Monday, August 27, 2012

In response to Penland's statement ("Response to recent allegations about Penland's labor practices")

Here is the email I sent Jean McLaughlin (copied to Rob Pulleyn and John Britt) on Friday, August 24. Jean's message to Marcos Lewis can be read here.

Dear Jean,
I have been following the situation regarding John Britt's allegations about Penland's labor practices. To be honest, I hoped that an explanation from Penland would make it clear that there was some sort of misunderstanding about what had happened. Instead, the unsigned response that Penland posted on its website on August 23, 2012, made it clear there was no misunderstanding: former employees who did not come forward - because they had no way of knowing they needed to do so - were not paid what they were owed. What the response refers to as a "technical violation" was a violation, pure and simple. It sounds like Penland did the minimum to comply with legal advice and did not make an effort to contact former employees who were affected by this violation. I am very disappointed to learn this.

Clearly it would have been better for everyone if this matter had been fully addressed and resolved at the time. I understand that Penland has no legal obligation, but I agree with what one poster on facebook wrote: Penland should reconsider compensating these former employees because "the amount of negative goodwill being generated at the moment is going to cost them their reputation." (You can see the thread with Rose O'Neill's comment here.) I hope that you and the board of trustees will reconsider Penland's handling of this issue.

Please know that the initial unsigned Penland response and your personal response to Marcos Lewis seemed to me dismissive of these claims and of John Britt and, by extension, his supporters. I hope that this dialogue is not finished and that future responses from Penland and its representatives will be more considerate.


Amy Waller
Bakersville, NC

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