Yesterday, on International Workers’ Day, more that two hundred of B&H Photo’s warehouse employees went on strike, protesting the electronics retailer’s January announcement that it will be shutting down two of its Brooklyn warehouses in order to center its operations at a New Jersey outpost later this year, reports Claire Voon of Hyperallergic. The strikers are accusing B&H of union busting. Joining the strikers in solidarity were members of the organizations Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the Laundry Workers Center, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Peoples Power Assemblies.
The move to New Jersey will take away 330 New York jobs and disrupt contract negotiations between B&H and the United Steelworkers, the union representing B&H’s employees. The disruption might also be breaking federal labor laws. B&H is offering their workers jobs at the new site, but it’s an extra seventy miles to get there from the current locations—an inconvenient commute for many of the company’s employees. “I’m convinced that this is a tactic to destroy the union. I’m not afraid [about my future] because I’m sure I can find a job, but we have dedicated many years to the company and built it together. Now they want to throw [our relationship] away,” said Ramon Cedano, who worked for eight years at the company’s Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse. A B&H representative said the Navy Yard lease expires in 2018. There is no renewal agreement, which makes the move necessary. The company says it looked for other affordable spaces in New York City for years, without success.
Around noon yesterday, a group of workers and community members delivered a letter to B&H management, demanding that the company “respect and acknowledge that WE, 300+ B&H warehouse workers and our wives and children, who have been without us, dedicated our lives to building up your operations . . . for decades.” The Democratic Socialists of America will continue bringing in people to picket the company every Friday and Sunday for the rest of May.