To get economic justice for all the artists who were denied pay because of illegal overtime practices employed by Penland School for 7 years.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com , and please cc: me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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