The Washington office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) upheld a regional NLRB decision, announced in November of last year, that Palermo Villa Inc. did not violate labor laws when it fired 75 undocumented workers.
The firing of the undocumented workers came as a result of an immigration audit initiated by ICE. The national NLRB agreed that Palermo’s Villa Inc. did not use the audit as retaliation for efforts by the workers to unionize the plant.
In June 2012, more than 90 workers, mostly undocumented, walked out of work and went on strike, after claiming that Palermo’s Villa Inc. did not recognize a petition signed by production workers seeking to form a union.
During the initial stages of the strike, Voces de la Frontera, the group organizing the undocumented workers, charged that numerous amputations and horrible working conditions and slave wages and poor health care benefits existed at the plant. Palermo’s Villa Inc. said those complaints were “categorically false.”
The company argued that it had no choice but to fire over 70 undocumented workers identified by a government ordered audit conducted by ICE.
The firing of undocumented workers was being done at about the same time the workers presented a union petition calling on the company to recognize their right to unionize.
Palermo’s Villa Inc. refused and the workers walked out.
In June last year ICE officials stopped the document worker verification process because of the labor dispute, opting to proceed once the labor dispute was settled.
In April 2013, Palermo’s Villa Inc. was cleared by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency of any wrong doing and determined that the company is in compliance with employment immigration law.
The ICE announcement came about a month before the national NLRB cleared Palermo’s Villa Inc. of any labor law violation.
Palermo’s has maintained it was following the law. Officials say the company could have faced penalties for not being in compliance with immigration rules.
The decision by the NLRB’s Office of the General Counsel in Washington, D.C., means that the Palermo’s Workers Union lost its appeal alleging unfair labor practices by Palermo’s.
With the NLRB decision the workers can now move to vote on whether to form a union or not. There are several unions seeking to represent the workers.
Giacomo Fallucca, president and CEO of Palermo Villa Inc., issued a statement saying the ruling “clears the way for our employees to have their voices heard through a fair and legal vote. We continue to support that right to choose, as we have throughout the entire process. We will fully support whatever decision the workers make.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also issued a statement saying it was time to move forward, and “it is my hope that the workers will now proceed with an organizing vote.”
Barrett went on to say that Palermo’s “is a strong Milwaukee business and a valued community partner. I was pleased to hear that the company reiterated its support for their employees’ right to choose and that Palermo’s will support whatever the outcome of the employee organizing election.”
Palermo Workers Union representatives claim the company had “gamed” the system, and continues to “exploit” immigrant temporary workers.