Striking Palermo’s workers paused their daily picket line in front of Palermo’s, 3301 W. Canal St. in the Menomonee Valley for a brief press conference at 2:30 PM Friday. Workers offered immediate reaction to the outcome of a highly anticipated meeting between Palermo’s CEO Giacomo Fallucca and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in Washington D.C.
The AFL-CIO made it clear that they did not speak on behalf of the workers at Palermo Villa who are on strike for union recognition. The AFL-CIO communicated the Palermo employees most basic demand to the company: meet with the Palermo employees directly. At the meeting, Mr. Giacomo Falluca did not agree to meet with the striking workers.
Orlando Sosa, an employee of Palermo Villa for more than ten years and a member of the Organizing Committee of the Palermo Workers Union, expressed the sentiment of the workers when he said, “Palermo’s says they are a family company, but what kind of family refuses to talk with one another?”
Palermo workers have been on strike since June 1. They are demanding formal recognition of their union, the Palermo Workers Union, as well as immediate re-instatement of all striking workers who were fired. The workers are also calling for the company to follow the direction of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and cease any any re-verification or audit of workers documentation status.
The strikers were informed that at the meeting between the AFL-CIO and Palermo Villa representatives, that the Palermo owners once again had refused to consider reinstatement or union recognition despite the fact that a supermajority of workers signed the union petition and subsequently went out on strike.
Currently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has halted a union representation election from proceeding while it investigates the firing of over 80 workers and various other unfair labor practice charges.
Recently, CEO Fallucca has called for a union election to proceed.
According to Sosa, “It is insincere for the Fallucas to say they want a union election to proceed. If they really cared about what workers thought, they would meet with us. We are not so naïve that we would agree to a rigged election. If the Fallucas are interested in talking about a fair process, they know how to reach us – we’re right here in Milwaukee!”
According to Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Director of Voces, “How can Palermo Villa claim they want a union election, when they are conducting an aggressive anti-union campaign, and denying the strikers the right to vote in what they claim to be a fair election.”
Mike Bolton of the United Steelworkers told strikers, “our commitment to you is—you will never be in this fight alone. Together we will fight management in the streets, in the boardroom, and at their country clubs. And we will fight one day longer than they are willing to.”
Sheila Cochran, Secretary Treasurer of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council expressed her solidarity with workers, saying, “A company that received $20 million in public dollars should have high standards to ensure that workers’ rights are respected.”
Palermo’s refusal to recognize the union and the resulting strike action has prompted a national boycott of Palermo products across the country. Numerous labor and community organizations, including the United States Student Association and United Students Against Sweatshops, have endorsed the boycott. The national AFL-CIO has committed to continue their national boycott of Palermo Products.
Jennifer Epps-Addison, Economic Justice Program Director at Citizen Action of Wisconsin, spoke about the connection between Costco Wholesale’s “Supplier Code of Conduct” and the dual issues of workers right to organize and evidence of unsafe working conditions at Palermo Villa, Inc.
All four local TV networks, plus the Milwaukee Telemundo affiliate, were in attendance for the news of the Washington meeting and reaction. The wall-to-wall coverage included additional one-on-one interviews with Palermo workers and community allies.
Local unions from around Wisconsin and across the country are supporting the strikers with donations to a strike fund and in some cases hot food, as was the case on Friday.
Members of the American Federation of Teachers Local 212, representing educators the Milwaukee Area Technical College, donated a hot lunch of rice and beans that was delivered to the strikers as the daily picket came to a close.
Donate to the strike fund: Click here to go to the donation home page