Workers at a Wisconsin pizza maker that's the focus of a labor dispute say they've seen some positive changes. But the unionization battle at the Palermo's plant in Milwaukee seems likely to continue into next year.
The union-organizing efforts at Palermo's have drawn national attention, for the high number of immigrant workers involved, and as a barometer of private sector labor strength after a number of setbacks for public sector unions. Palermo's production workers said Monday that they recently were given a $1 an hour raise, and claim they are no longer forced to work up to seven days in a row. Christine Neumann-Ortiz of the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera credits the unionization effort, "It really shows that’s what's making the difference is this campaign.'
Palermo's claims otherwise, saying the pay raise has been scheduled since January, and that the unionizing effort delayed the raise. The firm says its work week has never been seven days. Company marketing director Chris Dresselhuys continues to argue the company won most of a recent decision by the Milwaukee office of the National Labor Relations Board, involving some former workers and that a vote on unionizing should now take place, "Basically, Voces has to stop obstructing that vote."
But the Palermo's workers say they've just filed an appeal of the unfavorable ruling to the NLRB's offices in Washington. A UW-Milwaukee student group, the United Steelworkers union and the head of the state AFL-CIO appeared at a holiday-themed anti-Palermo rally Monday, to promise their ongoing support for the attempt to organize.