Workers at B&H Photo Video, Citing Hazards, Move to Unionize; Official Statement from B&H

by Hugh Brownstone2 Comments

Sigh. We know B&H professionally (we buy from them and we’re an affiliate), and we know some of the folks there personally. We like them very much. We like this story a whole lot less. Of course. But…

We don’t know what is truth in this story nor what is exaggeration or false, so we were hesitant to write anything at all.

The flip side is we’re well aware of the hit Amazon took for unacceptable working conditions in its warehouses (hey, if it can happen there…). We can Google just like anyone else and read about prior labor disputes that have come up at B&H and others with warehouse operations. We put great store in the New York Times (most of the time). And in  an era where income inequality is perhaps the greatest moral outrage of  all and where the golden rule seems to have lost its currency, unsafe or unfair labor practices are especially repugnant.

Of course, like anyone else, we also understand the excesses that can and have been incurred by labor organizations, the legal profession, and individuals too.

What to do?

As the grandson of a labor organizer and a “friend of the B&H family,” I reached out to B&H directly.

It was a good conversation.

This official statement arrived via email a couple of hours later — see it below.

Our personal wish is that both sides work together amicably to arrive at a good place for all.

They deserve it.

Here's the Official Statement from B&H:

Thank you for reaching out to inquire about the recent news articles you've seen. At B&H we value your feedback and appreciate your concern for our business and our staff. Allegations in the public are just that, allegations; and we would like to take the opportunity to set the record straight.

B&H Photo is a classic New York business who recognizes we could not have grown from where we began to what we are now without the dedication and contribution of our employees, each of whom is a valued team member. Employee satisfaction is as important to us, and as vital to us, as customer satisfaction. The two are intertwined. Our commitment to our employees runs as deep as it does to our loyal customer base. They are the reasons we are here and to both we are eternally grateful.

We have committed, devoted, hard-working employees who earn above-average industry salaries, generous benefit packages, 17 paid days off annually, and 3-weeks paid vacation time. Our average employee tenure in our distribution and fulfillment center is more than five years. We provide terrific benefits, highly competitive wages and a safe, friendly environment.

B&H has a strong and independent human resources department which strictly adheres to workplace regulations. We take matters of employee safety seriously and are committed to reaching even higher standards to ensure that we live up to our own expectations commensurate with the excellent reputation we have fostered over many years.

As to the matter of union representation, our employees have the right to seek such representation. It is a decision to be made by our employees, and there is a process underway to resolve that question.

Workers at B&H Photo Video, Citing Hazards, Move to Unionize

Outside one of B&H Photo Video's warehouses, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where 200 people who work for the company moved on Tuesday to unionize. | Photo Credit: Yeong Ung Yang for The New York Times

Outside one of B&H Photo Video's warehouses, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where 200 people who work for the company moved on Tuesday to unionize. | Photo Credit: Yeong Ung Yang for The New York Times

Via NY Times:

Martin Hernandez was moving heavy boxes of merchandise at a Brooklyn warehouse belonging to the electronics superstore B&H Photo Video in late August, he said, when he felt a sudden stab of pain in his left leg.

“I felt my knee crack, and I just couldn’t get up,” he said on Tuesday, through a Spanish-English interpreter. “The pain was so intense, I couldn’t feel my foot.”

Mr. Hernandez, 48, said he had been taken by ambulance to the Brooklyn Hospital Center. He eventually learned he had a damaged ligament, and has not worked or received a paycheck since the injury. He said his meager savings were nearly exhausted.

On Tuesday, an organizer with the United Steelworkers union filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking for a vote among warehouse workers — including Mr. Hernandez — on whether they want the union to represent them. Workers had complained that they had been forced to work long hours in unsafe environments without proper training, while subject to discrimination.

Read full article at NY Times “Workers at B&H Photo Video, Citing Hazards, Move to Unionize”

See related article at Resource Magazine Online.

Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from NY Times)

Hugh Brownstone

Hugh Brownstone

Hugh is the founder of Three Blind Men and An Elephant Productions. He and the team write, direct, shoot, score, and edit web-centric films; conduct photo shoots; and write copy, white papers and blog posts. Hugh also writes screenplays (he recently optioned a TV pilot) and just published his first eBook (Apple's iPhone: The Next Video Revolution). If it's about telling stories, it's in their wheelhouse.

And always with the ambition of authenticity, humanity and wit.
Hugh Brownstone

Comments

  1. There are always two sides to every story, but the picture that B&H tries to paint is absurdly idyllic considering the unionizing efforts and B&H’s own history of documented labor practices and infractions.  I’m now even more offended that they are trying to further sweep this under the rug with such dishonest corporatespeak.

  2. I sincerely hope this problem — if there is one — can be resolved without unionization, because in a properly run business, there should be no need for unions. (I once worked for such a company.)
    Unfortunately, the following suggests otherwise.
    “I felt my knee crack, and I just couldn’t get up,” he said on Tuesday, through a Spanish-English interpreter.
    Uh-huh.
    I’m also curious as to why the man is not receiving workman’s compensation.

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