BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–The workers at Perks Cafe won the right to organize a union and when they had an up-or-down vote back in March, they approved the measure by 90-percent.
Despite that win, the workers say Perks’ owner is hostile and refuses to bargain in good faith. Many of Western New York’s more active unions joined the former workers at Perks Cafe, calling on the owner Bob Newman to do the right thing and treat them with respect and at least discuss working conditions.
“We tried to cooperate with him and we have tried to create a space that was hospitable and that was respectful to cooperate with and to bargain with and he refused to respect that,” said Sid Roberts, a former Perks Cafe employee.
When the workers initially started unionizing, they accused Newman of illegal union-busting tactics.. and filed a complaint with the National Labort Relations Board, which led to Perks’ parent company reaching a settlement, agreeing to obey the law.
“Union busting is not acceptable here, and that if we find that you are union-busting, the community will not allow it, and there will be a price to pay,” said Corey Johnson, a former Perks Cafe worker.
Perks Cafe on Elmwood is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.. just as Newman’s two other establishments, have locked their doors.. but workers suspect the owner is using the closure as leverage to keep the union, Workers United, out.
“All known union employees are no longer hired at Perks, and just generally refuse to bargain over any changes we would make,” Roberts said.
The workers also question Perks’ hiring practices.
“Many of the workers at Perks are trans workers. Sid and Ace and others here have recognized that–trans rights are labor rights,” said Gary Bonadonna of Workers United.
Among the conditions Wainfleet Companies, doing business as Perks Cafe, agreed to back pay and benefits for employees who were let go during the organizing dispute, and bargain with the union.
We reached out to the company’s legal counsel for comment on this story without success.