Workers at Guitar Center’s flagship Chicago store voted last week to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Earlier this summer, workers at the Manhattan Guitar Center votedoverwhelmingly to join the RWDSU.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said the Chicago vote “proves that retail workers are ready and willing to stand up and demand change.” He added:
Retail workers at Guitar Center nationwide are reaching out to the union because they understand that when they unite and stand together, their voices will be heard.
The Guitar Center chain is owned by Bain Capital and is the world’s largest musical instrument retailer with some 220 stores in the United States.
Brian Webb, a sales associate at the Chicago store, told Rolling Stone that he struggles to survive on his pay of roughly $11 an hour.
I make exactly as much as I did when I started here seven years ago. Anyone who works a hard, 40-hour week should be able to earn an honest living. This isn’t just about our store—it’s part of a larger effort to revive the middle class in this country.
Many of the company’s employees are musicians themselves. Webb plays guitar and sings in a local band called Jonny Rumble. After Guitar Center workers and the RWDSU launched a petition drive to build support for their campaign, a number of prominent musicians and members of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) signed on, including Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Billy Bragg, Ted Leo and Kathleen Hanna.