Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin Supports Palermo's Pizza Instead Of Workers On Strike

Newly released report indicated, it would be impossible to know, if Palermo Villa Inc. kept its commitment for job creation and required minimum wage after receiving millions of public subsidies.

By H. Nelson Goodson
October 16, 2012

Milwaukee, WI - The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (HCCW) recently announced their support for Palermo's Pizza after a third of their work force was either terminated prematurely to avoid an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) verification audit of employment for more than eighty employees. The Palermo employees have been on strike since June claiming unjust termination for seeking better wages, additional sick days, improve safety conditions and an employee's union. 
Maria Monreal-Cameron, President of HCCW in a public statement admitted that Palermo's Pizza should be put "on a pedestal," despite Palermo being accused of terminating employees by using tactics such as an ICE audit notification that an estimated 89 employees could not be verified for legal employment. 
In 2011, Palermo provided the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (ICE) I-9s from 394 employees and ICE determined in May 2012 that 89 employees could not be verified for legal employment in the U.S. ICE later notified Palermo that it was suspending their audit to avoid any influence in the employer-employee labor litigation (strike). 
A day after receiving the notification from ICE suspending the audit, Palermo's Pizza management decided to take action prematurely and terminated those 89 employees in question, including those workers that could legally work in the U.S who went on strike.
Palermo's Pizza has since replaced those employees with temporary staffing workers, resulting in reduction of production. The current five month employee national strike has been a major factor of production loses for Palermo. 
In June, the company initially shut down production lines for the third shift resulting in a steady loss of revenue and profits.
Recently, Monreal-Cameron and the HCCW Board publicized support for Palermo, which is no surprise for the Hispanic community at large, since the HCCW has a history of standing for big business as usual even, if Hispanics continue to be used as a cheap labor force for big business. Hispanics working for low wages continue to face opposition by entities such as the HCCW and profitable companies when workers attempt to change their working conditions to gain and assure better wages to help support their families in the Milwaukee area.
It seems, Monreal-Cameron and the HCCW Board have failed to take into account the actual employee grievances filed with the NLRB and the labor conditions at Palermo that led to an employee strike.
ICE has refused to explain what option Palermo faced, after ICE suspended the employee work verification I-9s. No doubt, Palermo's premature termination of certain employees has cost the company major economic problems that could easily be remedy by ending the strike.
Today, Palermo's Pizza has fewer full time permanent employees than it had before it applied for half a million dollars in tax credits promising to create 56 full time positions, according to a newly release report by AFL-CIO's Center for Strategic Research.
The former employees filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which began an investigation against Palermo's Pizza for alleged intimidation and interference with employees right to organize and to form a union under the authority of the federal labor law.
Voces de la Frontera (VDLF), an immigrant and workers right non-profit organization has been criticized for backing and legally challenging Palermo's decision with the NLRB for terminating striking employees to prevent a union.
Palermo has pushed for current employees to vote on a union, but a third of them are temperary workers. The NLRB has stayed any vote for a union at Palermo until the issue challenging Palermo's decision to terminate the striking employees gets resolved.
The report authored by the AFL-CIO's Center for Strategic Research (CSR) indicates it can not determine, if Palermo Villa Inc. has met the required minimum wage for employees as specified by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) since 2005, due to a lack of administration of accountability and transparency by the WEDC. The CSR report says, that many jobs at Palermo pay about $10.55 per hour and "have paid less than the WEDC's minimum wage ($10.88 per hour) requirement for tax-credit-eligible jobs as well as less than the Menomonee Valley Partners living wage ($12.00 per hour)."
The CSR report also found that taxpayers would find it impossible to determine, if the public funding was wisely used by Palermo Villa Inc. or if Palermo has met the WEDC minimum wage requirement to receive public subsidies.
So far taxpayers will most likely continue to question, if Palermo has come short in fulfilling their commitment for economic development and job creation after receiving $26 million dollars in public subsidies and loans from city, state, and federal sources. 
The CSR recommended that WEDC should improve disclosure of company reporting on accountability, tax credit programs should adopt minimum wage requirements that match reputable living wage index for the region it serves, should enforce "clawback" measures for companies failing to meet the minimum wage requirement to pay back any job creation tax credits received and should deny subsidy eligibility and enforce "clawback" provisions when companies violate labor laws.
VDLF in press release, indicated that a Palermo Pizza employee now on strike continued to earn $7.50 an hour for the last five years. "I worked at Palermo's for over 5 years and only earned $7.50 an hour," said Flora Anaya of the Palermo Workers Union. "That is not a living wage. I couldn't support my children and sick parents with so little."

The CSR report at link (pdf): http://bit.ly/R3fuQf

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