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Scab pizza sliced from Milwaukee campus

By staff |
May 15, 2013
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Milwaukee students rally in support of Palermo’s workers.
Milwaukee students rally in support of Palermo’s workers. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Milwaukee, WI - The UWM Boycott Coalition for Worker’s Rights at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee declared a major a victory after the university halted sales of Palermo’s Pizza for the remaining school year and summer. Students and workers at the university have been struggling to end the sales of Palermo’s Pizza. A boycott of the pizza was called by Palermo’s workers attempting to form a union.

A two hour sit-in and rally, May 7, carried out by Youth Empowered in the Struggle, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and members of AFSCME and the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants Association, resulted in a negotiation that ended the pizza sales for the rest of the school year and summer.

"It has been a long struggle but a worthwhile effort to ensure that our immigrant brothers and sisters are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve,” said Valeria Gonzales, a member of Youth Empowered in the Struggle. “It's about time the university listened to the students' voices.”

Previous actions at the university included an occupation of administrative offices and large rallies. Before this action, the university dropped the prices of other pizzas, removed a prominent Palermo’s pizza sign from the campus pizza stand, and posted notices about the Palermo’s pizza strike.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was pressured by members of SDS in 2008 to sign on to the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), an independent labor rights monitoring organization, which concluded the Palermo’s workers were illegally fired after attempting to form a union. Participation in the WRC has been a major rallying point for boycott coalition organizers to push for the university to join the boycott of Palermo’s.

The May 7 event started outside the UWM Union in the afternoon when about 50 students and community members rallied. Led by Youth Empowered in The Struggle and the Latino Student Union, a group of five students, mostly from Students for a Democratic Society, risked arrest by taking over and occupying the restaurant window where the pizza is sold. They covered the pizza window with a banner stating “Drop Palermo’s. Support the strike. Solidarity with workers.”

As the five students occupied the pizza stand, they were followed by the crowd that was rallying outside. The protest continued outside the pizza stand with YES leading chants such as “Hey hey, ho ho, Palermo’s Pizza’s got to go.” The event lasted two hours and ended after negotiations where the Associate Vice Chancellor announced to the rally that the pizza stand would be shut down throughout the rest of the summer.

The Boycott Coalition has been organizing actions on campus for the past nine months in solidarity with the Palermo’s workers who're fighting to get recognition for the Palermo’s Workers Union. The Palermo’s workers are primarily Latino and immigrant workers.

Palermo's is a frozen pizza company based in Milwaukee. Last summer the majority of its employees filed for the recognition of a union, to which management’s response was to fire the unionizers. As a result, around 180 workers walked out on June 1, 2012 and have been on strike ever since. Initially near 70 workers were fired for their attempts to unionize.

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