Hi-res photo attached — Photo credit: Laura Gottesdiener
In Face of Employer Intimidation, Workers Vow to Continue the Fight to Improve Unsafe Working Conditions, End Discrimination
NEW YORK, NY – Following last week’s announcement that workers at B&H Photo have launched a unionization drive in response to unsafe working conditions, widespread discrimination and wage theft, on Thursday workers were threatened with termination en masse.
Workers allege they were pulled aside throughout the day to meet with anti-union consultants demanding information about the union campaign and its “leaders”, threatening those who would not speak. Workers also report that management demanded workers sign paperwork, and were told to leave the premises when they did not. A management representative was heard saying “There will not be a union, over my dead body.” Workers recorded managers shouting at employees who would not comply with their orders, with one senior employee smashing the cell phone of a worker who was recording the incident. A criminal complaint has been filed with the NYPD to retrieve the employee’s damaged property. B&H management has retained the anti-union law firm Jackson Lewis, as well as public relations executive Ronn D. Torossian.
Workers say they were ordered off the premises of the Navy Yards warehouse–they subsequently rallied outside, joined by supporters and community allies. As news of the mass retaliation spread, workers at the Evergreen Avenue warehouse immediately demonstrated in solidarity with their colleagues at the Navy Yards warehouse. Faced with this strong display of solidarity from workers, community allies, and angry customers, the company subsequently claimed employees were never fired and could return to work on Friday.
This morning, workers reported to the job more committed than ever to carrying on their campaign to improve working conditions at B&H Photo.
Kevin Vega, a Shipping Department worker and 5-year employee of B&H, said “They threatened us by saying that if we don’t stop organizing we will get fired. What reassured us was that we are united and that we have community support and cannot be defeated.”
“These agents working for B&H were not successful in intimidating us because have the right to organize and we have support,” said Francisco Pimentel, Shipping Department, 5-year employee. “B&H rehired us because they need us. We are the labor force.”
Workers publicly announced their intent to organize with the United Steelworkers last Sunday, representing more than 150 warehouse workers employed in B&H’s two Brooklyn facilities. They are receiving training and support from the grassroots, worker-led community organization Laundry Workers Center. Workers are calling on the NY-based photo and video giant to fix dangerous workplace conditions, end wage theft, and stop the widespread discrimination and verbal abuse endured by Latino employees.
Workers and community allies have called for a rally this Sunday from 3-6pm in front of the B&H retail store at 420 9th Avenue. #BHexposed
About Laundry Workers Center:
LWC addresses the need for community-based leadership development geared toward improving the living and working conditions of workers in the laundry and food service industries, as well as their families. Our work aims to combat abuses such as landlord negligence, wage theft, and hazardous and exploitative working conditions, all of which are endemic in low-income communities in New York City and New Jersey.