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Marquette student organization supports Palermo’s workers

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YES is encouraging Marquette’s hall stores to stop selling Palermo’s pizzas. Photo by Danny Alfonzo/ daniel.alfonzo@mu.edu

Over the summer, many of Palermo’s Pizza’s employees went on strike to protest against labor practices and for the establishment of a union. Now, Marquette students are joining workers in their efforts.

To impact the company financially, the former workers called for a national boycott of Palermo’s goods on July 29.

Voces de la Frontera, Wisconsin’s largest immigrant rights center, reached out to Marquette’s organization Youth Empowered in the Struggle, hoping the university will stop selling Palermo’s pizza in hall stores and at basketball games.

Marquette’s YES president, Sean Orr, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the organization is circulating a petition and leading a campus-wide boycott against Palermo’s pizza.

“Our first step is just building awareness and support for it on campus,” Orr said. “So we’ve started emailing faculty members to see if they’re willing to support us and we’ve started a petition among the student body to get them to sign up for it.” So far, he said, 12 faculty members have responded in support of the boycott.

“We want to raise this issue here at Marquette because we are a moral voice in Milwaukee as the Jesuit university of Milwaukee,” Orr said.

At the beginning of this summer, about 150 of the 220 employees at Palermo’s were allegedly threatened with termination for wanting to form a union. They therefore went on strike. About 75 of the original 150 workers who walked out are still on strike and have subsequently been fired and replaced, Orr said.

Palermo’s Marketing Director Chris Dresselhuys recounted a different chain of events leading up to recent layoffs. Dresselhuys said the company was notified of an audit being conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in February 2011 and that Palermo’s “turned over approximately 420 I-9 forms, dating back to 1986, to that government agency.”

Dresselhuys said this past May “the government informed Palermo’s that, in the absence of that additional information, that it was illegal for Palermo’s to continue to employ the people that the government had identified as being ineligible for employment in the U.S.”

The former workers still plan to remain on strike and are confident that their requests will be met.

Cheryl Maranto, chair of Marquette’s department of management and a PhD in labor relations, said there is no clear-cut timetable for this decision.

Maranto said the former workers have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to be represented by

Photo by Danny Alfonzo/daniel.alfonzo@marquette.edu

a union and vote for a representative to bargain collectively with Palermo’s. She said there is also an unresolved unfair labor practice charge against Palermo’s.

“Basically, now the company is saying they will be happy to abide by the workers’ wishes,” Maranto said. “However, given that they have fired many of the workers who want representation and are striking to get representation and they have replaced them with people who are coming in knowing they are replacing striking workers, the question before the NLRB is, ‘Who gets to vote?’”

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15 Comments

15 Responses to “Marquette student organization supports Palermo’s workers”

  1. David Zuckerman on September 18th, 2012 8:36 am

    How can u possibly give illegals back jobs they never should had gotten. Ms. Neumann you are a deceptive trouble maker. Jobs for US citizens!!

  2. Anna on September 18th, 2012 10:25 am

    Undocumented or not- this isn’t an immigration issue. It’s about safe working conditions. Do you want your pizza being made in a factory responsible for multiple amputations? Or where workers are forced to show up and make your food while sick? Even if you don’t give a damn about the people, think about how gross that pizza is.

  3. Bob on September 19th, 2012 8:42 am

    Ben Greene, since you are a journalism major, I would have suspected you to do real journalism and look at both sides of the story not just the liberal left…shame on you. Do you even know what this is about or how it started or are you brainwashed by YES and Voces???

  4. Bob on September 19th, 2012 8:42 am

    Ben Greene, since you are a journalism major, I would have suspected you to do real journalism and look at both sides of the story not just the liberal left…shame on you. Do you even know what this is about or how it started or are you brainwashed by YES and Voces???

  5. Sam on September 19th, 2012 11:00 am

    Bob, show me an organization on campus with explicitly stated support for Palermo’s side of this issue and maybe you’ll get your “balance.” The fact is this doesn’t exist, so the reporting here reflects the presence of the issue on campus very well. Maybe you should have considered this before making accusations of “brainwash” by a legitimate student organization.

  6. Bob on September 19th, 2012 11:15 am

    Do you actually know what started this whole debacle? Did you know that its not actually about unionization but rather immigration? If Palermo’s workers want a union; all Voces has to do is unblock the vote. Then the employees voices can be heard. But they will say that the 89 workers that were fired cant vote and that it is unfair. But in reality, the NLRB decides who votes. Those 89 workers were fired because they could not provide correct documentation to work in the USA.

  7. Bob on September 19th, 2012 11:16 am

    Also, even the current employees are mad at voces for spreading lies

    http://spanishjournal.com/palermos-workers-release-statement-p4087-1.htm

  8. Bob on September 19th, 2012 11:16 am

    Also, even the current employees are mad at voces for spreading lies

    http://spanishjournal.com/palermos-workers-release-statement-p4087-1.htm

  9. Sam on September 19th, 2012 11:43 am

    Since when is an “UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE CHARGE” an immigration issue? Besides, it’s clear that Palermo’s has manipulated its workforce enough through firings that a retroactive acceptance of worker’s requests is a moot point for former employees. An undocumented workforce is Palermo’s issue – a separate one at that – and it CERTAINLY doesn’t justify such a struggle for employees to unionize.

  10. Karen on October 10th, 2012 12:41 pm

    Bob, I believe you are missing the message. This story is about how students are getting involved with the issue, and that is what Ben reported. Both sides are presented in this article but the students that are boycotting Palermo’s have a “liberal left” view so that is what is reported and Ben did his job by doing that.

  11. David on September 19th, 2012 9:07 am

    Credit to the author for a well written article, I must say though that it was a bit one sided. Well, here is another one sided article that should balance it out. Get both sides of the story Eh?
    http://www.620wtmj.com/blogs/jeffwagner/167188485.html

  12. David on September 19th, 2012 9:07 am

    Credit to the author for a well written article, I must say though that it was a bit one sided. Well, here is another one sided article that should balance it out. Get both sides of the story Eh?
    http://www.620wtmj.com/blogs/jeffwagner/167188485.html

  13. Ben on October 1st, 2012 3:54 pm

    Bob, I presented both sides of the story (YES president and Palermo’s marketing director) and an expert’s opinion (Dr. Maranto). I just retold the facts that I learned from all of my sources and left it open for you, the reader, to interpret. If you only think that I presented a “liberal left” viewpoint, I encourage you to go back and read the article again. Thanks!

  14. Marquette Alum on October 12th, 2012 3:04 am

    I don’t remember the pizza being any good anyway. Marquette Students will end up with better health if they boycott.

  15. Bizworldusa on October 17th, 2012 10:03 am

    This story is about how students are getting involved with the issue,
    and that is what Ben reported. Both sides are presented in this article
    but the students that are boycotting Palermo’s have a “liberal left”
    view so that is what is reported and Ben did his job by doing that……

    Regards,
    Bizworldusa

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