Guitar Workers + Musicians United!

Posts Tagged ‘Tom Morello’

“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!

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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

What are guitars for?

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm

All the musicians performing for A NIGHT OF GUITARS, a solidarity concert for the Cort guitar workers, showed us: Guitars are not for exploitation.

We are all buoyed up by a great concert last night, Jan. 13th- Tom Morello! Boots Riley! Wayne Kramer! SKIM! Shin Kawasaki! and more… it was a night full of guitars and guitarists, all performing to raise awareness and in preparation for our NAMM Show actions in Anaheim Thurs- Sat. of this week.

We decked the halls of Nanum Cultural Center in Koreatown with pictures, projections and art from the Cort worker’s struggle, opened the doors wide. And then the people came, and then the music washed over us…

(To see the pictures of this and any post in their full glory, click on the blog post title)

starting the night with 풍물, or rural Korean drumming, (to keep the spirits up for the hard work of farming)

followed by the songs and poetry of MARY ROSE GO

with performances by DAVID TRAN aka “Applesauce,” and Shin Kawasaki, here with concert organizer SKIM

and SHIN KAWASAKI going solo, bringing on the layers and layers of sound…

with surprise guest WAYNE KRAMER of the MC5

and to one of Cort Action’s dedicated supporters, TOM MORELLO of Rage Against the Machine, performing as The Night Watchman, a big THANK YOU !

and then, when we thought it couldn’t get any better, he brought out BOOTS RILEY for a set as Street Sweeper Social Club.  Boots took the small staging area and turned it into his own map of the world, as the band performed narratives about people struggling, both here in LA and around the world.

From SKIM integrating “No! Cort” into her lyrics to Tom’s anger against union busting companies like Cort, the night wrapped around the idea and the reality of musicians and guitar workers in solidarity…

The Cort worker delegation, who came up to the stage with Tom Morello –

sang the last song of the night, and the audience joined us, fists raised in the air.

Thanks to all the folks who came out to support, signed our petition to Cort and Fender, who shared their photography and video skills, and all the volunteers who got signatures and passed out drinks and the donation box. Thanks especially to KIWA Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance and Nanum Cultural Center for the space, the support, and the steady presence throughout these days.

We are now truly ready for the NAMM Show actions Jan. 14- 16th.

Even if you weren’t there for the concert, stay posted to the blog for video clips from the concert and remember to sign the petition.

1/13 Night of Guitars concert: Tom Morello, Boots Riley, and more!

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Sometimes, when musicians take a stand on an issue, they do so through their art. Sometimes, they take it a step farther. They create communities, they facilitate exchange, and they literally take a stand by throwing their name and inserting their presence where workers and farmers and people who are being oppressed have gathered.

In case, people didn’t catch it on the schedule, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Boots Riley of The Coup, collaborating on their project, Street Sweeper Social Club will be playing Wednes. Jan. 13 at 7pm, at a concert in support of the Cort guitar workers.

Address: 3471 West 8th Street.LA CA 90005. Donation Welcome!

Once again, and unbelievable, that’s Tom Morello:

and Boots Riley!

playing a show alongside LA artists Skim, Shin Kawasaki, David Tran, Albert Chiang and Sue Jin Kim.

Morello also offered a statement of support:

“Guitars should be a means to liberation, not exploitation. I fully support the Korean workers’ demands for justice in the workplace. All American guitar manufacturers and the people that play them should hold Cort accountable for the awful way they have treated their workers. Without us, they would go out of business. Simple as that. No one should have their job taken away because they stand up for their rights.”

Morello’s organization, Axis of Justice, additionally covered the story on their site: You can find it here. http://axisofjustice.net/korean-guitar-workers-take-struggle-to-usa/

Hope to see LA area music lovers and Cort supporters at the concert tomorrow night!

Main Schedule for Cort Action LA

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2010 at 10:21 am

The full schedule of events will continually be updated here on the blog. Listed below are the MAIN EVENTS for press, for musicians, and for anyone who is interested in learning more about the Cort and Cor-tek guitar workers’ struggle. Please forward widely and come out to support!

January 12 (Tues.) 11am – noon
L.A. Press conference

@ KIWA Cultural Education Center, 1st flr.
3471 West 8th St. , LA 90005

Cort Guitar workers present their demands for Cort Guitars and companies
like Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, G&L, Cort’s business partners.

January 13 (Wed.) 7pm – 10pm
Cort Action Solidarity Concert: A Night of Guitars

@ KIWA Cultural Education Center
3471 W. 8th St., LA 90005

Hear the workers’ testimony about Cort Guitars +
Tom Morello, Skim, and many more musicians and artists perform.

January 14 (Thurs.) 2pm – 3pm
NAMM Show Press Conference (Anaheim)

@ Anaheim Convention Center, NAMM Show
800 West Katella Avenue, Anaheim 92802

January 16 (Sat.) 2pm – 5pm
Musical Marathon for Cort Action

@ Anaheim Convention Center, NAMM Show
800 West Katella Avenue, Anaheim 92802

Musicians and music lovers perform to let NAMM attendees know about
the ugly truth behind Cort Guitars & Basses.

We would especially love it if musicians and artists could support:

Thurs., January 14, 2 – 4 pm @ NAMM, Anaheim Convention Center

Fri., January 15, between 10-6pm @ NAMM, Anaheim

Sat. January 16, 2-5 pm@ NAMM

This Saturday is the day when anyone and everyone who can move, shake and rattle should carpool and join in on the noise- to let the industry know: it’s not just about the instrument, it’s about the kind of world we want to live in –