Labor Union Resolution
Statewide organizational sign-on letter
Decision of the NLRB Has Serious Implications on the Rights of Low-Wage Workers to Organize
by Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director
Since 2008 Voces de la Frontera has been supporting workers at Palermo Villa to address low wages, unsafe conditions, unpaid sick days, and discrimination.
On June 1st, 2012 workers went out on a mass strike after the company refused to recognize the Palermo Workers Union (PWU), despite super-majority support.
The company then used various tactics, including a mass termination of workers on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit list and others who supported the union, to fire half the production workforce, preventing the strongest union supporters from voting in a union election, and as a means to intimidate the rest of the workforce.
This misuse of the ICE audit to squash a union organizing campaign and other labor violations, were filed with the regional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by the PWU. The NLRB recently made a decision on the charges.
While a written settlement is not yet public, the NLRB found the company had violated federal labor law and is the basis of settlement negotiations. The PWU will be appealing the NLRB decision that concerns the use of the ICE audit as a tool for union-busting.
The NLRB decision found that the company violated federal labor law -including surveillance, threats, intimidation, discrimination against union supporters, and preventing workers from leaving the plant when owners and management physically blocked the exits and locked the doors when they attempted to join the strike.
In a historic decision, ICE suspended their audit on June 7th at Palermo Villa based on evidence presented to both the Department of Labor (DOL )and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that demonstrated there was an existing labor conflict and evidence of collective organizing when the audit was first initiated in 2011.
The suspension of the ICE audit responded to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between DOL and DHS protecting all workers regardless of immigration status to reduce the incentive for employers to exploit undocumented immigrant labor and undermine wages and working conditions for US citizens and workers with legal status.
In a shocking twist, the NLRB--not ICE--has been the federal agency that has failed to honor the enforcement of the MOU. These protections include not just organizing a union, but any effort to organize collectively to address violations such as wages and overtime laws, the right to a safe workplace, and protection against discrimination or retaliation.
In media statements the company and some "reporters" made the claim that the NLRB found that the workers were undocumented. The only agency with that authority is ICE; the question for the NLRB is not the workers' status--it is whether or not the audit was used as a tool for destroying a union organizing effort.
If the NLRB decision is upheld, it would seriously undermine the ability of immigrant and US citizen low-wage workers to use the NLRB process to protect their right organize in the future.
It would also de-legitimize the NLRB as an institution of labor rights enforcement and future organizing campaigns will be forced to conduct a purely community based organizing effort.
It is precisely why the national boycott of Palermo Villa continues to be critical, and why Voces de la Frontera and other allied organizations stand strongly in support of the strikers to continue their fight against a company that has violated workers' rights.
Myths & Facts
Myth: The United States cannot absorb present immigrant numbers
Fact: 11.5% of the U.S. population is foreign-born today. At the start of the last century it was 15%. Previous waves of immigrants were met with
suspicion, too, yet all of them are now saluted for the contributions they have made.
Get more of the facts >>
- National Boycott Against Palermo's Underway as Support for Latino and Immigrant Workers Grows:
- Palermo's workers - How you can help: