Monday, April 29, 2013

Student Activism Continues at UW-Madison

UW-Madison has a rich history of activism among its students, and that history evolves today as students stand in solidarity with the workers of Palermo's pizza and the good folks of Voces de la Frontera. 

What will outgoing Interim Chancellor David Ward do? Why not act, given widespread public support and his short remaining tenure?

 Here's what you need to know:

(1) UW-Madison's students have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to standing up for the rights of underdogs throughout the world.  It's no surprise they're ahead of the NLRB on this one.

(2) UW-Madison's code of ethics is independent from the rulings of the NLRB or any other entity and is supposed to reflect our values, not those of others.

(3) It is abundantly clear that moral leadership is lacking on both the so-called Left and the Right in Wisconsin, especially when it comes to standing up to corporate interests seeking to keep wages low and profits high.  It is far harder to battle these interests than to cede to them.

I have the great admiration and respect for students who take the time to educate themselves on the political economy of universities and challenge administrators to do the same.  I have no doubt that if Chancellor Ward doesn't soon take action, these students will begin to expose the private interests that appear to inhibit him from doing so.

April 29, 2013

Students Occupy UW-Madison Chancellor’s Office

12 students storm administration building demanding termination of school’s contract with Milwaukee frozen pizza firm

Students will remain in Bascom Hall until Chancellor David Ward agrees cut the contract

Sam Klepfer,, 608-772-4415
Claire Hintz,, 651-955-8370
Maxwell John Love,, 724-557-6269

WHAT: Rally outside the ongoing occupation of UW Chancellor David Ward’s office
WHO: UWMad@Palermo’s, a coalition of student groups; labor and community supporters
WHEN: Monday, April 29th at 4:30pm
WHERE: Outside Chancellor Ward’s office, 161 Bascom Hall, 500 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI

At 2:15pm today, 12 students entered Chancellor Ward’s office to protest his refusal to uphold UW-Madison’s code of conduct for companies that produce goods using UW logos. The students are demanding that the university cut ties with Milwaukee-based frozen pizza manufacturer Palermo Villa Inc over the company’s labor practices.

The sit in comes after a 200-day campaign by a coalition of students, workers, and concerned Wisconsinites. The Labor Licensing Policy Committee, the campus shared governance body designated to make recommendations on these issues, determined in November that Palermo’s was in violation of the university’s code of conduct, and recommended cutting ties with the company.

“We’re occupying the office until Chancellor Ward agrees to cut ties with Palermo’s,” said Claire Hintz, one of the students occupying the office. “It’s outrageous that the Chancellor still refuses to enforce our code of conduct by cutting ties with this irresponsible company.”

In January, the Dane County Board of Supervisors joined the chorus of groups calling for a contract cut, passing a resolution of support. Then in February, the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent worker rights monitoring organization the university is affiliated with, reported that “Palermo has committed serious violations of worker rights and that these violations remain ongoing,” and therefore was in violation of the university’s code of conduct and international labor rights standards.

“Chancellor Ward has abandoned the Palermo’s workers and callously ignored the moral standards that UW claims to uphold,” said Cornell Zbikowski, another of the occupying students. “The Palermo’s workers have been on strike for 11 months as David Ward hides and counts the days until retirement. I’m ashamed to call David Ward my Chancellor.”

At 4:30pm, supporters will rally outside of Bascom Hall. At 6:00pm, the Solidarity Singers will lead the crowd in song.

UWMad@Palermo’s is a coalition of student groups dedicated to ending UW-Madison’s contract with Palermo’s Pizza, including the Student Labor Action Coalition, Working Class Student Union, United Council, ISO, and TAA.


WHY: It has been over 200 days since students first confronted Chancellor Ward to uphold the university's code of conduct and cut the contract with Palermo's and he has yet to take any action on this issue. Students have already utilized University channels including receiving recommendations from shared governance groups such as the Labor Licensing Policy Committee in November, receiving a resolution from County Board to support the UW-Madison cut, and having Palermo’s workers come to campus to meet with the Chancellor, and publicizing findings from the corporate investigation by the WRC (who found 4 separate code violations: health and safety, harassment and abuse, work hours, and freedom of association). Yet Ward has remained unmoved on this issue. Over 10,000 signatures have been gathered supporting UW-Madison cutting their contract with Palermo’s. Students will sit-in until Chancellor Ward agrees to uphold the University’s code of conduct and cut the contract with Palermo’s. Students and community members are joining together to hold Ward accountable for his lack of action in protecting and upholding the rights of workers who are directly connected with our university.

******* UPDATES*********************

This was more than a handful of students today.

Students were arrested. I am awaiting details.