The Gibson Guitar Corporation is under fire once again for suspicion of violating foreign wood and labor laws.
On August 24th 2011, Fish & Wildlife agents raided Gibson’s Memphis and Nashville facilities, seizing an unknown quantity of Indian ebony and rosewood.
No charges have been filed, no arrests have been made, and the Department of Justice has not given any explanation as to what was illegal about the wood.
The company is no stranger to the Feds. They were raided in 2009 on suspicion of illegally importing wood from Madagascar. As a result, Gibson no longer imports from there, and has been the center of some controversy since.
On the 26th, the company’s CEO, Henry E. Juszkiewicz, held a press conference on the issue, and it was here he made his claim. Juszkiewicz vehemently denied any wrongdoing on Gibson’s part, announcing that they have been very aggressive on the subject of their product’s legality, that the wood was Forest Stewardship recognized, and that the wood was endorsed by the government of India.
In the aforementioned press conference, Juszkiewicz looked a little confused… ok, he looked downright dumbfounded.
Early on during the dialogue, he stated that “I’ve taken personal responsibility, I’ve instructed our staff to continue building the product, and I’m taking personal responsibility for that action.”
However when he was asked later on if there were any employees building at the time, he replied with a sluggish “Uhhhhh…. probably.” …..an interesting answer to say the least.
Then later on, Juszkiewicz stated that without the raw materials the government seized, they couldn’t continue work because “If they take our raw materials, we can’t produce the product.”
My first question is, which is it? Are you taking personal responsibility, and continuing production against the orders of the federal government? Or are you not, because you have no raw materials?
Other statements include radically sensationalized news headlines, such as “Raid on Gibson Guitar Factory May Drive Company Offshore”, with no actual facts to back up that kind of statement.
No one employed by, managing, or even affiliated with Gibson has said anything about pulling up stakes and moving jobs out of the United States.
Just about every response I’ve read in response to this ordeal is a response of quick and unfounded judgment. People calling this action a “money grab”, or stating that the government has “declared war on jobs”. This is simply because Juszkiewicz mentioned this:
–“We Infer from the case that we have here in Nashville, that their position is, that since wood… specifically we’re talking about fingerboard blanks, which are partially finished fingerboards, that we then put on the guitars finished, that because that they’re partially finished, they cannot be exported, because…Indian law, in this case, we’re talkin’ about Indian Rosewood and Ebony… Indian law requires that all the work be done in India, before it’s exported.”
The operative word in this excerpt is Infer. In other words, that’s his best guess. It must be because he later said things like “They have not told us what is specifically illegal”, “They haven’t shared anything with us”, and “Everything is sealed.”
A reporter later asked:
“Since there was no basis for the warrant, and there was no affidavit attached to it, how do you know this concerns the wood from India?”
The CEO replied: “We don’t. It’s been suggested because of our court case. I don’t know that for a fact.”
Furthermore, when attempting to defend and uphold Gibson’s honor on the subject of illegally importing wood, Juszkiewicz took a stab at blaming the federal government for approving the wood at customs when it entered the United States. A little known but important fact about U.S. customs; only 5% of the goods imported here are inspected, due to logistical reasons.
So at the end of the day, we know that the government has seized wood. We don’t know why, and we don’t know how much. So we are relying on a fumbling CEO and his guesses? Sounds more to me like the public have found yet another channel to vent on the government.
Just a word to those who think that government is evil and this is an “Attack on jobs”; how about we wait and get some facts first, then we can sit down and have a discussion on business ethics and the government over a cold one.