Several weeks ago, Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) Member Jami Breedlove (a WIC worker with deep connections in the community), contacted our central office with a story of corporate abuse that was very personal for her. For the past several years, Jami and her family had gotten their hair cut and styled at Cost Cutters (a Division of the Regis Corporation, owner of 34 hair salon brands nationally) in Ithaca. Cost Cutters and the Regis Corporation are the world’s largest and most profitable hair salon chain in the world. In mid-January, when Jami went to get her hair cut, she requested her favorite stylist, Amber Little, a stylist at Cost Cutters for the past 3 ½ years.
To take action by sending a fax to the CEO of the Regis Corporation, as well as District and local Cost Cutters management, go to the following web address: http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/regiscorporationshouldbeaccountabletocommunity
Jami was informed that Amber no longer worked for Cost Cutters. Jami tried talking to the management of Cost Cutters to find out what had happened to Amber, and was basically stonewalled. Jami then, through nook and cranny, was able to finally locate Amber. Turns out that Amber, a single working mother of two young children, had been fired from her position at Cost Cutters due to a new corporate policy that requires hair stylists to sell hair care products equaling 15% of their hair cutting revenue. Meanwhile, Amber, like most other Cost Cutters workers, was paid $8.oo/hour. In addition, taxpayers help to subsidize corporations such as Regis as Amber made a meager enough hourly wage that she had to collect food stamps, WIC, Section 8, and Medicaid.
The Workers’ Center believes that Amber’s ability to provide for herself and her two small children cannot be held hostage to a corporation’s desire to make a profit above all else. If a corporation is going to have such expectations of sales, the right thing for the corporation to is to let customers know that if they don’t buy products that their beloved hair dresser may be fired!
What makes this story particularly damning is the fact that Amber is in line to receive the next Habitat for Humanity House in Tompkins County (in Lansing). Amber and her family have already put over 500 hours sweat equity into the building of the house. Amber has been able to relocate to another salon a couple of days ago (A Personal Touch, 23 Cinema Drive, 607-257-6098, behind Triphammer Mall for those of you in Tompkins County that want to support a business/hair stylist who believes in worker’s rights!) but is worried that she won’t be able to make enough money (losing her previous clientele at Cost Cutters) to be able to make the Habitat house work.
Watch the Youtube five-minute video above about the Cost Cutter/Amber Little situation by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSr0F_dSWJE..
The TCWC has been in touch with a number of other workers who currently work at the Ithaca Cost Cutters who are taking ‘concerted action’ (a ‘protected activity’ as defined by the National Labor Relations Act definition of two or more workers addressing their employer about improving their working conditions and pay) by expressing to Cost Cutters what they believe to be an unfair policy. The workers, uniformly, enjoy working for Cost Cutters but feel as if they’ve been hired to be hair stylists and that their livelihoods are now threatened by the Regis Corporation’s relentless drive for profits. In addition, the TCWC has spoken to another worker, TJ Goehner, who just resigned last week from his position at the store as he knew that he, just like the other current workers, would have very little chance to keep up with the new sales expectations. (TJ now has his own ‘chair’ at the Ivy League Barbershop on Dryden Road in Collegetown.)
Interestingly, the Regis Corporation was noted in an August 29, 2009 New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse, as proactively seeking to insure that its employees would never unionize, by having employees at a Montana Regis Corporation Cost Cutters, sign statements that they would never agree to a union. In fact, employees at the Tompkins County as well as Cortland Cost Cutters were also required to sign the same such statements!
From the New York Times, 8/29/09
The document the hair stylists were asked to sign, titled Protection of Secret Vote Agreement, said, “In order to preserve my right to a secret-ballot election, and for my own protection, I knowingly and without restraint and free from coercion sign this agreement revoking and nullifying any union authorization card I may execute in the future.”…
William B. Gould IV, a Stanford law professor and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, said, “It seems like a modernized version of the old yellow dog contract,” a provision, now illegal, that many employers used to push workers to sign, pledging not to join a union as a condition of employment.
Under current law, at least 30 percent of a workplace’s employees must sign cards to lead to a secret-ballot election. Mr. Gould said that under the Regis document, cards signed to seek a secret ballot would automatically be revoked.