In 2014, a small group of B&H Photo warehouse workers began leadership training with Laundry Workers Center.
The workers described shocking conditions at B&H Photo warehouses in New York (Al Jazeera). Employees were told to unload or carry extremely heavy loads, without sufficient help or safety training. Some suffered back injuries. Pallets were often stacked more than 15 feet high, and workers operating the heavy machinery to unload the pallets were rarely trained.
Workers said they were not permitted to use emergency exits. They detailed erratic and oppressive scheduling, working from 7:30am until whenever management said they could leave—often as late as 11pm. Workers said they were not allowed to take the meals and rest breaks required by law, nor use their cell phones to reach their families.
The campaign alleged significant discrimination against Latinx workers, who were verbally abused and paid substantially less than other warehouse employees.
LWC’s initial trainings mushroomed into a powerful campaign involving over 200 workers. Leaders were trained in their rights, safety procedures, organizing techniques, and public speaking (Labor Notes).
“We decided to change the conditions in our workplace. We demand respect and to be treated as human beings.”
-Raul Pedraza, warehouse worker
On October 11 2015, workers from B&H Photo and their families launched their union campaign (NY Times), calling for the photo and video giant to fix dangerous workplace conditions and end discrimination against Latinx employees at their warehouses.
In response, a groundswell of support grew amongst community, faith and labor groups, as well as thousands of photo/video professionals and B&H customers (Hyperallergic).
In the face of a weeks-long anti-union campaign with rampant retaliation and intimidation, B&H Photo workers fought back and voted overwhelmingly to form a union with the United Steelworkers in Brooklyn and later Manhattan (Hyperallergic) warehouses.
The workers are currently in negotiations with B&H Photo for their first union contract. But the struggle continues (Hyperallergic). Stay tuned for details and ways to support the B&H Photo workers as they fight for justice in the workplace and beyond.