UWM closes down Palermo’s Pizza stand after labor protest

When they couldn’t get their way with the National Labor Relations Board, Voces de la Frontera took to the streets, protesting and picketing Milwaukee-based pizza maker Palermo’s for supposed wage, safety and benefit violations.


And while it has gone on since last June, on Tuesday the protest moved to the UW-Milwaukee campus, where Voces and students occupied the Palermo’s pizza stand in the school’s union.


According to a blog posted on the Hispanic News Network, five students took over the stand around 11 a.m., closing it down. Another 40-50 students joined the protest, chanting “No justice, no pizza” during the lunch hour on the campus.


Many of the students who saw the protest assumed it was disgruntled student workers wanting more pay.


“If they don’t like the pay, get a job at the Taco Bell stand next to it,” said one female student who did not want her name used.


Another student, Walter Wenzel (full disclosure – this is the writer’s son) said it was about time that students protested the fast food stands in the union.


“Palermo’s isn’t a socially conscious citizen,” Wenzel said. “And neither is Taco Bell or Burger King or any of them. It’s time for the school to get rid of these bad corporate actors.”


Wenzel will get his wish, since UW-M Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jim Hill decided to close Palermo’s stand down through the summer semester. The protest came to an end at 1:15 p.m. when Hill made his decision. He could not be reached for comment regarding his decision.


A similar action against Palermo’s was staged at UW-Madison last month, as students took over the interim chancellor’s office in protest against the pizza maker’s products being sold on the campus. The students were taken into custody in Madison and the campus’s chancellor, David Ward, refused to give in to their demands.


Voces and disgruntled employees have staged protests at Palermo’s Menomonee Valley manufacturing headquarters and at executive’s homes over the last year after Palermo fired over 50 employees who did not have proper work documentation. The NLRB ruled that Palermo was correct to release the employees and has found no wrong doing on the part of the company.


Voces and the employee strikers claim Palermo fired the undocumented workers in retaliation for an attempt to organize a union at the factory. They have also been demanding better wages, safety and more sick time.


Palermo’s executives have repeatedly said they would welcome a organizing vote at the plant but that they will not reinstate the undocumented workers. 


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