Sep. 6, 2012 | Eunice Cho
The Palermo Worker Union Campaign—September 2012 Immigrant Worker Campaign of the Month!
Immigrant workers at the Palermo Pizza Factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are fighting to organize a union. The pizzas they make are distributed all over the country, to stores such as Costco, Kroegers, and Safeway. Their employer, Palermo’s Pizza factory, however, attempted to bust the union by targeting immigrant workers, asking them to provide documents proving their eligibility to work in the United States.
The Palermo workers’ struggle has national implications for the rights of immigrant workers to organize in the workplace: on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor, DHS made a historic decision to suspend an ICE audit they initiated in recognition of the labor conflict. At present, the workers are waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to make a significant decision in challenging the right of the company to use immigration as a tool for union busting.
The Palermo workers have also worked closely with community based organizations, such as Voces de la Frontera, a key source of support. As early as 2008, Palermo workers came to Voces with cases of severe lacerations and other injuries, looking for a way to improve the workplace so these situations wouldn’t continue happening. By 2011, workers began organizing to form a union. In May of 2012, 150 workers went on strike. Only after the company found out about union organizing did it use immigration status as an excuse to fire over 90 of the striking workers. At this time, the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers recognized the campaign.
The Palermo Workers union has called for a national boycott of all Palermo Pizza products. This boycott has since been sanctioned by the United Steelworkers and the AFL-CIO. COSTCO is the largest carrier of the Palermo’s pizza in the nation. The Palermo workers, in recognition of Costco’s positive employment practices and its responsible supplier code of conduct, have requested that Costco stop selling Palermo Pizza products. The workers have also called on individual organizations for help with organizing leafleting actions and delegations to their neighborhood Costco stores.
The workers are also facing severe financial hardship at this moment and are in need of donations. You can donate directly to the strike fund online or you can make checks out to “Palermo Workers Union” and mail them to: c/o Voces de la Frontera, 1027 S. 5th St, Milwaukee, WI 53204.
Filed under: Past Worker Campaigns of the Month