14 Heritage Guitar Workers off the job as company heads in new direction
KALAMAZOO, Mich. —
Fourteen Heritage Guitar workers are off the job on Tuesday as the historic company heads in a new direction and management says the new direction will elevate the company, while the fired workers disagree.
Newschannel 3 broke the news that Rolling Stone is partnering with Heritage to make the Kalamazoo factory a tourist destination.
Several workers say they were escorted off the property last week after a disagreement with management.
In all, 10 workers were fired while four others walked off the job in protest.
The workers say new management is incompetent and disrespectful to the workers who were continuing the tradition of hands-craftmanship at the historic 225 Parson Street factory.
While management confirms staffing changes were made, company officials contend the change will ensure the Heritage and Gibson tradition continues in Kalamazoo.
"Heritage, I think, is going to be a name only. People who bought it understand the history of 225 Parsons Street and they understand the Heritage name. I don't think they're going to perpetuate that and make guitars the same quality especially with hand-craftsmanship. They're not going to do it the same way,” former worker Ron Hough said.
Company officials released the following statement:
To ensure the short and long term sustainability of the business, staffing changes had to be made at the heritage guitar factory last week.
The decision to make these changes was not one that we took lightly and it was a sad day for everyone involved.
Our focus on building a foundation for 2018 and beyond requires an emphasis on quality over quantity. The heritage guitars team are committed to building a healthy and sustainable business that consistently produces amazing, high quality instruments for many years to come in Kalamazoo.
Newschannel 3 is told despite the changes, the partnership with Rolling Stone and Plazacorp is not in jeopardy.
The former workers also released a statement:
We’re the former Heritage Guitar craftsmen who were disrespectfully escorted out of the building on Friday with no notice. 10 were fired and an additional 4 left in support of our coworkers and friends. We could no longer work for the incompetent management that is this disrespectful to the craftspeople who were continuing the tradition of hand-craftsmanship that is and was Heritage guitar.
When ownership changed we were told that they understood what this building means to our community and what this company means to this building. Most of us were trained under the impeccable eye of quality by Marv Lamb which is what made Heritage Guitar what it has been for the last 30 years, an extension of this building and what it means to the local and guitar community. This building is a testament to true, hand-built craftsmanship. Some of the most valuable guitars in the world have come from this building. Heritage and the men that started it believed in continuing that hand-craftsmanship tradition.
Were those guitars flawless, no, because they were made by human hearts and hands. Are any of us perfect, no. Changes in production were implemented by management that resulted in less than Heritage quality. Their unwillingness to listen or understand the high quality standards resulted in the destruction of over 300 guitars.
Our years of experience have fallen on deaf ears and now the employees are being escape goated as to the reason for the drop in quality. None of us here are wealthy, or do it for the money. We did it for the love of the guitars. In fact, most of us worked for slightly over minimum wage with no medical benefits.
During the 100th Anniversary Celebration they expressed that they embraced those traditions, meanwhile they are bringing in CNC and Pleck machines which do not represent what the building and company stand for. All the while, accusing us of being resistant to change.
We understand that corporations have to meet their bottom-line and that their eye for quality may need to be 100%, which is not attainable through hand-craftsmanship.
None of us are perfect, but none of us feel like that justifies this type of treatment while they continue to perpetuate the story of hand-craftsmanship on the back of the true craftsman that made it what it was before the new owner took possession.