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SPoT Coffee denies it's anti-union

WNY Labor Federation leader: Complaint has "merit"
Posted at 4:10 PM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-05 20:25:50-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — SPoT coffee says it is ready to defend itself in a worker's rights battle. This after three former employees are claiming they were wrongfully fired for trying to unionize.

This matter is expected to go before the National Labor Relations Board. There have been rallying cries in support of spot workers. Two of the fired employees spoke out during a 4th of July protest outside the Hertel avenue SPoT Coffee.

The company issued this statement Friday evening:
"At this time the matter concerning the discharge of three SPoT Coffee employees is now formally before the National Labor Relations Board. Consequently the company believes it is not appropriate to make any comments on these proceedings. As stated in the company’s earlier media release, SPoT Coffee continues to deny these allegations. The three employees - two of whom were part time - were discharged for lawful business reasons. The entire SPoT Coffee team greatly appreciates the support it has received from many of our customers during this difficult time."

“The company has shown they will do whatever it takes to squash a union effort,” stated Philip Kneitinger, fired worker.

Kneitinger and Phoenix Cerny claim they were unfairly fired from the Hertel and Elmwood SPoT Coffee locations after attending a meeting where employees at the Rochester spot coffee voted to join workers united.

“I enjoyed working there – I want my job back and I also want jobs back for my peers as well,” Cerny said.

A manager was also fired from the Williamsville location for allegedly not naming employees who attended the Rochester union meeting. Workers speaking out say there's a disconnect between the corporate office and what happens at individual shops.

Richard Lipsitz, president, WNY Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

“I know that our labor federation is prepared to spend a lot of its resources in support of this effort,” remarked Richard Lipsitz, president, Western New York Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

Lipsitz tells 7 Eyewitness News the complaint, filed with the national labor relations board, has a lot of "merit".

“The employer should follow the national labor relations act – which is a law of the United States of America and not terminate people on an unfair basis trying to bring the union to a workplace,” Lipsitz explained.

SPoT coffee says that just isn't true. The chain put out "this" statement on its Facebook page, saying any terminations are done for “lawful reasons” and it was “unrelated to unionization efforts”.

The statement also said "SPoT Coffee is fully prepared to defend its business decisions before the National Labor Relations Board."

State senator Tim Kennedy of Buffalo is urging a boycott of SPoT Coffee.

Lipsitz is not calling for a boycott at this time but asks the entire community to support the workers.

“We have not yet called for a boycott,” Lipsitz said. “We want everybody to support the SPoT workers and their efforts to get a union.”

Lipsitz said he cannot say what next steps will be taken by, but expects more demonstrations in support of the employees.

We reached out to SPoT Coffee's president & CEO, but have not received a response.

Here was one of the statement's SPoT Coffee posted on its Facebook page, July 4th:

Hello, everyone. Thank you for your patience.

As promised, here is the formal statement that we have released to the press:

"Recent allegations in the media suggest that three Spot Coffee employees were discharged for improper reasons. Spot adamantly denies these claims. While our Company does not publicly discuss its personnel decisions, all of Spot Coffee’s personnel actions – including the recent employment terminations discussed in the media – are taken for lawful business reasons. Our employee team is, and always has been, a critical aspect of our business. For this reason, Spot considers the recent media allegations to be a very serious matter.

Spot Coffee is fully prepared to defend its business decisions before the National Labor Relations Board.

If you have any comments or concerns, please share them, but please be respectful. We know that many of you have already formed a conclusion about this matter, but we would like to be absolutely clear – Spot does not terminate employees in order to suppress union activity. We already have unionized employees, and we believe in their right to be organized as such and to bargain collectively."

Another protest will be staged, according to a Tweet by UnionizedSpotters, outside the Elmwood Avenue SPoT in Buffalo Saturday, July 6th.