No longer are the illegal beaners afraid to talk to the media and be public. Now the illegal aliens want unions and higher pay... Fucking amazing!PHOTO: Three-year employee Leopoldo Rodriguez chants with other protesters on strike Friday at Palermo Villa Inc. in the Menomonee Valley. Protesters have been meeting for two shifts a day Monday through Saturday, chanting phrases such as "No justice, no pizza." The employees also want a promise by Palermo that they will not turn in undocumented workers.
Menomonee, WI - When it announced it would move its sprawling frozen pizza business into the Menomonee Valley's new business park, Palermo Villa Inc. was praised by city officials as a corporate star, bringing new development and good paying jobs to the heart of the city.
That was in 2005, when Palermo agreed to buy 14 acres of city-owned land and build a 100,000-square-foot facility that consolidated operations from three locations - including one in Illinois - in the valley. Since then, the company that markets frozen pizzas throughout the United States and Canada has expanded, churning out products under its own name, as well as other supermarket brands. Today it employs 450 workers.
It's a business that's boomed, especially in tough economic times, when popping a frozen pizza in the oven is cheaper than takeout or a night at the corner restaurant.
But today the company finds itself at the center of several hot-button issues - unionization, jobs and immigration enforcement - that have drawn national attention.
Workers - most of them Latinos who had either walked off the job or been fired - have picketed outside the company all month as part of an effort to form a union, which workers say is needed to deal with sick day policies, wages, discrimination by some supervisors and retaliation for efforts to form a collective bargaining unit. There's an attempt to start a boycott of Palermo's pizza.
The AFL-CIO, steelworkers union, Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association and other unions, along with faith groups such as the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope and political figures including state Reps. JoCasta Zamarripa and Josh Zepnik, both of Milwaukee, have rallied with the workers.
The national "Nuns on the Bus" tour, a group of Catholic sisters who visited Wisconsin last week as part of a tour protesting Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget, joined the striking workers to offer support.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant and worker rights group, has been helping the workers organize and maintains the company is using an immigration audit it recently underwent as a tool to bust the organizing effort.
The company has fired back in what's becoming a heated battle.
"The allegations leveled against Palermo are categorically false," said Chris Dresselhuys, director of marketing.
The story of Palermo Villa is the quintessential American success story, founded by Sicilian immigrant Gaspare "Jack" and Zina Fallucca, he said.
"Papa worked his fingers until they bled doing stonework, and then he was able to open an Italian bakery and later the pizza business," he said.
Fallucca's sons Giacomo and Angelo now run the business.
Dresselhuys said Palermo's pay is in line with wages paid by other companies its size that use unskilled workers. He said the company offers health benefits and paid time off. He denies there have been discriminatory or retaliatory actions.
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