On October 11th, 200 low wage warehouse workers from B&H Photo Video marched to the midtown, New York City store with their petition to form a union. They brought their families; together they went to deliver the petition to their boss who for years had forced them to endure criminally exploitative working conditions. For one year, workers had secretly built the solidarity and organization that they were now publicly demonstrating. As they marched out of the store, you could see it in their eyes; they had power.
One month later, they won their union election by an overwhelming majority. B&H waged a violent anti-union campaign in that month. 100 workers were fired, then hired back after other warehouse workers walked off the job in solidarity. B&H hired Jackson Lewis, one of the most virulently anti-union firms. The B&H bosses demanded information about the campaign leaders, calling workers into small group meetings with anti-union consultants and illegally threatening those who didn’t speak.
The anti-union campaign was the latest exploitative tactic B&H used against workers. Last year, B&H refused to let workers leave the warehouse for 30 minutes after a fire broke out in a neighboring building. B&H forces workers do heavy manual labor for up to 16 hours a day. Many workers have experienced debilitating injuries, preventing them from working. They have never received workers’ compensation for the days of work they lost.
The solidarity B&H warehouse workers demonstrated in the face of vicious intimidation from their employer is an example to all workers. One thing was clear after the union election; these workers will not be the same again. They experienced their own power, that of workers organized and united in struggle. The revolutionary power of the working class is built by workers seeing each other stand up, fight, and win.
The struggle continues; next, workers start contract negotiations. Forming a union was an important first step, but the working conditions in the warehouse will only change with a contract. Support B&H workers to win a strong contract that will show other workers that when they organize, they have power over the ruling class.