To mark the holiday season, striking Palermo’s Pizza workers and their families rallied today to give thanks for the community support they have received in their struggle, sang Palermo’s-related Christmas carols, and sent a message of hope for the New Year.
At the rally, held outside of the Palermo production facility, workers celebrated their hard fought victories, including the reinstatement of one of the employees found by the regional NLRB to have been discriminated against by Palermo Villa for supporting a union, and announced an escalated boycott campaign in 2013.
Palermo workers revealed plans to take their national boycott campaign to a second major national chain. Family Dollar, a supermarket chain and large purchaser of Palermo’s pizza, recently accepted a shareholder proposal to strengthen its existing Business Partner Code of Conduct. Family Dollar has shown itself to be a company committed to corporate responsibility and the Palermo Workers Union is confident they will continue on this course.
Members of the Palermo Workers Union highlighted specific improvements in working conditions they achieved as a result of their effort for union recognition.
“In just six months that we’ve been on strike we’ve succeeded in big ways, including winning raises for current workers of up to a dollar per hour,” said Irma Santiago, a striking worker.
“Palermo’s starting giving people raises in October,” Santiago explained. “That was after the AFL-CIO released a report exposing how Palermo’s took $26 million in public money, promising good jobs. But we showed there was no accountability. It was our pressure that led them to start giving everyone raises.”
State Representative Jon Richards, who is on the state legislative audit committee, congratulated workers on “speaking truth to power” and affirmed the need for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to respond to requests from lawmakers to provide information confirming whether or not Palermo Villa complied with public grants to create living wage jobs in Milwaukee.
“The National Labor Relations Board recently found that Palermo’s threatened, intimidated, and retaliated against workers who spoke out in support of forming a union,” said Raul de la Torre. “We are not giving up on our fight for dignity. Palermo’s needs to recognize our union, and Giacomo Falluca should publicly promise he’ll stop the union busting tactics.”
Workers also announced the formal appeal of the regional NLRB ruling which failed to uphold charges that Palermo used an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit as a tool of retaliation for organizing collectively. The Palermo’s case is the first time that ICE has suspended a workplace audit that the agency initiated in recognition of an existing labor conflict- a historic achievement.
Another striker, Flora Anaya, spoke of the union’s victories. “We won an end to mandated seven day work weeks at Palermo’s. We know that Palermo’s now follows Wisconsin law and employees are no longer forced to work for months at a time with no days off. We know that instead of being forced, workers can now volunteer to work seven days in a row if they chose. And we also know that because we raised the alarm about safety issues at Palermo’s, there is now an extensive ongoing OSHA inspection.”
“In this season of peace, we hope that Giacomo Fallucca will reflect on his mistakes. Giacomo, remember that those you called “family” are still outside,” added de la Torre.
Additional speakers at the rally included WI State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuendfeldt, Maria Somma, Organizing Director of the United Steelworkers, and Jorge Maya of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES). To conclude the event, Reverend William Brisco, of Milwaukee Area Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH), joined the grandson of striker Laura Torres, in delivering hand-made Christmas letters from the children of striking workers to Palermo’s
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