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In wake of sit-in, demands for Ward to ties with Palermo’s Pizza grow louder
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 were demanding that the university cut ties with Milwaukee-based frozen pizza manufacturer Palermo Villa Inc over the company’s labor practices.
At 3:05pm, police officers arrived on the scene and declared the occupation to be an unlawful assembly. The police forcefully entered the office at 5:15pm, and arrests were made on all 12 students. All of the students were subsequently released.
While students were inside, over 150 other students and community members rallied outside of Bascom Hall to support the students sitting in and the Palermo’s workers. Palermo’s strikers spoke to the crowd and were joined by speakers from the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, the South Central Federation of Labor, and the National Lawyers Guild.
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 occupied the office in the hopes that Chancellor Ward would agree to cut ties with Palermo’s,” said Claire Hintz, one of the students who was arrested. “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 students who was arrested. “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.”
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.