October 2, 2007 there was a great victory in Arcadia, Wisconsin, for workers confronting unjust dismissals because of Social Security Administration No match letters. It was a strong example of what can be achieved by the unity of working people. Through this unity around 600 workers were protected from unjust dismissals based on the SS No match letter.
According to workers, around July, the Human Resources representative of Ashley Furniture gave strict orders individually to the workers that they did not have the right to speak to other co-workers or even family about the letters, demanded new and different documentation to re-verify work authorization, and threatened them with firings if they could not resolve the problem within 60 days.
Because of this intimidation tactic a lot of time was lost that would have allowed workers to seek out information about their rights regarding this request. Fortunately, shortly before their dismissal date, the workers sought out information and support. On the basis of that unity, the community was able to organize support.
A letter was sent to Ashley Furniture on behalf of Stellick Interpretative Services, a local business, Voces de la Frontera, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). The letter asked for a meeting with community representatives, an end to unlawful threatened firings and requests for new documentation, and the right of workers to communicate with one another.
United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) and Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) also sent letters in support of the workers’ rights. A labor attorney, Mark Sweet, submitted charges of unfair labor practices on behalf of the workers with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The workers made a decision to protest in front of the company if they decided to move forward on their plans to fire workers. A worker and the Director of Voces de la Frontera met with the company attorneys to find out what decision the company was going to take. The attorneys explained that no action would be taken against the workers until the national court clarified their rules in regards to these letters.
A recent national lawsuit challenges the new rule on SS No match letters because it may hurt workers with legal status.
When the workers were informed of the company’s decision hugs, tears, and happiness reigned among them.
This has been a great lesson for the majority of workers because regardless of what the federal court rules before October 11, 2007, this victory and others, demonstrate that in unity there is strength. Brothers and sisters, stand up, unite, and go forward.