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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, Sign the petition, forward this to music and guitar blogs, and tell Fender you want to see justice for the Cort guitar workers!