korea, at Club Bbang in the neighborhood of Hongdae, musicians again turned out to support the Cort guitar workers. Bands and musicians like Sohee, Playgirl, and Cosmic Hippie performed.

Sohee even sang a song she had composed FOR the Cort guitar workers’ struggle : “There is Someone on top of the Electric Tower on Han River,” (you can hear it here) referring to the workers’ 30-day hunger strike on a high-wattage transmission tower along the banks of a river in Seoul, as she watched people chatting, jogging, strolling by, oblivious or indifferent.

The lyrics ask: How can we be that different – the workers struggling for their rights, fighting for a chance to breathe on top of the electric tower  – and the person below, jogging along the Han River?

We have a chance to prove again that we really are NOT that different – that we are united- musicians, workers and ordinary citizens –  when a Cort worker returns to LA in March. That’s right- mid-March! Stay tuned to this blog for more details! MARCH 11th – 19th!

Pictures from the show at Club Bbang Jan. 27th, 2010

Sohee

The Cort and Cor-tek workers at Bbang

“We won’t be coming home tonight” – Will you join us?

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2010 at 2:36 am

Lyrics of Tom Morello's song "Worldwide Rebel Song"

There’s a line in the song by Tom Morello that he created especially for the January 13th concert for the Cort workers that struck me : “We won’t be coming home tonight.”

Sometimes you have to leave home to fight your battle. Sometimes you can’t go home, or there is really no home, until there is justice.

For guitar workers from Korea then, going to the NAMM Show in Anaheim meant going the farthest from home they had ever been – Los Angeles, USA. Trying to win their jobs back has meant a sit-in occupation of their factories in Korea, to prevent Cort Guitars from continuing its illegal move from Korea to China and Indonesia. For Lee Ingeun, Cor-tek worker, it meant living in a high-wattage electricity tower for more than 30 days without food, to try to raise awareness of the issue.

Sit-in tent outside the Cort factory, Incheon

The meeting space within the Cort factory

Not everyone understands this- that we can’t go home tonight. One attendee at the NAMM show told us to go away. Some businessman at the Yokohama Music Fair told the workers, “Go back to Korea!”

If only. Had the company, Cort Guitars, and the CEO Yung-Ho Park, been willing to negotiate with its workers, the Cort and Cor-tek workers wouldn’t be forced to travel so many miles to make this issue be known to an international audience.

Distance from Incheon, Korea to Los Angeles, NAMM Show: 6012 miles

Distance from Incheon to Yokohama Music Fair, Japan: 738 miles

Distance from Incheon to Frankfurt, MusikMesse: 5360 miles

Total distance traveled, when including round-trip flights, is 24,220 miles. That’s almost 25,000 miles traveled by each Cort and Cor-tek workers

In the solidarity and support shown by musicians like Tom Morello and Boots Riley  and ordinary citizens in LA, the Cort and Cor-tek workers and their supporters began to feel like they might be able to go home again.

In turn, the Cort workers have found small moments to exchange and contribute to local or timely issues. One was by donating the proceeds of the Cort worker solidarity concert to Haiti earthquake relief – which included both donations and Tom Morello’s merchandise sales. This will go to Doctors Without Borders’ fund for Haiti.

Another moment to contribute to local LA issues was when the Orange County Labor Federation met with the Cort and Cor-tek workers. At that meeting, the labor leaders, who included the local International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the US, its Territories and Canada and the local Teamsters Union, presented their own struggle – with Korean-American officials who claimed that the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement was unanimously supported by the Korean people. In fact, according to these labor leaders, the Korean-American officials had accused the unions of being anti-Korean.

On this matter, the Cort and Cor-tek workers, the Korean Metal Workers Union members, and the cultural supporters could reassure them that this was far from the truth. They went on record to tell the unions gathered at the Federation that the US-Korea FTA was something that South Korean people had gathered in the tens of thousands to protest in the streets.

So, from those without homes in Haiti to the struggle to save US jobs from Free Trade Agreements, the Cort and Cor-tek workers went far from home in more ways than one to exchange and build with musicians, groups and everyday people in LA and Anaheim. We hope this linked and connected struggle for freedom and justice continues to grow!

Again, there are many things you can do to support the Cort and Cor-tek workers from wherever you are. Contact us at cortguitar.action@gmail.com, Sign the petition, forward this to music and guitar blogs, and tell Fender you want to see justice for the Cort guitar workers!

The word from Fender…

In Take Action, Uncategorized, Update on January 22, 2010 at 6:33 am

On Sunday, January 17th, Cort and Cor-tek guitar workers and cultural arts supporters from Korea and the US met with Fender Musical Instruments Corporation at the Hilton Hotel in Anaheim.

A sizable portion of Cort’s production is for Fender. The percentage is not known exactly at this time, but the Cort workers estimated it could be as high as 50% of Cort’s orders. (This page from Fender’s website shows how one can spot if their own Fender guitar is made in Korea (C is for Cort). This page shows how one can tell if their Squier guitar, a brand owned by Fender, has been made by Cort Guitars.)

As we stated in an earlier post, Fender claimed it had no idea of the workers’ situation and stated that it will conduct an investigation. Musicians like Tom Morello and Fender’s own endorser, musician Wayne Kramer, of the band MC5, have spoken to Fender on the Cort worker’s behalf.

Kramer, performing at our action in front of the NAMM Show on Saturday, Jan. 16th, with Cort worker Bang Jongoon appreciating his music next to him.

The meeting was an opportunity for the workers to present the facts about Cort’s illegal mass dismissal and its movement of its factories to China and Indonesia. It was also a brief time to clearly state their conditions for a fair investigation of Cort by Fender.

For Cort union officer Mr. Bang, as someone who worked at Cort for more than twenty years, one of the key points of struggle, and one of the most tangible, is the company’s refusal to pay worker’s compensation for workers who have been certified as those injured on the job. The Cort and Cor-tek workers brought to the meeting documents officially recognizing approximately thirty workers who were considered victims of industrial accident or injury.

Ultimately, Fender’s PR and legal counsel promised to conduct a fair and independent investigation that would rely on testimony and documents from both sides as well as from third-party sources, and to keep the workers updated on the investigation’s progress. For the Cort workers and their supporters, a fair process would involve consistent representation and participation by the union (and not just a closed dialogue between the companies Cort and Fender).

Fender’s PR and legal counsel asked the workers, “At the end of the process, what do you ultimately want to see as an outcome?” The workers explained, as they have throughout their struggle, that they want Cort to reopen its factories in Korea, that they want to return to work, and to do so with the company’s recognition of their right to collectively bargain with the company.

However, what the workers thought only part and parcel of a fair investigation, that Fender stop new orders with Cort until the investigation was concluded, was not something that Fender promised, although they stated they would look into it. In a sense, the inability to commit to this leaves the bread and butter of Cort’s operations running smoothly.

What we also learned at the end of the meeting was that while Fender has an internal Code of Conduct, it does not require the companies abroad who produce its guitars to abide by it.

While it is not necessarily a surprise that this is the case, this lack of worker safeguards for a process as dangerous and difficult as the mass production of guitars shows a familiar but disturbing double standard; the protections that American workers receive in Fender’s factories on US shores are not extended to the Korean workers who made its guitars for decades, or, for that matter, the Chinese and Indonesian workers making them now. We can only imagine, if Cort company treated their Korean workers so badly for decades, how the Chinese and Indonesian workers are faring now.

See this video for a recurring theme: guitar workers who stay with a company for decades. Meet Abigail Ybarra, who has been with Fender since 1956 (at 6:19 in the video). Why would it be any different for a worker who has been with Cort for decades? Of course they want to keep making guitars.

The video ends with the punchline, what most people assume and yet is not 100% true: “Fender guitars, made in America.”

How could Fender or other American guitar companies not know?

During the NAMM Show, a German manufacturer that had contracted with Cort in the 1980s, came up to us and told us that his company used to work with Cort in the 1980s. As a product manager, he had visited the factory many times a year. When he visited, he was appalled that the workers had to live with such conditions – without the proper masks, without the proper ventilation equipment above the workstations. He remembered the Cort factory as a ‘hell.’ To be clear, the ‘80s were also when many of the American guitar companies that we know began relying on Cort for their budget guitar production.

While this German music industry insider didn’t know what the conditions at Cort were like now, he told us it was hard to believe that companies could claim to not know the working conditions at Cort. He said that any product manager would visit the factory at least 10 times a year to check on production and to ensure quality control.

Perhaps the problem is that the long hours, the lack of workers’ compensation, the forced resignations, the sexual harassment, and other such degrading conditions are not visible to the naked eye nor taking place as an American business partner visits. Just as Jack Westheimer recalled for us that the Cort factories were ‘state of the art’ – when we are talking about the number of face masks a worker gets a week, or whether they are being arbitrarily switched around workstations by managers, these may not part of a standard checklist for quality control.

As the German manufacturer stated, ‘It is different now. Now we have to pay attention to these conditions, the environment, everything. “ I would say, rather, that we should have been paying attention from the beginning.

After all, the motto of Fender is “Make History.” Let it be the first among the legendary guitar giants to live up to its motto and make history by implementing a Code of Conduct that guarantees basic worker protections for all workers, whether they are based on American shores or abroad.

If you are like many- a music lover, a Fender fan, a believer in worker rights- please tell Fender you want to see justice for the Cort workers.

http://fender.com/community/forums/

http://www.facebook.com/Fender