NLRB Appeal Decision Allows Palermo Villa to Game a Broken Immigration System

The following is a response to the NLRB decision yesterday, denying our appeal of one portion of the regional director’s November ruling that pertains to the misuse of an ICE audit as a tool of retaliation against Palermo Villa employees organizing in the workplace:

“Despite this one ruling, the fact remains that Palermo violated serious labor laws.  All other unfair labor practice charges were upheld by the regional NLRB in November.  The company claims these are “minor charges” but they are significant: threatening to fire workers that organize, physically blocking employees from leaving the plant to join the strike, illegally firing eleven workers (two from BG Temp Staffing) and conducting surveillance of workers.

It is naive to claim that Palermo did not use the ICE audit as part of its expensive anti-worker campaign to subvert our efforts to address low-wages, safety, and discrimination,” said Raul de la Torre of the Palermo Workers Union.

“We are going to keep fighting and stand united until there is a just resolution. We are grateful for the support of thousands of students, workers, persons of faith and the broader community that continue to stand with us.”.

Palermo Villa continues to retaliate.  On March 11, 2013, an additional unfair labor practice charge was filed against the company for  firing an African American veteran employee who had been threatened with dismissal for organizing and simply talking to strikers.

“It is this level of retaliation that has created a climate of fear that silences workers, and makes a mockery of the fair and democratic process required for a union election,” added de la Torre.

Mike Bolton, District Director for the United Steelworkers, said that what happened to the workers at Palermo is a perfect example of how disastrous our current immigration system is for all workers.

“Employers like Palermo’s are hiring the most vulnerable workers in order to keep wages low, and conditions stressful or dangerous. They know that their employees will be afraid to speak up to try to improve things.  We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t see that this system drives wages and conditions down for all workers – regardless of where they were born.”

According to Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera:

“Palermo gamed a broken immigration system. They built their company on the backs of these workers, and then tossed them aside, when they spoke up for themselves.  Palermo took advantage of both weak labor and immigration laws, but they remain morally responsible for how they treat their employees–past and present.

Throughout this campaign there has been a lack of transparency, from accountability to $48 million in public dollars that Palermo received to create family supporting jobs in Milwaukee, to the fact that Palermo continues to exploit immigrant and non-immigrant labor – especially one third of its workforce that is temporary, was not part of the ICE audit and earns poverty wages.

In a city that is the fourth poorest in the nation, and as growing inequality rises in our country, the Palermo conflict remains a striking example of the need to ensure strong worker protections in an immigration reform bill that protects the rights of all workers.”

“We’re expecting Palermo to follow through on publicly-stated commitment to reinstate, with back pay, the eleven workers that Palermo conceded were illegally fired, ” added Neumann-Ortiz.

Enrique Martinez, another member of the Palermo Workers Union says, “We will continue to speak out, organize and maintain the economic boycott with our supporters until we reach a just resolution with this company.”