Workers at Palermo's pizzas have been fired on the bogus pretext of immigration laws as a punishment for daring to try to unionise a poorly paid and dangerous workplace. The workers are on strike, and calling for a boycott of Palermo's products, and demanding the reinstatement of the sacked workers.
In Milwaukee, around 75% of workers at Palermo’s Pizza’s organised a meeting in which they all signed a petition saying that they wanted to unionise. They then handed the petition to the company management.
The bosses responded by refusing to allow the unionisation and by delivering 89 letters to immigrant workers, asking whether they were able to provide documents that proved they had the right to work in the US. Just over a week later, the vast majority of them were fired.
Despite the management claims that they were responding to warnings from immigration authorities, the decision to sack such a large percentage of the workforce is a clear attempt to prevent the workers from unionising their workplace.
Many of the Palermo’s workers have been on strike since early June to protest against the faux immigration crackdown, poor wages, and dangerous working conditions.
Union leaders are claiming that employers are using the Obama administrations’ campaign to strengthen immigration enforcement in workplaces, which in turn aids the management attempts at breaking trade unions.
Janice Fine, a labour relations professor claims that:
“There has been a history of the federal government not understanding how its enforcement can undermine union organising drives”.
Companies are exploiting workers without work permits, so that they can bypass health and safety laws, pay them salve wages, and generally treat them like shit. As soon as workers attempt to organise, the bosses play the ‘illegal immigrant’ card.
An unnamed worker’s states that:
“It is simple why we’re on strike: We want better pay and benefits, a safer work environment, and we want to be listened to on the job”.
Workers at Palermo’s earn little over the derisory minimum wage. They are not allowed ‘sick-time’, and several workers have lost fingers in the machinery due to a speed-up that the bosses imposed.
The bosses at Palermo’s claim that they are the victims in the dispute - not the workers. They claim that they are facing a boycott and strike just because they carried out their legal obligations regarding workers without permits.
A Palermo’s director, Chris Dresselhuys, claims that:
“We were put in an impossible situation. These people cannot work in the US unless they can prove otherwise.”
Not surprisingly, Palermo’s did not give a shit about the legal status of their workers until they decided they wanted to unionise.
The efforts of the Palermo’ workers to unionise has gained widespread community support, as well as support from the United Steelworkers, and the AFL-CIO.
A spokesperson from the AFL-CIO has said that:
"Their courage and strength are a model for working people around the country whose rights are being violated and voices silenced. We hope that this boycott will encourage Palermo to finally respect its workers who work so hard for them every day."
Palermo’s also have a page should you wish to voice your concerns regarding their behaviour.