This is when things went from ugly to uglier.
Two days later, the workers asked Palermo’s to recognize the union. The company refused, and also said that eighty-nine of the workers needed to reverify their immigration status within twenty-eight days due to an audit by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to the workers, they were also told to train a large number of temporary workers who had been brought into the factory that day. In response, the workers engaged in a brief work stoppage to protest their treatment.
The next day, a delegation of Palermo workers, elected officials, religious leaders, and Voces staff met with company officials. The delegation was informed by the company that ICE had shortened the 28-day reverification process to just ten days.
But the United Steelworkers contacted the local ICE office on the workers’ behalf and were told by the supervisory agent that ICE hadn’t given Palermo’s a specific deadline to reverify immigration status at all—not twenty-eight days, not ten days—no date.
“So we caught them on that lie—which showed this clearly wasn’t about immigration, it was about union-busting,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces.