The vigil outside the chancellor’s house Wednesday to protest the University of Wisconsin’s alleged exploitation of former Palermo’s Pizza employees appears not to have changed the status quo.
Chancellor David Ward issued a statement that UW will maintain its contract with Palermo’s for the time being. The statement came in response to a letter from UW’s Labor Licensing Policy Committee, stating the university broke its Code of Conduct.
LLPC Chair Lydia Zepeda noted the university abused its labor licensing contract with UW through issues regarding union formation, firing workers on strike and violating health and safety regulations.
Ward cited the National Labor Relations Board’s November decision that the majority of the alleged labor law violations against Palermo lacked merit.
He went on to endorse the university’s continuing relationship with the UW Athletics and Wisconsin Union sponsored pizza company.
According to the statement, Ward said university officials and he believe taking any action against Palermo’s would be “premature” without reviewing the final findings of NLRD. Still, Ward said he “acknowledged” the viewpoints of LLPC and Workers Rights Consortium, which issued a statement Tuesday stating Palermo committed “serious violations” of U.S. laws regarding worker rights and that remain ongoing.
Ward said there are “clearly contradictory” findings between reports from NLRB and WRC. He added in his statement it is in UW’s long-term interest to continue “productive” relationships with its licensees and the Wisconsin business community.
Student Labor Action Coalition Member Lingran Kong said the organization will continue organizing against this issue after Ward continued to avoid the situation after SLAC came to Ward’s house and demanded he take action.
It is not a substantive statement and it is disappointing Ward thinks the university has done nothing wrong, according to Kong.
“I think he’s just making up excuses,” she said. “The facts are all laid out in front of him.”
Kong said Ward’s record regarding labor issues since ascending to his Chancellor position has been a major frustration compared to UW’s previous record cracking down on similar issues, such as cutting ties with Nike in the spring of 2010.
“We used to be a leader in all of these issues,” Kong said. “Now we see all these other schools stepping up while UW-Madison and Chancellor Ward are basically sitting around twiddling his thumbs.”