Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Penland Boycott


Penland Boycott

Sign our petition:


change.org/petitions/penland-school-board-chariman-repay-the-artists#share 

I need some help with a situation that I have been unable to resolve on my own. 

I worked at Penland for about 4 ½ years and during my time as the Studios Coordinator, I was asked to conduct an illegal overtime policy that had been in effect from 2000 – 2007. This was against workers who made $10 -$12.00 an hour and were barely able to pay their bills. I declined and became a Whistle Blower against Penland School who refused to stop the policy. After, quitting in protest and informing them of my discussions with the Wage and Labor board, they finally admitted that they conducted 7 years of an illegal overtime policy, ceased implementing it and agreed to pay back wages to employees. I agreed to allow them to handle it “in house” provide they complied and stopped the practice. This was my mistake because I trusted that Penland would live up to their word. They did not!

Several months ago I was informed by a former employee that he never received payment and so I went to Penland and asked why that was? They assured me everyone was paid going back three years. Since that discussion, I found 3 others that were within three year window and hadn’t been reimbursed for illegal over time either. All they say now is that the matter has been resolved and they refuse to reopen it, in spite of multiple discussions with board members.

My thinking is that if you honestly made an error and mistakenly structured your overtime rules to deny coordinators the pay that they deserved, then you would surely want to reimburse them all. The coordinators did the work and Penland got the benefit so they should be paid.

The coordinators were all artists who were working very hard at Penland and simultaneously being asked for art donations to be sold at the auction, while being denied their legal overtime. To me it is just disgusting that they make around $500,000 every year at the Penland Auction and somehow can’t find any money to pay back what these coordinators/artists legally earned. And while this is going on, they manage to build million dollar buildings every year. They are not poor, they just choose not to pay their artists.

So I am coming to you to ask for help to get these artists the justice that they deserve. It is not about the money but the idea that arrogant not-for-profit arts organization like Penland can so egregiously abuse workers with no consequences simply because they will black list anyone who crosses them. If they are allowed to trample on the rights of the very people they are purporting to serve, artists and craftspeople, then workers there are never safe.

Please help me convince the administration that paying all of these artists, from 2000 - 2007 for work they did is the right thing to do. If you want to help to send email to  rob@pulleynstudio.com , jeanmclaughlin@penland.org  , and please  cc: me at occupypenland@gmail.com  This is because the letters I have sent to them never see the light of day but this needs to be out in the open! So please post on your Facebook page and blogs.

If you don’t know what to write, just write: “REPAY THE PENLAND ARTISTS!” It is that simple.

If you could share this letter on Facebook and with as many artists and friends as you could, I would really appreciate it. I am trying to get 5,000 emails as soon as possible!  I also ask that you stop donating to Penland’s until they REPAY THE ARTISTS!  

The artists that work at Penland are the ones who make the Penland magic possible. If artists don’t stand up for other artists then there will never be justice.  Thanks for trying to make a difference! 

John Britt Pottery
Occupypenland@gmail.com

29 comments:

Mimi said...

You bet I'll share, and write. Disgusting behavior, but what I've come to expect these days. Lowlife trimmings, they are.

Mimi said...

you bet I will (and if I'm posting twice, sorry, google is messing with me). I find this kind of usury unacceptable anywhere

cookingwithgas said...

you would expect more from Penland- way more. They are not the only organization that, to me, only need the artist when they want something from them.
My suggestion is we stop giving to many of them- learn to say no.

Kari Weaver said...

Done

June Perry said...

I put it on Facebook John.

Jessica said...

have you talked to a lawyer? I had some very good experiences with one who got me back wages and then some. Plus all the fees get paid by the settlement. It was amazing. I highly recommend it!

nick friedman said...

Go, John!

Anonymous said...

I know John's statements are facts. Please support him and his efforts.

Tracey Broome said...

But..... how do you really feel :)
My husband works for a major news organization and he puts in a bunch of overtime, and definitely gets paid for it. However, the photographers that don't put in for overtime seem to get the better assignments, because they will work their ass off basically for free. Work is work, if you aren't paid it's called being a volunteer!
Go John!

Denise Joyal said...

I'm behind you John! Standing up for what is right isn't always easy, but it's what everyone should do. Good for you.

Sterling VanDerwerker said...

While I'm NOT happy about the "occupy" title,... I have emailed penland peeps as recommended.

The issue with "occupy" is it's tainted socialistic roots. It is inconsistent with Socialism to 'pay for overtime' so perhaps a change in title to something like:

"LegalWageAndBenefit"

Would be better.

John Britt said...

Definitely not socialist but humanist- basic human decency is all we ask. Thanks Sterling!

Alorinna said...

Done!

Lydia Pettis said...

This is a legal and labor issue. Call the attorney general. Stop screwing around trying to organize folks for a boycott. The appropriate authorities won't have any problem making this happen.

John Britt said...

Lydia, you are right but since some much time has passed it is outside of the statute of limitations. I didn't find out until about 3 months ago.

New Prospect Pottery said...

Just posted this to Facebook. It is certainly unacceptable
behavior.

Patrick said...

First, why trust any company when it comes to money. They were willing to cheat people in the first place, you called their hand, and they promised oh-so-sweetly to see the error of their ways and make everything right.

Second, should have got it in writing. You got nothing. They will wait this all out like they waited you out on the statue of limitations.

They are just like the school over here, its business baby, get in line to whine.

michael said...

posted on facebook, sent an email, signed the petition. this is absolutely out of hand.

Patrick Houston said...

Did my comment not get sent?

John Britt said...

You are right Patrick. Please help spread the word. Our only hope is the support of artists who know what this is like.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to read this, as I thoroughly enjoyed my visit at Penland after enduring the federal flood in my hometown almost seven years ago (another case of poor use of funds - for war as opposed to levees). However, part of being a successful organization is proper allotment of funds for all expenses, and your post is distressing, as it suggests poor planning on Penland's part. I hope they take your quite valid criticism to heart and examine their future budgets, and realize buildings cannot teach nor clean themselves. Thank you for publicizing this - naomi

Robin Dreyer said...

If you are interested in Penland's response to this post, you can find it here:

http://www.penland.org/about/response.html

Robin Dreyer said...

If you are interested in Penland's response, you can find it here:

http://www.penland.org/about/response.html

John Britt said...

Robin,

The key phrase is "and to former employees who came forward at that time,".

Since Penland did no notification of employees how could they come forward?

I have the letter from an employee who did not want to pursue it because he was afraid he would be black listed and get no further work there.

John Britt said...

Robin,

What about from 2000 - 2005? Forgot to tell them? Or just think Penland deserves artists to work for them for free!?

John Britt said...

Robin,

When the employer makes the mistake they shouldn't hide it and keep it quiet. They SHOULD contact those they "inadvertently" denied overtime pay and inform them.

It is similar to product recalls. You don't just tell everyone in the plant, oops we screwed up. No -you send out a recall notice!

Patrick Houston said...

At some point the powers-that-be sat at a table and consciously made the decision to implement a policy that is illegal. One person or a very few people did this. Who could it be? How many people have the authority to implement a fiscal policy like this? He/she/they are the guilty ones here. Name names, bring the pressure to bear on the guilty, not the innocent working people who would be the first to suffer if an attempted boycott has any financial effect.

Anonymous said...

Recently, I heard about this blog and the Change.org petition, which has been CLOSED. I intended to sign that and add this comment.

Back in 2001/2002, I heard about coordinators at Penland having a meeting with the administration about wages and benefits issues. The result at that time was the firing or removal of three vocal coordinators under trumped up charges. That unjustified result was pointed out to members of the Board at that time to no avail. Penland has continued illegal labor practices knowingly since that time.

DESPICABLE !

Obviously Penland has become about MONEY, EDIFICES & EGOS and not it's original defining goal. Their Corpo attitude does not treat artists fairly within labor law.

Arturo Ricardo said...

Back in 2001/2002, I heard about coordinators at Penland having a meeting with the administration about wages and benefits issues. The result at that time was the firing or removal of three vocal coordinators under trumped up charges. That unjustified result was pointed out to members of the Board at that time to no avail. Penland has continued illegal labor practices knowingly since that time.

DESPICABLE !

Obviously Penland has become about MONEY, EDIFICES & EGOS and not it's original defining goal. Their corpo operational approach does not treat artists fairly within labor law.