Daily Cardinal October 24, 2012

SLAC, TAA rally with Palermo's workers

by Sam Cusick

Striking Palermo's worker Flora Anaya speaks about her alleged poor working conditions working at Palermo's and the grievances behind the workers' four-month strike.
photo: Grey Satterfield

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Student Labor Action Coalition and Teaching Assistants' Association welcomed two striking Palermo's Pizza workers to campus Wednesday to share their experiences from working for the pizza company.

The labor issue with Palermo's began in June 2012, when 150 workers at the Milwaukee factory were fired after attempting to unionize and protest alleged poor working conditions and wages.

According to SLAC, UW-Madison currently has a $200,000 contract with Palermo's and members said they want the university to cut ties with the pizza company until the workers' demands are met.

The workers, Flora Anaya and Maria Hernandez, said they both worked for 12 hours or more a day at minimal pay. Both women also said they were repeatedly refused time off, often working seven days a week.

Additionally, according to Hernandez, they were forced to work during pregnancy because they were not allowed time off.

Anaya said she also suffered an injury on the job and Palermo's refused to call a doctor, causing her to endure permanent damage, which restricts her abilities to use her hand.

SLAC member Tina Trevino-Murphy said the leverage the workers had in the strike by reducing Palermo's production is shrinking the longer they are out of work and the only other way to help the workers is to boycott the Palermo's brand.

"Not only is [the boycott] something we could do, it's something we have to," Trevino-Murphy said. "The only hope for the success for these workers lies in the community support."

UW-Madison administration is aware of the issue between the Palermo's workers and the pizza company and will monitor the dispute, according to Vice Chancellor for University Relations Vince Sweeney.

"It appears to be a difficult and complicated issue and we are hopeful that the parties can reach a resolution in the immediate future," Sweeney told The Daily Cardinal Oct. 17.

SLAC and TAA members said they are shifting their focus from petitioning Chancellor David Ward to cut ties to Athletic Director Barry Alvarez because Palermo's is sold at numerous athletic events and even marketed with the Bucky Badger logo.

"We want to be able to show that the entire campus and Madison community is upset about [UW-Madison's] business partnership with Palermo's," Co-President of the TAA Charity Schmidt said.

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