May 29, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco

Guitar Center.
Guitar Center’s flagship store.

New York, NY – The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union [RWDSU] is hailing the pro-union vote workers at Guitar Center’s flagship store in Manhattan have taken as the successful first step in a nationwide organizing campaign – and proof that management’s efforts to bamboozle employees has failed.

“This vote helps us move the campaign forward and inspires other workers,” RWDSU Spokesperson Janna Pea told LaborPress. “And it shows that workers cannot be fooled by Jackson Lewis’ misinformation campaign and lies.”

Earlier this month, Guitar Center workers told LaborPress that management – in addition to retaining the services of Jackson Lewis and its team of “labor and preventative practices” specialists –  was “on patrol” for union representatives at the Brooklyn store located on Flatbush Avenue, and continually trying to dissuade employees from voting union.

Those efforts, however, failed on May 24, when workers at Guitar Center’s flagship store in Manhattan voted 27-15 to join the RWDSU. Guitar Center workers in Brooklyn filed their own petition and will vote on June 7. Workers at the music retailer's Queens store will also cast their ballots later that month.

“Retail workers in New York are struggling to survive, facing low wages and deteriorating working conditions in retail,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said. “We are proud of these Guitar Center workers who are trying to make change in their workplace by voting to join the RWDSU.  Their courage in standing up for themselves sends a powerful message to other Guitar Center workers and all retail workers  throughout the country: When you stand up for your rights and fight back against poor wages and working conditions, you can win by joining the RWDSU.”

Barring any challenges from Guitar Center management, the RWDSU can now begin negotiating for paid time-off and other benefits. The newly unionized sales staff at Guitar Center also wants to address several other key issues they say have arisen as the result of Bain Capital’s 2007 takeover of the music giant. Those issue’s include the company’s commission system, insistence on non-sales-related duties and pressures put on workers to push extended warrantees onto customers. 

“We are thrilled about winning this election,” Guitar Center worker Anim Arnold said.  “This is the first step to fairness for the work we do and the way we are treated, because the system that Bain Capital has created makes it impossible for us to survive. As a musician and proud Guitar Center employee, this is a day I will never forget.”

Workers at Guitar Center’s flagship Manhattan store at 25 West 14th Street are now in the process of forming a negotiating committee which management is obligated to deal with in hammering out a fair contract. 

“Manhattan Guitar Center workers may be the ones who voted today, but they aren’t the only workers in New York City or throughout the country who are fighting for change,” Appelbaum added. “Many Guitar Center workers are demanding that they be treated fairly, and declaring that the old way of doing business at these establishments is over. The RWDSU will continue to help bring a union voice to Guitar Center workers, and looks forward to more announcements like this one.”

An online petition advocating for Guitar Center workers was launched back in April , and quickly drew the support of many established recording artists including Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Ted Leo, Anti-Flag, Deftones, Le Tigre and Jukebox the Ghost. 


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