Palermo vote could be delayed

Although Palermo Villa Inc. has settled most of its outstanding issues with the National Labor Relations Board and requested a union vote be scheduled, it could be weeks before an election is held—if it’s held at all.

The Milwaukee frozen pizza manufacturer has been in a dispute with more than 100 employees regarding the formation of a union and immigration issues for more than a year. Some employees have been on strike since June 1, 2012.

After the workers requested that Palermo’s recognize their union and bargain with them, Palermo’s fired more than 75 workers, according to the union.

The company said it needed to separate the workers from employment in order to comply with federal immigration laws.

Eight of 116 former workers, one of which is already on the job, will be rehired and paid back wages as part of the recent settlement. In addition, Palermo has posted signs about its adherence to labor laws that affect its employees.

But there is still an outstanding case against Palermo’s, filed in March, that could block a union vote, according to Benjamin Mandelman, officer in charge at the NLRB in Milwaukee.

The complaint alleges Palermo Workers Union member Terry Cooper was threatened and unlawfully terminated by management for engaging in protected union activity over the previous year.

The case is currently under investigation.

“It was still filed by the Palermo Workers Union, but it involves a different person and a subsequent set of events,” Mandelman said.

In addition, a union vote would not likely be held until 60 days after the company has posted a notice to employees of its compliance with NLRB regulations, which was a stipulation of the agreement.

The Palermo Workers Union, which originally requested the election, also has the final say in whether it moves forward at all.

Voces de la Frontera, the immigrant rights group that has been leading the PWU strike, has not indicated whether it would like to rescind its request for a vote. Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz has previously said that a fair election is no longer possible.

Palermo’s would like employees to move forward with a vote, and pledged to respect the outcome, said spokesman Evan Zeppos.

If the union rescinds its request for an election, it would be an insult to the workers they claim to represent, he said.

“We think that substantial issues that have been in front of the NLRB have been settled,” Zeppos said. “They filed this in March. This was part of their ongoing harassment campaign to delay a vote. We don’t anticipate this will have any significant impact at all on the timing of an election.”

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