“No Justice, No Piece”: Pizza Company Accused of Targeting Immigrant Strikers
MILWAUKEE – Workers at Palermo’s Pizza have been on strike for two weeks. They say they chose to strike after Palermo’s met their efforts to form a union with threats and retaliation, including the use of immigration enforcement as a weapon. Slogans include “No Justice, No Piece.” On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) set a union election for July 6.
“We want Palermo’s to treat us as a person,” striker Orlando Sosa said as he picketed Palermo’s Milwaukee factory.
In interviews last week – some on a picket line, others following a Get Out the Vote Rally led by Jesse Jackson – Palermo’s workers said the strike was caused by years of abusive work conditions and weeks of anti-union intimidation.
“From my point of view, there’s been a lot of exploitation,” says Roberto Silva (he and other Palermo’s workers were interviewed in a mix of English and Spanish). He described being forced to work 70 to 80 hours a week, even while sick, and being threatened with job abandonment when he asked for a break. “You have to work until you can’t,” says Silva.
Jose Ramirez sums up his life as “Just eat, sleep, and work.” In a video posted on the website The Uptake, a worker described being told he had to work the day after he was sent to the emergency room because his fingernail was ripped off by a machine. For years, says Alicia Garcia, workers would blame individual abusive managers, and every time one left, “We would say the next would be better.” Now, she says, they blame Palermo’s itself.
Palermo’s employs nearly 300 workers, and its frozen pizzas are sold by major chains, under multiple labels, across the United States. The company did not respond to a request for comment, but Director of Marketing Chris Dresselhuys told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “The allegations that have been leveled against Palermo’s are categorically false.” Dresselhuys said that immigration enforcement was unrelated to unionization, that some workers had “abandoned their position” by striking, and that if workers win the union election, “we will work it out.”