Ward update to governance groups on Palermo’s Pizza issue

Feb. 7, 2013

The following letter was sent on Thursday, Feb. 7 from Interim Chancellor David Ward to the University Committee, the Academic Staff Executive Committee, the Associated Students of Madison and the Labor Licensing Policy Committee.

I would like to provide you with an update on a campus committee’s request for action regarding Palermo’s Pizza, a company that has a sponsorship agreement with UW Athletics and the Wisconsin Union, and is a supplier of Roundy’s, a UW-Madison licensee.

In November 2012, the chairperson of the UW-Madison Labor Licensing Policy Committee (LLPC) delivered a letter to me recommending on behalf of the committee that I take action in response to allegations made against Palermo’s.  At the time, the Milwaukee Office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was investigating a complaint lodged against Palermo’s in a dispute with some former workers.  The letter from the LLPC recommended that if the NLRB found violations, the university should immediately terminate UW-Madison’s sponsorship agreement with Palermo’s.

Further, the letter also asked me to notify Roundy’s of Labor Code of Conduct violations and give Roundy’s 30 days to remediate the violations or terminate its contract with Palermo’s. 

On November 29, 2012, NLRB Regional Director Irving Gottschalk issued a decision that found the majority of the alleged labor law violations against Palermo’s lacked merit.  Specifically, the NLRB found:

—Palermo’s required re-verification of employee work authorizations in response to information provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as the employer’s general obligations under federal immigration law “not because of any union or protected concerted activities in which the employees engaged.”

—Palermo’s modified the re-verification time period to 10 days to avail itself of a presumption of responding to ICE within a reasonable time and that the evidence established that Palermo’s would have shortened the time period absent the protected activity on the part of the employees.

—Palermo’s hired employees through a temporary staffing agency in order to prepare for the possibility of disruptions to its workforce as a result of the ICE investigation and that the employer would have taken this action absent any protected activity on the part of its employees.

—The termination of 75 workers who allegedly failed to provide work authorization documents was consistent with the employer’s general obligations under immigration law and that the employer would have taken the action absent any protected activity on the part of its employees.

—There was insufficient evidence to establish that Palermo’s did not require non-striking employees to re-verify work authorizations.

Also, Palermo’s has acknowledged its willingness to remedy an unresolved issue involving approximately five employees who may be extended offers of re-employment.  The university urges the parties to move toward a swift resolution for the benefit of the employees involved.

The NLRB findings noted above have been appealed, with an outcome of the appeal not completed at this time.

Separately, a third party to the dispute contacted the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) for an assessment, which was released February 5.

The WRC report and the NLRB findings are clearly contradictory. I have attached both documents to this memo.

I have asked my staff to review the WRC document in greater detail and also will share that document with Roundy’s.

At the same time, we will await further word regarding the appeal of the NLRB’s Nov. 29 decision.

We will continue to monitor events related to the dispute between Palermo’s and the workers and will evaluate any new information as it is made available. 

While we acknowledge the viewpoints represented by the UW-Madison Labor Licensing Policy Committee and the Workers Rights Consortium, we believe taking any action without final findings from the NLRB would be premature. 

It is in the long-term interest of this university to continue to maintain productive relationships with both our licensees and the state's business community, while also ensuring just and equitable production of licensed product.

It should also be our shared responsibility to use our influential brand to develop solutions and engage in problem solving based on balanced fact finding.

Few campuses have done more on these issues than ours. We will continue to do so; this is what will help workers in the long run.

Read the full WRC Report (pdf)

Read the full NLRB Report (pdf)

Palermo’s Pizza Press Release (pdf)