Workers are being taken advantage of right under our noses in Brooklyn. For years, B&H Photo and Video has subjected its ware-house employees to cruel and dangerous conditions. Despite being placed under monitoring by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, management continues its abuse and refuses to sign a contract with the warehouse workers’ union. Help us stand up for workers’ rights! Boycott B&H, sign DSA’s open letter, and spread the word about this injustice!
What is B&H Photo Video?
Headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, B&H Photo Video is the largest non-chain distributor of media production equipment in the U.S. New Yorkers know the 70,000-square foot midtown retail store, but the majority of their $2.65 billion in sales revenue comes from online and catalog orders by large ac-counts. Their $46 million in government and higher education contracts include the General Services Administration, Department of Defense, and FBI—every order of which is processed and packaged by workers in two Brooklyn warehouses.
Why are B&H warehouse workers protesting?
B&H has a long track record of inhumane working conditions and rampant discrimination against their mostly-immigrant warehouse workers. After a 2007 lawsuit, B&H was placed under monitoring by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but the mistreatment continued, leading to two more lawsuits over gender and racial discrimination. Conditions include:
- • 5.5-day work weeks with frequent demands for 16-hour days but only a 45-minute break
- • Being denied ambulances when seriously injured
- • Chronic nosebleeds and other complications resulting from asbestos, benzene, and fiber-glass dust exposure in the windowless Bushwick warehouse
- • Lack of training on operating dangerous equipment like forklifts, powerjacks, and pickers, and handling of hazardous chemicals like sodium selenite and ammonium bromide, and lack of basic safety equipment.
- • Coercion of employees to sign away their workers’ comp benefits after injuries
During a 2014 fire at the Brooklyn Navy Yard ware-house, being denied access to fire exits so management could run employees through metal detectors to check for potential theft while flames continued to grow
Following the fire, workers contacted the Laundry Workers’ Center (LWC) to help them organize and ad-dress their grievances. In November 2015, almost 200 of B&H’s 240 warehouse workers voted to join the United Steelworkers to secure a union contract.
How has B&H management responded?
B&H has stretched out negotiations and avoided signing a contract with the union. Shortly after the drive began, they announced plans to move order processing operations to a single warehouse in New Jersey. Management claims plans to move had been in motion before the union vote because of rent increases, but records show the Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse lease won’t expire until 2030, and B&H executives own the Bushwick warehouse. Moving operations to avoid union contract nego-tiations makes B&H a “runaway shop”— a labor law violation, and a tactic that business owners have used for decades to avoid negotiating with employee unions.
While B&H has offered positions at the New Jersey site to their current warehouse employees, most can’t afford a car just for commuting while living in New York City, where workers rely on public trans-portation. Many have families to support and can’t spare three hours a day—eighteen unpaid hours per week— just to get to work on top of their already exceedingly long workdays. B&H knows this — in fact, they’re depending on it.
What can I do to support B&H workers?
Spread the word and stop shopping at B&H. If you are a media professional, work with your employer, colleagues, or educational institution to shift purchasing to another company that doesn’t abuse its workers. If you graduated from a media program, contact your department to ask them to stop or-dering from B&H. If you’re a union member, ask your union to support the workers’ fight. If you are a reporter, write about it.
To the owners and management of B&H Photo Video...
To the owners and management of B&H Photo Video:
Because of your failure to negotiate in good faith with the unionized workers in your warehouses in Bushwick and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, I will no longer purchase products from B&H Photo Video.
I am horrified and angered by the allegations of mistreatment of these workers, as well as by your efforts to avoid settling a union contract — which would establish higher safety standards — by closing the warehouses in question and relocating these workers’ jobs 75 miles away to New Jersey. I will take my business elsewhere until you reverse your decision to move the warehouses to New Jersey and negotiate a reasonable contract with your unionized Brooklyn workers.