Am I Next? Layoffs at B&H Photo in New York

One of my favorite sources for camera and electronic equipment, B&H photo in New York is preparing to lay off approximately 375 workers at its New York location as they transition to a facility in New Jersey. 

As crazy as it sounds, the United Steelworkers union has been bargaining with B&H for the past year and has filed an NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) complaint that the company never mentioned that they were scouting for a facility outside of New York. B&H said that their lease was expiring and they could not locate a suitable facility in New York. 

The union cast the company in the worst possible light.

“USW District 4 Director John Shinn questioned the credibility of B&H management’s claim that it could not find a suitable alternative location in the New York City area. ‘Moving to South New Jersey will make it difficult, and certainly a challenge, for employees currently relying on public transportation to accept employment offers at the new site,’ Shinn said. ‘This is clearly an illegal tactic designed to avoid the company’s obligation to bargain in good faith.’ Shinn said that B&H warehouse employees chose USW representation in spite of management’s threats to fire employees who voted for the union and will continue to fight for their right to bargain collectively. ‘As a union, we know that as long as we stay united, our solidarity will prevail against the challenges before us,” Shinn said. “In addition to our legal filings, we will reach out to elected officials and community leaders to ensure B&H warehouse workers receive a fair opportunity for their voices to be heard on the job and at the bargaining table.’”  <Union Media Release>  

The company prevails.

"B&H today announced that on July 24th, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) dismissed allegations that B&H was moving its Brooklyn warehouses to New Jersey to avoid the union that represents its warehouse employees."

"The NLRB decision affirms B&H’s position that the plans for the move began years before employees voted to join a union; that the lease for B&H’s Navy Yard facility expires in early 2018 without a renewal option; that the Navy Yard previously assigned rights to the B&H space to Steiner Studios upon lease expiration; and that the move to New Jersey is part of a long-held plan to modernize its fulfillment center in a large, single facility to better serve customers and compete more effectively in the global economy."

“'We appreciate the fact that a neutral arbiter looked at the facts and made clear that we are making this move for exactly the reasons we stated,' Jacob Mittelman, VP of Operations, said. 'The facts are clear for all to see, and we hope this resolves the misleading concerns some groups have raised.'”

B&H has been the target of a misleading campaign by several so-called labor advocacy groups alleging that the warehouse moves are part of a scheme to avoid bargaining with the union. B&H is gratified that the NLRB has rejected these claims that B&H believes are untrue and solely aimed at damaging our reputation. <B&H Media Release>

One might wonder why the union did not work with the company, but then again, unions are about seniority over merit, increasing wages with little or no increase in productivity, and anti-automation. I recommend that you read the company’s unique history as it is a testament to hard work and shrewd dealing.