Tuesday, May 27, 2008

'No-match'? How about 'no-sense'?

In another sign the donkey from “Shrek” is really running the country, a much-respected restaurant operator in Minneapolis is reportedly being picketed, petitioned, denied business, flayed on the internet and possibly left short-staffed, all because it followed the White House’s rules for countering illegal immigration. Straight from the files of Ripley‘s is this account of a company getting caught in a disastrous tug-of-war. And if that’s not enough of a sideshow draw, consider the really amazing part: It could be a preview of what’s in store for other restaurateurs if the government makes good on a pledge to drop more no-match letters into the mail within the next few weeks.

The tale began last fall when the D’Amico & Sons chain received a batch of the letters from the Social Security Administration. The letters, if you’ve strangely never had the experience of receiving one, alerts employers that the Social Security numbers provided by an employee don’t match the information in the agency’s data banks. Perhaps the numbers were assigned to someone with a different name, or the number just doesn’t exist. Or perhaps the new hire was recently married or divorced and is now using a different surname.

Regardless, the employer is given the heads-up that the discrepancy has to be reconciled. Otherwise, the Bush Administration would like the employees to be canned because they could be illegal immigrants using bogus I.D.s. It tried without success late last year to make that preference an obligation, but was thwarted by the courts.

In any case, D’Amico dutifully alerted the 15 or so employees of the no-match notices. According to reports by media ranging from Minneapolis Public Radio to the Twin Cities Daily Planet, the employees were given seven months to rectify the mismatches of information. Initially, according to the reports, the staffers were told to write the Administration. Later, D’Amico execs advised them to go visit agency and clear up the problems in person.

Only one employee apparently followed the counsel. The rest did not settle anything with Social Security. So D’Amico fired them at the end of March.

The company acknowledged that no-match letters aren’t yet grounds for firing people. But it also argued that some employers have been accused of helping illegal immigrants break the law because the companies had unresolved no-match letters in their files. The unheeded communications were taken as signs of complicity.

According to the MPR report, D’Amico said it terminated the employees, including several with more than a dozen years of tenure, because they didn’t follow the company’s directives.

The weeks since have made D’Amico the targets of such big-name dvocacy groups as the Students for a Democratic Society, the Industrial Workers of the World (better known as the Wobblies), and the sanctimonious-sounding Workers Interfaith Network. The discharged workers have also turned for assistance to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that they were the victims of prejudice since all were Latinos.

Meanwhile, petitions have reportedly been drafted, and Minneapolis-based bulletin boards carry consumers’ accounts of seeing picket lines outside the restaurants they’ve known as customers. Some delivery trucks apparently refused to cross the pickets. The Wobblies claim that some D’Amico employees staged an impromptu sit-down at one restaurant.

“I went to D’Amicos often and loved their food and ambiance,” said one poster on the Daily Planet’s website. “I will be boycotting the company from now on.”

MPR said in its report that a banquet customer cancelled its booking with D’Amico because of the situation.

Meanwhile, the federal government apparently hasn’t commented on the situation, much less clarified the obligations and rights of both parties in the matter. Instead, it’s silently leaving D’Amico as its proxy.

After a court struck down the Bush administration’s efforts to require employers to fire staffers who can’t fix a no-match situation, officials from the Department of Homeland Security expressed confidence they’d eventually prevail in their efforts. It indicated at the time that it would address the objections that prompted a federal court in San Francisco to strike down the fix-it-or-nix-it aspect of the law. Among the flaws that were cited by the court was the mere 90 days that was granted to fix a mismatch in Social Security info. That and other concerns prompted the court to bar the Social Security Administration from sending out letters that threatened penalties. The SSA said it didn’t have time to fix the content and resume sending the no-match letters, and suspended the practice.

But the agency said it planned to address a court directive and resume sending no-match letters again in the spring of 2008. The season ends on June 19, or about three weeks from now.

1 comment:

  1. I usually agree with most of your comments but the Bush Blaming and hating has gone to a new high. It is truly sad how this restauranteur has been caught in the crossfire but last time i looked the "pontius" democrats controlled the senate and the house. Maybe less time on pork and more time on a coherent immigration policy, but then that would require growing spines which is a challenge for invertebrates.
    Its raining,, damn that Bush. Gas is too high, damn that Bush. So much for the blood for oil. We can't hire illegals. Damn that Bush. My food cost is too high. Damn that Bush. My service is inconsistent. Damn that Bush. There is too much competition. Damn that Bush.

    At least Bill felt your Pain. All $110 million in the last 10 years.

    Sincerely, Steakman