Accidents that led to amputations and horrible injuries yielded mild OSHA fines but no signs of policy change so workers decided to take a stand against management. They are currently in day 11 of a strike that has slowed progress in the plant. They formed a union with organizing help from Voces de la Frontera, a move they hoped would promote safer work conditions. Unfortunately, management refused to recognize the union.
Workers are out on strike because management of Palermo’s Pizza refuse to recognize their newly formed union as a legitimate bargaining unit, though the strikers say about 80 percent of workers support the formation of the union.
Labor law allows Palermo’s to recognize the union without the need for a secret ballot election if more than 50 percent of workers support the effort. Strikers say the company has refused and instead management have resorted to several tactics to break the union organizing efforts including bringing in replacement workers, threatening to check immigration status of employees, threat of termination of employment and temp workers have been threatened with being blacklisted for joining the picket line.
The newly formed independent union, Palermo’s Worker’s Union, filed a case with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for union recognition.
The NLRB has set a secret ballot election on July 6 for official union recognition.
It has been alleged that management locked the workers into the plant and threatened to bring in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when unionization was immiment. The refusal of ICE to investigate the facility shows that the ploy was simply union-busting:
The video below shows a Palermo’s worker describing both an injury that occurred on company time and the way the company tried to deal with it.
In the above video, Manuel Cueves describes his workplace injury. One of his finger nails was ripped off by a machine. After a visit to the emergency room, he was told to return to work the next day by management and simply use his other hand and arm to complete his job duties. Cueves also discusses the battle he went through to be able to see his doctor of choice, rather than a company chosen doctor, as well as having the company pay for his physical therapy needed from the accident. He says the reaction of the company to his injury, of get back to work immediately, is not uncommon to workers at Palermo’s.
Josh Eidelson suggests that the Palermo’s strike is both a positive result of the Wisconsin uprising and a sign that unions can bounce back:
The Palermo’s workers aren’t affiliated with an international union; they’re working closely with Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group whose connection to unions was deepened when they occupied the capitol together last year. That occupation, Voces de la Frontera’s executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz told me yesterday, created “a lot of room for creative and broader partnerships, and just a broadening of the labor movement.”
On Monday, when I asked one of the Palermo’s workers about how his struggle related to the one that had occupied the capitol, he told me matter-of-factly in Spanish: “It’s the same.” He wasn’t offering charity or quid pro quo. He was showing solidarity, that sense of shared purpose and shared stakes that last year kept farmers and firefighters occupying their capitol together.