Peavey denies using prison labour to build amps, calls George Lynch’s allegations “slanderous”
Following resurfaced allegations from guitarist George Lynch, Peavey has categorically denied using forced prison labour in the manufacture of its amplifiers.
The allegations were initially made by George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame in 2018, and recently brought back into the limelight by YouTuber KDH. KDH notes that Lynch was a Peavey artist in the 2000s, although left before he could release a signature amplifier. The Peavey Triple XXX and Penta amps were rumoured to be intended as signature models for Lynch.
While Lynch’s reasons for leaving were suggested to be a mix of contract disagreements and the departure of the amp designer he was working with, KDH implies that Lynch leaving could be linked to the allegations he would later make regarding prison labour.
In 1865, the USA’s 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. However, it made an exemption for forced labour as a punishment for a crime. This has led to the modern system where working inmates are paid far below minimum wage – sometimes as low as 23 cents an hour – for their labour. Some restrictions apply to the system – some laws require prisoners to be paid full minimum wage if the work is being done for for-profit companies, however this isn’t always the case.
While use of this system by companies is legal, it’s rarely viewed positively. Activists and critics point to prison labour as one of the many unjust aspects of the US penal system, due to its strong roots in actual slavery – and issues like poorer safety, lack of training and bad labour protection for inmate workers. Larger companies who have been accused of using prison labour have faced outcry and boycotts; it’s fair to say that if an amp maker was found to have done the same, it would have a negative impact on its public image.
And so we come to the allegations made by George Lynch. Five years ago, Lynch spoke on the Island Music Co’s Determination & Overdrive podcast, and touched on his time at Peavey. Regarding a visit to Meridian, Mississippi, he stated: “the town sort of exists for two things – it’s the headquarters of Peavey, and there’s a lot of prisons. And I also found out, a lot of the prisoners work for Peavey.”
To this, the podcast’s host replied: “Well, you get your labour where you can”. Lynch responded: “I don’t think having slaves do your work, for for-profit corporations, is the right thing to do. But the thing is, they’ll get away with it, which they were. […] There came a point in our discussions where they wanted me to sign a nondisclosure statement, that I’d promise to never reveal the fact that they use prison labour to build their amps.”
In his video, KDH says this is “a pretty serious allegation from George, and it’s one that’s very hard to prove. I’ve searched high and low to find any reference to this anywhere: and I couldn’t find it. And that does speak to George’s story about the NDA: if true, all the people that know about this can’t say anything.” He also says he did not hear back from Peavey after a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the brand, however, did tell Guitar.com that Peavey did not have any record of being contacted by KDH. Peavey also categorically denied the allegations, writing: “Lynch is apparently confused with some other manufacturer or story that he was told, and is mistaken in his comment about Peavey using prison labour.”
Peavey claimed to have “no record of any NDA with Lynch”, but did point out the confidentiality section of his artist contract, which essentially asked him not to unduly share internal company data. In its statement to Guitar.com, the brand writes: “Peavey finds no violation of [Lynch’s] confidentiality agreement from his erroneous statement but has issue with the slanderous nature thereof.
“Peavey has employed thousands and thousands of employees who worked diligently in our own manufacturing facilities. Mr Lynch should retract his statement, confirming his comments and his understanding were incorrect.”
In the end, it’s unclear what the source of Lynch’s allegations is. While they may be erroneous, if this is the case, it’s a rather serious thing to claim off-hand on a podcast. It is possible Lynch is referring to something further up the supply chain, or the moral grey-area of outsourcing production to countries with less robust labour regulations than the US.
Regardless, this podcast appearance seems to be the only time Lynch has publicly accused Peavey of using prison labour. In the five years since, Peavey has apparently not issued a denial or a request for Lynch to retract his statement.
George Lynch has been contacted for comment.
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