USA: B&H Photo Video faces worker campaign over alleged unsafe conditions - with company comments

Author: Laura Gottesdiener, Al Jazeera America, Published on: 14 October 2015

B&H Photo Video Building, New York - credit: Nasim Mansurov, PhotographyLife.com"Photo retailer B&H faces unwanted exposure over worker safety", 12 October 2015

At night, when Oscar Orellana arrives home after his 13-hour shifts in the warehouse of B&H Photo Video...he is often in such pain, he can barely lift his 2-year-old daughter... In 2014, Orellana fell from the top of an eight-foot-high pallet in the warehouse and severely injured his upper spine. He says he never received any training on how to operate the forklift he was instructed to use to unload the inventory. He was never even provided a hard hat, he says.  That’s why on Sunday, Orellana joined nearly 200 of his co-workers in publicly denouncing B&H Photo Video, the largest non-chain photo store in the United States...[which has] a lengthy history of alleged discrimination and workplace safety complaints...

...Hershel Jacobowitz, senior executive vice president, released a statement saying that the company treats employees well. "We have committed, devoted, hard-working employees who enjoy above-industry salaries, generous benefit packages, 17 paid days off annually, and 3-weeks vacation time," he wrote, adding that B&H provides a "safe, friendly environment."...

...[The] action against B&H is unusual for the gravity of the health and safety abuses alleged by its employees, say organizers and lawyers working with the campaign.

In the main B&H warehouse located in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, the walls and ceilings are insulated with fiberglass that fills the air and flecks off onto the worker’s skin, causing rashes, respiration problems and daily nosebleeds, employees say... The men, many of whom are undocumented, testify of suffering from kidney stones, dizziness and fainting after being denied access to water or bathroom breaks. They say there is often a lack of basic safety equipment... 

For many of the men, the most egregious offense occurred on Sept. 5, 2014, when two tractor trailers parked adjacent to the Navy Yard warehouse burst into flamessending clouds of black smoke into the shipping and receiving section as the workers were inside... B&H declined to comment on any of the specific allegations, including the handling of the 2014 fire.

[also refers to Hot and Crusty Deli]

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Related companies: B&H Photo-Video