Labor Board director clarifies Palermo rulings

Palermo Villa Inc. and Voces de la Frontera, the activist group advocating for some of the company’s employees, are both assessing National Labor Relations Board Milwaukee regional director Irving Gottschalk’s initial verbal rulings on complaints that the firm violated labor laws.

Last week, both the company and Voces claimed degrees of victories in the case.

Gottschalk told BizTimes that he informed the parties verbally about his initial findings Wednesday. Both parties will decide this week how they will respond to those findings. Once they respond, Gottschalk will provide written rulings in the case.

Gottschalk said he found reason to believe that the company did violate the law by telling “five or six” employees that if they left their jobs to join the strikers, “they would not have jobs to come back to.”

Gottschalk said he is recommending that the company “cease and desist” from engaging in such “retaliation” and restore those employees’ jobs.

However, in the larger complaint involving about 75 employees who were dismissed, Gottschalk said he did not find evidence that the company violated the law. Gottschalk said he believes the company issued the dismissals because the company was merely complying with orders by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). After an investigation, the federal agency told Palermo’s that about 75 employees did not have sufficient documentation of legal immigration status.

Thus, if Gottschalk’s initial verbal ruling is not challenged by Voces and the Palermo Workers Union, those employees’ jobs will be eliminated.

Meanwhile, until the parties formally respond to the verbal rulings and a written ruling is issued, Gottschalk said he will continue to hold a request to conduct a union election among the employees at Palermo’s in abeyance.

For the record, here is the statement from Chris Dresselhuys, marketing director for Palermo’s, about the rulings by Gottschalk:

“(Wednesday’s) announcement by the National Labor Relations Board dismissing all of the significant claims filed by Voces de la Frontera is a major victory for our workers and our company. The decision completely vindicates Palermo’s and reinforces our well-deserved reputation for being a responsible employer and a committed corporate citizen. It also validates that Palermo’s fully complied with all applicable labor and immigration laws. Today’s ruling also clears the way for our employees to have a fair and legal NLRB administered election. We always have supported our employees having the opportunity to vote, and we are pleased they will finally be able to do so. While we disagree with the interpretation of the minor technicalities the NLRB noted in its decision, we accept and respect the ruling and want an election to move forward promptly. Now, the only threat to an election is Voces de la Frontera and their continued negative campaign to hurt Palermo’s and Milwaukee. Voces de la Frontera should get out of the way and let the workers decide. The NLRB ‘s ruling has also seriously damaged Voces de la Frontera’s credibility in the community as it shows that their efforts were designed to give a bum rap to Palermo’s, our employees and the City of Milwaukee. The relentless, inappropriate and deceptive campaign mounted by Voces de la Frontera has hurt the community, and now it is time for it to end. Their baseless claims have been given due process of law by the Federal government and have been roundly rejected, so it is time for Voces de la Frontera to stand down and allow our employees to vote. Palermo’s is pleased that the NLRB’s decision shows that the actions we took were appropriate and that the company respected the rights of the employees and obeys the laws of the United States. After being rejected by the NLRB so thoroughly, it is time for Voces de la Frontera to stand down and let the workers decide.”

Here is the official statement about the rulings from the Palermo Workers Union:
“We are glad that (Wednesday) the Milwaukee regional office of the NLRB announced a decision finding that Palermo Villa, Inc. violated federal labor law. Palermo’s treatment of its workers and its response to our exercising our right to organize for a voice in our jobs has been outrageous. Under today’s decision, a significant number of workers will get their jobs back and be awarded back pay because of Palermo’s misconduct. We are disappointed however, that the regional office of the NLRB did not issue a complaint on some important aspects of our charge. We will appeal this failing to the NLRB in Washington to correct these errors. The fact that Palermo’s Pizza is celebrating a National Labor Relations Board complaint of wide ranging violations of federal labor law illustrates just how out of touch they are- as well as how indifferent they are to the people who make Palermo’s Pizza. Responsible corporations do not celebrate findings that they broke the law.”

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