May 3, 2013
Dear Chancellor Ward,
We are deeply troubled by your latest statement on Palermo’s Pizza, in which you conveyed a continued refusal to acknowledge the findings of the National Labor Relations Board and Worker Rights Consortium. UW-Madison has a history of upholding our Code of Conduct, which the university adopted for a reason.
You have repeatedly claimed to not have enough information to take action toward Palermo’s. This is despite the fact that last November, the National Labor Relations Board found Palermo’s in violation of numerous counts of violating federal labor law, including worker intimidation, physically blocking workers from going on strike, and illegally terminating 11 workers. Though the NLRB may have absolved Palermo’s of other charges, the threshold for warranting a contract cut is one violation. Additionally, on March 11, another unfair labor practice charge has been filed to the NLRB involving the firing of a worker for their union activity.
In addition to the NLRB decision, the Worker Rights Consortium, after an investigation of the Palermo’s plant, determined the company to be in violation of our university Code of Conduct, which establishes a higher standard of labor practices than the NLRB. To be clear, the Worker Rights Consortium performs their inspections contingent upon international labor law, and not the National Labor Relations Act.
We would like to remind you that the Worker Rights Consortium, on February 5th, 2013 recommended: “The WRC concluded that the company must take two key steps to comply with university codes of conduct. First, Palermo must promptly reinstate the striking employees it terminated or permanently replaced employees, with full back pay.” Palermo’s has made no effort to remedy neither the charges of the NLRB, nor the Worker Rights Consortium.
While you claim to be ‘deeply engaged on this issue,’ and to ‘have discussed this issue repeatedly with students, faculty, staff, and campus governance,’ you seem to have a misconstrued impression of what discussion actually entails. Members of the Student Labor Action Coalition first approached you on this issue in a letter on September 24, 2012. In the over seven months that have passed since then, we have consistently written to update you on the situation, with no response from your office.
On Monday, April 29th, students sat-in in your office because for over 200 days you have brazenly ignored our attempts to engage in a conversation on this issue, but even then, you chose to arrest these students, rather than engage in a dialogue with them. This was also your response in 1999 and 2000, when students raised the issue of worker rights, and now you have successfully cemented your legacy at UW-Madison as an anti-worker, anti-student Chancellor. Despite your overly severe reaction to the students who occupied the anteroom to your office on Monday, we will continue to defend the moral compass of the UW-Madison from your efforts to tarnish it.