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Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee Tries to Bust Union with Immigration Threats

June 9, 2012


More attacks on labor rights in Wisconsin – this time on workers at Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee – a frozen pizza company that ships nationally. A strike is in week one and management refuses to recognize a newly formed union and has retaliated by “blocking an exit at the factory so workers cannot join the strike, threatened termination of people participating, bringing in replacement workers as well as threatening to check workers legal immigration status.” Boycott Palermo’s and stand in solidarity with the striking workers at Palermo’s in their time of need!

The graphic is by Paul Kjelland.

From Uptake:

“If you’re going to unionize, we’re going to essentially sic the Federal immigration agents on you — that’s what workers at a Wisconsin frozen pizza factory say management is threatening because they have formed a union.
Workers at Palermo’s Pizza of Milwaukee at 3301 South Canal street, near Miller Park, are now in their sixth day of a strike because management refuses to recognize their newly formed union as a legitimate bargaining unit. The company makes frozen pizzas that are shipped all over the country.

In the video that goes with this story Roberto Silva (left) and Daniel Mercado discuss their organizing efforts, with Christine Neumann-Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera translating and explaining her support for the workers.

The two say a new policy implemented by Palermo’s last October prompted the union movement. Management declared if people missed three or four days of work they would be automatically fired. Silva says that has forced people to work on preparing pizzas and other foods while they are sick which raises the risk of contaminating the food. Workers say there are no paid sick days and their work weeks can sometimes be as long as 90 hours, leaving no time for a personal life.

“We want to have a voice in the workplace because all of the policies they are passing is all in their interest,” Silva said through an interpreter. He says management has listened to the complaints, but hasn’t done anything to fix the problems. “We want to be heard and that’s why we want a union.”

Union calls for consumer boycott against Palermos

Mercado is asking the public to boycott Palermo’s. He says people should call the company and say they are not going to buy the company’s pizzas if Palermo’s doesn’t recognize the union. He says the company’s number is (414) 643-0919.

181 workers have signed a petition to join the independent union, Palermo’s Workers Union, about 80 percent of workers at the Milwaukee location. Management has refused to recognize their union, though the National Labor Relations Act (signed in 1935) requires that employers recognize a union if more than 30 percent of the employees are in favor of unionizing.

Workers have submitted their case to the National Labor Relations Board to step in to require Palermo’s to recognize their union.
Management at Palermo’s has implemented several tactics to break the union organizing efforts, including physically blocking an exit at the factory so workers cannot join the strike, threatened termination of people participating, bringing in replacement workers as well as threatening to check workers legal immigration status through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) I-9 employment verification form.

According to the USCIS Web site: “All U.S. employers must complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and non-citizens. On the form, the employer must examine the employment eligibility and identity document(s) an employee presents to determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the individual and record the document information on the Form I-9.”

Temp workers at the company have also joined in the efforts to unionize, facing another form of retaliation by the threat of being blacklisted if they join the strike effort.

The UpTake has contacted Palermo’s for a statement, but so far it has not responded. a company spokesperson did finally return our call, but he did not take any questions. Instead the company has issued a “media statement” which is included below. The statement carefully avoids talking about any strike other than a reference that the company hopes “employees will be able to return to work.”

To watch video on the UpTake website, click here.


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2 comments on “Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee Tries to Bust Union with Immigration Threats”

I passed the facility last week and was wondering what the banners were for. Now I see that you are more concerned about the profit of the company rather than the safety of the workers and product.
Please reconsider the establishment of the union which will foster better communication and better practices in your company. For me to stop purchasing or promoting Palermo’s pizza is a done deal, as I agree with the concerns of the workers.

It is highly unlikely that the owners of Palermo’s Pizza will ever read this blog or see your message of solidarity for striking workers and call not to buy their products as long as they do allow their workers to organize.
I encourage you – and all other readers of this blog entry – to go to Voices de la Frontera website – and sign the petition that will be delivered to the owner of Palermo’s. The petition has a goal of 3,000 signatures, and currently has over 2,600 signatures.

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