Youth Empowered in the Struggle
On June 8, 2012, Palermo Villa, Inc. fired more than 80 workers who had been on strike for the recognition of their union, the Palermo Workers Union.
Why were they fired? Palermo’s said that the government had issued an audit against them for hiring undocumented workers and that they had to fire those workers who could not supply Social Security Numbers because of an impending Immigration and Customs Enforcement audit.
This was simply not true.
Earlier that week, ICE had publicly stated – for the first time in its history – that it was not going to conduct an audit into Palermo’s because of ongoing labor issues (the strike, two incidents where OSHA found that the company was in violation of labor and health codes, etc). Therefore, Palermo’s had no justification to fire the workers, some of whom weren’t even undocumented, because of the ICE audit. In reality, they were fired for their efforts at organizing a union.
Why organize a union? Workers at Palermo’s receive poverty-level wages, are forced to work while sick (yes, forced to make your frozen pizzas while sick), and receive little to no training for dangerous machinery. Their labor is exploited, and their dignity as human beings is trounced upon. From the view of the workers, they had no choice but to try to organize a union (a union that had the support of two-thirds of the workforce in a petition drive right before the strike was called).
In order to pressure Palermo’s into honoring the strikers’ reasonable demands and to rehire the workers that they illegally fired, Youth Empowered in the Struggle is supporting the national effort to boycott Palermo’s products.
We call on students to honor this boycott as well. Honor it by not purchasing the hall store pizzas. Honor it by not purchasing Palermo’s frozen pizza at Marquette Place or pizza by the slice at the Bradley Center. We are a Catholic, Jesuit university and our students are called by the Church to respect the rights of workers.
Be the difference. Boycott Palermo’s.
Young Americans for Freedom
There have been several calls for protests and boycotts against Palermo’s Pizza due to the termination of a number of its employees. Protesters claim that the termination was based solely on the desire to unionize.
More than half of the employees signed a petition requesting to join a labor union. Around the same time as the petition, Palermo’s sent out several letters to its employees asking for documentation stating they could legally work within the United States. After a respectable amount of time, many recipients of said letter were unable to provide appropriate documentation. As a result, their employment was terminated. It has not been stated that the workers who signed the petition were the recipients of the letter.
This discrepancy in the protesters’ claim makes this argument an issue of immigration rather than unions. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, employing illegal immigrants can result in a $6,000 fine for each undocumented worker, and the employer could face imprisonment. By requesting proper documentation, they were able to ensure they were employing people under federal regulations.
With that said, we should look at Palermo’s Pizza as a law-abiding business. We take no issue with protecting the rights of workers; furthermore, we applaud those who take steps to follow the law.