As we mentioned in our stories last week, the warehouse workers of B&H Photo Video were to vote on whether or not to unionize this week. Well, the verdict is in and with an overwhelming 200 to 80, the warehouse workers have voted yes to unionizing with the United Steelworkers.
This vote culminates a year long battle to unionize the workers and help them escape alleged workplace abuse. “After a year of hard work organizing, today the workers are victorious. This is a huge step for the workers’ movement, and for the Laundry Workers Center, as it continues to develop worker power and leadership in New York City and beyond”, said Rosanna Aran, Co-Director of the Laundry Workers Center.
Their press release also alleges a “weeks-long anti-union campaign waged by B&H management, with workers alleging daily threats, harassment, and intimidation in the workplace”. The harassment was apparently severe enough to warrant the union filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in which they allege “B&H engaged in unlawful anti-union activity during the course of the campaign.”
The movement to unionize saw support from various outlets, including IATSE, WITNESS, and the thousands of signatures on their petition at the #BHExposed website. The matter was also covered rather extensively in the news, with outlets such as the New York Times, Al Jazeera America and a handful of pro video sites such as ourselves here at HDSLR Shooter.
Beyond voting to unionize, the workers also put out a demand for B&H to “end hazardous working conditions and discrimination in Brooklyn warehouses”. Such incidents include racially offensive speech and overly long shifts with no breaks, with one incident even going so far as to not let workers leave a warehouse quickly during a fire.
How this will affect B&H moving forward is unclear, though I would imagine it may cause some issue with their ability to fulfill orders. This comes at possibly the worst time as well, with the holiday season just around the corner. B&H has yet to respond to our request for comment, and we have been in contact with The Laundry Worker’s Center who have notified they will release a comment shortly.
For more information you can check out the press release below, as well as at lwcu.org/press-room/press-releases/b-h-photo-workers-vote-overwhelmingly-to-join-union
Workers Vote 200 to 88 to Join Union; Demand an End to Hazardous Working Conditions and Discrimination in Brooklyn Warehouses
BROOKLYN, NY – Workers in B&H’s two Brooklyn warehouses voted overwhelmingly today for union representation with the United Steelworkers, in an election administered by the National Labor Relations Board. The vote comes on the heels of a weeks-long anti-union campaign waged by B&H management, with workers alleging daily threats, harassment, and intimidation in the workplace.
Lawyers for the union have filed multiple charges with the NLRB, alleging B&H engaged in unlawful anti-union activity during the course of the campaign.
Workers remained strong in the face of management’s tactics, confident in the widespread support for unionization in the workplace. “We knew we would win our vote today by a large margin, which of course the company did not expect”, said Jorge Lora, B&H Warehouse Worker of 5 years. “Today we won because the workers voted with their conscience”.
Workers publicly announced their intent to organize with the United Steelworkers on October 11th, after receiving training and support from the grassroots, worker-led community organization Laundry Workers Center. Since the campaign launch, a groundswell of support has grown amongst community, faith and labor groups, as well as thousands of photo/video professionals and B&H customers. On the eve of the union vote, the Photo/Video Alliance for Fair Labor released an open letter to B&H management with over 1,000 signers in journalism, fine art and commercial photography, film, television, and academia, calling on B&H “to end the hazardous working conditions and discrimination workers report at B&H’s Brooklyn warehouses”. Supporters used the campaign slogan #BHExposed to increase awareness of the worker’s campaign, garnering extensive coverage of the working conditions in B&H’s warehouses, including the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, The Nation, WNYC, and numerous photo-video websites and blogs.
The news of the landslide victory was welcomed by dozens of supporters who waited outside of both Brooklyn warehouses to congratulate workers coming off of their shifts. “We want to share this moment with other workers so they also know that they longer have to feel exploited”, said Alberto Sánchez, B&H employee, 7 years. “We were taught our rights, and now we have to pass that on to other workers so they can fight back against the exploitation and discrimination they face.”
“After a year of hard work organizing, today the workers are victorious. This is a huge step for the workers’ movement, and for the Laundry Workers Center, as it continues to develop worker power and leadership in New York City and beyond, said Rosanna Aran, Co-Director of the Laundry Workers Center, said.