Around seventy demonstrators including B&H Photo Video warehouse workers and labor rights activists gathered outside of Gracie Mansion, the residence of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family, yesterday to protest the retailer’s decision to shutter warehouses, Elena Goukassian of Hyperallergic reports.
Angry over B&H’s decision to relocate facilities to New Jersey, which could result in the loss of around three hundred jobs, the B&H workers believe de Blasio should have done more to prevent the company from leaving the city. The protest is the latest in the nearly two-year-long struggle between B&H employees and their employers.
Rosanna Rodriguez, coexecutive director of the Laundry Workers Center (LWC), which helped organize the demonstration, said that participants were trying to “push the mayor for public support.” She added that a number of employees had previously tried to arrange a meeting with the city official to discuss what’s happening, but were unsuccessful. “I’m Dominican, and some of the B&H workers are, too. The mayor says he’s pro-immigrant, but his actions are not reflecting that.”
Many of the protesters who work at B&H’s Brooklyn warehouses view its actions as an attempt to escape before the employees can unionize like the two hundred workers who voted to unionize at the company’s midtown Manhattan headquarters in November 2015. While the Manhattan employees have decided to join the United Steelworkers union, they have yet to negotiate their first agreement with B&H.
B&H spokesperson Michael McKeon said that B&H is “trying to offer a rational package to those who want to move [to New Jersey] or a severance package to those who don’t. We’re trying to do the right thing.” Yet, according to McKeon only “a handful” agreed to move. “So far we’ve only asked Evergreen [Avenue warehouse] workers to make a decision. We will ask the Navy Yard workers, by far the majority, to make decisions in the coming weeks.” B&H plans to close its Bushwick warehouse later this month and its Navy Yard Building 664 later this year.