Heritage Guitar
Fires 10, 4 Walk
Off in Protest

Fourteen Heritage Guitar employees have left the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based manufacturer, according to an article published by local news station WWMT-TV Newschannel 3 on Feb. 27.

In all, ten skilled workers were fired after a disagreement with management, and four walked off in protest, according to the WWMT article written by Walter Smith-Randolph.

The workers said management is "disrespectful" to the luthiers who were continuing the tradition of hand-craftsmanship at the factory — formerly Gibson Brand's property.

WWMT published the following statement from company representatives:

"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 Guitar team [is] committed to building a healthy and sustainable business that consistently produces amazing, high-quality instruments for many years to come in Kalamazoo."

In October 2017, company officials announced plans to increase Heritage sales worldwide and turn the factory, located at 225 Parsons Street, into a "national music destination." PlazaCorp Realty Advisors plan to develop the 5-acre site — home to Heritage Guitar since 1985. Plans call for a live music venue licensed by the Rolling Stone brand, deconstruction and preservation of the iconic Gibson smokestack along with a major renovation to the three-story factory.

According to WWMT, the partnership with Rolling Stone and PlazaCorp is not in jeopardy.

WWMT also published a statement that was released by the former workers:

"We're the former Heritage Guitar craftsmen who were disrespectfully escorted out of the building on Friday [Feb.23] with no notice. Ten were fired and an additional four left in support of our co-workers and friends. We could no longer work for the incompetent management that is 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 scapegoated as 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 PLEK 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 percent, 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."