Amber Little

Jamie was informed that Amber no longer worked for Cost Cutters. Jamie tried talking to the management to find out what happened to Amber and got nowhere. After much asking around, she was finally able to 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 required hair stylists to sell hair care products equaling 20% of their hair cutting revenue. Though she was a popular hairstylist there, she did not hit that quota and was fired. Amber, like most other Cost Cutters workers, was paid $8/hr.

The Workers’ Center believed that Amber’s ability to provide for herself and her two small children could not 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 do is to let customers know that if they didn’t buy products that their beloved hair-dresser may be fired!

What made this story particularly damning was the fact that Amber was in line to receive the next Habitat for Humanity house in Tompkins County. Amber and her family had already put over 500 hours of sweat equity into the building of the house. Her ability to receive that house was contingent on having a job. Amber was able to relocate to another salon where she is now working five days a week (It’s called A Personal Touch, 23 Cinema Drive, 257-6098, behind Triphammer Mall, for those of you who want to support her.) Amber had to work cleaning at the Super 8 Motel in Ithaca until she could get her salon clientele fully up and running.

Other workers who worked at the Ithaca Cost Cutters took what’s called “concerted action” by expressing to Cost Cutters that they felt the obligation to sell a percentage of hair product was an unfair policy. (“Concerted action” is a protected activity as defined by the National Labor Relations Act as two or more workers addressing their employer about improving their working conditions and pay.)

We then learned that the Regis Corporation was requiring new employees all over the country to sign statements saying that they would never agree to a union. This is illegal, and is often called a “yellow dog contract.” Amber and others told us that they had been asked to, and did, sign this, after they had started.

The Worker’s Center filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the NLRB on behalf of both Amber and another worker, TJ Goehner. At the same time, we/TCWC decided to email a Press Release to the Minneapolis-Star Tribune about the NLRB ULP we filed as we knew that the Regis Corporation’s corporate headquarters were in Minneapolis. A week later, the Star-Tribune ran a front page story on the issue, which we believe is part of what pressured the NLRB in acting on a national level.

In the fall of 2010, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against the Regis Corporation, which operates more than 10,000 hair salons nationally, ordering them to cease and desist in its illegal actions! The Workers’ Center complaint played a significant role in this ruling.

“Had I known that I could have helped to organize a union to protest what I thought were unfair working conditions at Cost Cutters,” says Amber, “I would have done that in a heartbeat! This whole thing – being forced to sign this anti-union agreement – has helped to educate me a great deal about what it means to be in and actually organize a union.”

Amber loves her home, in Lansing, where she lives with her two young sons. She greatly enjoyed the process of decorating it, both inside and out, learning about plants and gardening. She took great care in choosing paint colors for the walls, and just painted her kitchen teal. She tells a great story about how she learned to be a haircutter. Basically she bluffed her way into her first job, saying she knew how to cut hair, when she didn’t. So she was self-taught, and very talented at it. She loves to cut hair.

One more great twist is that Jamie Breedlove, who had brought the case to our attention in the first place, was involved with the Workers’ Center because she had been helped by the Workers’ Center when things at her job were tilting towards injustice!