In response to yesterday’s article on the alleged B&H warehouse worker abuse, we spoke with B&H’s David Brommer, Director of the BH Event Space, about the accusations levied against the camera retail giant, and what’s to come in the next week.
Brommer started off by informing us why B&H has remained relatively tight lipped on this matter, despite the severity of the accusations. “We didn’t want to comment on a situation without time for more information to surface”. He goes on to explain that of the 200+ protesters that protested outside B&H’s New York offices, only two were actual B&H employees. The remaining crowd were comprised of the Laundry Worker’s Center, the union that has spearheaded the push to unionize B&H’s warehouse workforce.
Brommer goes on to explain that currently their factory workers are paid from $10 to $14 an hour, with access to the same healthcare benefits that all employees (including Brommer himself) receive. Warehouse workers are also entitled to the same 17 annual paid days off and 3-weeks worth of vacation time as everyone else. In response to the accusations of racial discrimination and abuse against their workers, Brommer naturally refutes them. “To start, we’ve never received any OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) citations or warnings. Beyond that we’ve actually passed several impromptu inspections from OSHA over the years with flying colors”.
Taking it a step further, Brommer describes B&H’s attempts to secure lines of communication with their workers. As many of them spoke English as their second language, B&H realized many of their office memos and notices may not have been fully understood. In response to this realization, B&H hired a Spanish speaking liaison to ensure they understood any and all messages.
As for what comes next? Well, as it turns out the vote to unionize is scheduled for next Wednesday, November 4th. At that time, all B&H factory employees will vote on whether or not to form a union, despite only a handful of employees supposedly pushing for said union. Brommer says this could lead to disaster for all the workers, bringing their benefits to halt until they are renegotiated under the new union. Then, he says, their fate is completely up in the air. “The pay, the benefits, all of it will be reworked. Add in the new union dues they’ll be paying on top of everything and this could actually damage all our factory workers.”
So, what are we to believe? Who are we to believe? If we believe The Laundry Worker’s Center, hundreds of B&H employees have been denied benefits given to all workers in the nation, and have even been systematically abused and racially discriminated against. However if Brommer and B&H are to be believed, a predatory union has descended upon some confused, perhaps even disgruntled, employees to cash in more union dues. Both situations are slightly dramatic, but certainly not unheard of.
In this case only time may tell, and we may never truly discover the truth. The only thing that matters now is the vote currently scheduled for next week, and whether or not The Laundry Worker’s Center has sold their story enough to secure the outcome they desire. B&H seems to be taking the wait and see approach, with a watchful and ever ready eye to react to whatever future the workers decide for themselves.