On behalf of pizza workers, students give Costco a piece of their minds
University of Washington students made a special delivery to Costco’s headquarters Aug. 24.
They brought a cardboard pizza that said “Costco Values” to the company’s Issaquah offices. One slice was covered with purple and green “mold” and topped with two “severed fingers.”
The action was part of a campaign by the UW chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) to protest labor conditions at a Wisconsin factory that makes Costco’s Kirkland brand of frozen pizzas.
The students want Costco to turn up the heat on Milwaukee-based pizza-maker Palermo Villa, which is in a labor dispute with its factory workers over working conditions at the pizza plant.
Costco purchases about 60 percent of the pizza Palermo Villa produces, the students said. Because orders from Costco represent a big piece of Palermo Villa’s business, the discount retailer can pressure the pizza maker to improve working conditions for employees, the students say.
About 100 Palermo Villa employees walked off the job June 1 to protest the frozen food company’s poor health and safety record and what they say are corporate threats to terminate employees for organizing a union, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Seattle-area protest was part of a national, student-led campaign on behalf of the workers which includes a boycott on Palermo pizzas, including the Kirkland-brand pack of four frozen pizzas sold at Costco. The AFL-CIO endorsed the boycott (sliceofjustice.com) last month.
As for the mock pizza the student activists brought to Costco, no one at the company wanted to accept it, despite free delivery.
Costco also refused the students’ request to talk with someone in charge of the company’s contracted suppliers, and did not return calls for this story.
Students say their boycott is directed at Palermo Villa, not Costco.
“Costco on the whole is a pretty good company,” said Leo Baunach, a UW student.
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