August 13. 2012 10:00AM

AFL-CIO calls for national boycott of Palermo's

The AFL-CIO has called for a nationwide boycott of Milwaukee-based Palermo Villa Inc., which is embroiled in a labor dispute.

The boycott covers Palermo's brand pizza, "Classics" brand pizza and private label brand frozen pizza produced by Palermo, including Costco's Kirkland brand.
The national union's endorsement of the boycott is part of its continued support for the efforts of the Palermo Workers Union by the United Steelworkers and the AFL-CIO, community and immigrant rights groups such as Voces de la Frontera and students from the United States Students Association, the nation's largest and oldest student-led organization.
"The 12 million union families of the AFL-CIO are proud to stand with these Wisconsin workers who have bravely joined together for a voice on the job," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said. "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."
Milwaukee workers at Palermo have been on strike since June 1 to protest alleged unfair labor practices by the company.
The company has denied engaging in any unfair labor practices.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is reviewing the allegations against the company.
Chris Dresselhuys, director of marketing for Palermo's, issued the following statement in reaction to the AFL-CIO boycott:
"The situation at Palermo's is the result of an investigation initiated by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE determined that some employees were ineligible to work in the United States. The audit that we complied with is one of thousands of immigration enforcement actions that have been undertaken by the Federal government at companies across the country. Palermo's cooperated with ICE and obeyed the law. The baseless allegations made against Palermo's represent a pattern of deception and obfuscation that is designed to harm our company, our employees and community. The working conditions as described by the protesters seeking to organize a union at Palermo's are false and only serve to harm the actual workers employed at the company now. In particular, the allegations about employee time off, workplace safety and unhealthy people working in our facility are not true, as our annual third-party audits prove. Attempts to boycott Palermo's are an intimidation tactic being used to force the resolution of a labor dispute put into motion by an organization demanding that Palermo's violate Federal immigration law. The union vote is completely dependent on a date that will be determined by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). We will continue to have a fact-based discussion with our workers and provide accurate information to help those voting to make an informed decision. We will continue to adhere to all NLRB procedures and guidelines as we move toward a vote. Palermo's has a long history of respecting its employees, their safety and well-being, paying a competitive wage and providing an excellent benefits package. Any suggestion to the contrary is insulting and without merit. In addition to our employees, we also have a demonstrated commitment to the community and support numerous charities and nonprofit groups in a variety of different ways."
The endorsement by the AFL-CIO does not include financial support, but it does bring the issue to the attention of the union's broad nationwide base of members and affiliates, said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, director of Voces de La Frontera, a Milwaukee immigrant rights group that has been assisting the striking workers.
"To us this is very important because there are a lot of union members and more socially conscious consumers that are Costco members," Neumann-Ortiz said.
Costco has not yet responded to the Palermo Workers Union's request to stop ordering Palermo's products.
Boycott events are planned for Costco locations in Middleton, Grafton, New York City, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Gary, Ind., Portland, Montgomery, Ala., Washington, DC, and Pittsburgh this weekend.
Cesar Hernandez, a line leader at Palermo's who has been leading the strike since June 1, said the strikers continue to picket in front of Palermo's and Costco. The support of the national labor organization has helped encourage those on strike, he said.
"It gives us more strength in our boycott campaign to have the support of the national AFL-CIO, and it also inspires us to keep fighting," Hernandez said. "We haven't given up. We're going to continue to see this to the end."