Milwaukee, WI - Three weeks ago over 150 Palermo’s Pizza workers walked off the job because they believed union busting tactics were being employed by the company. Worker safety conditions at Palermo’s Pizza reached a level so concerning to workers that they felt compelled to protect themselves. The workers collectively decided that protection would best come through the formation of a union. Workers claim that when they submitted an adequate number of signatures to the company to form a union (“majority sign-up”), Palermo’s immediately launched a campaign of intimidation, and according to Truth Out, “instructed employees to begin training replacement workers from a temp agency, and gave employees a letter stating that they had 28 days to verify their authorization to be working in the United States.” These company letters arrived immediately following the company’s finding out the workers were organizing. An interview conducted, after the letters were sent, with an ICE official later proved this Palermo’s Pizza company claim to be false. Workers have been on strike ever since the walk out and support from the surrounding community seems to be gradually building.
The workers have walked a picket line in front of the company for three weeks and the number of their supporters seem to be growing. The workers shocking stories of dangerous working conditions (2 separate cases of worker amputee accidents in which the company was find by OSHA) and being forced into working 70 – 80 hour workweeks have been falling upon more and more ears and workers from around Milwaukee are starting to lend their support. On Thursday night AFT (American Federation of Teachers) Local 212 held a fundraiser for the workers’ strike fund and raised over $4,000 dollars.
The next morning strikers were just getting their picket line started when Palermo’s Pizza officials posted a banner right along side the worker picket line that shamefully stated, “A Union Will Not Change Your Immigration Status. Only The Right Documents Will”. This move further emboldened the resolve of both the strikers and their supporters who immediately organized to come and show support on the picket line.
That Saturday morning, MTEA (Milwaukee Teachers Education Association) members showed up at 11:00 to start the worker picket line before any of the striking workers had even arrived. Close to thirty educators and other supporters were already walking the line when the striking workers arrived, clearly invigorated by the unexpected show of support from the teachers. The chants grew louder and the picket line moved more confidently than previous days as the new found support seem to breath life into the workers.
As the number of supporters and workers on the picket line swelled to around 100, another supporter arrived. Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein put on her walking shoes and joined the picket line, speaking to striking workers and voicing her support for the workers struggle.
Around noon, about a dozen members of Madison’s Solidarity Sing Along gathered under the 35th Street Viaduct to begin singing pro-labor songs in support of the strike. The timing couldn’t have been better as the skies, which had been threatening rain all morning, finally opened up making the Sing Along’s placement under the viaduct crucial. Striking workers and supporters moved under the bridge where a spirited and unifying sing-along occurred.
Later that night the Overpass Light Brigade took out a message of solidarity with the striking workers to an overpass bridge over I-94 around State Fair Park (More on this bridge action). The message read, “BOYCOTT PALERMO’S” with each individual LED letter being held by a striking worker or family member. The workers were thrilled to participate in this meaningful action that helped get the word out about Palermo’s actions and it once again showed them that they are not alone in the struggle. Seeing public and private workers walking the picket line together is something that is surely very scary to those in power and if we expect to create positive change in our world we need to continue to see this collective action.
This Overpass Light Brigade movie captures the events of Saturday night.
This Occupy Riverwest movie captures Saturday afternoons events.
Please come and join the picket line. The striking workers have proven to be steadfast in their conviction to win this fight but they gain more strength from the presence and support of others and as fellow 99 percenters we owe it to them to help. Here are things you can do to help immediately:
- Donate to the strike fund: https://www.wepay.com/donations/170361
- Sign & share the petition: http://signon.org/sign/tell-palermos-pizza-stop.fb10?source=s.fb&r_by=2739117
- Join the picket line at 3310 W. Canal Street in Miwaukee! Bring supplies (food, water, umbrellas for the sun, signs, music, etc)
- Join the official Strike Facebook page, “Support Striking Palermo’s Workers”
- Spread the word!
For more information about the ongoing strike: www.vdlf.org