“No-match” letters have become the weapon of choice as employers and the government step up their attack on immigrant workers.

The Social Security Administration sends these letters to employers advising them that information in the administration’s files do not correspond to information on employees provided by the employer, that there is no such number, that two or more people have the same number or that the name connected to the number is not the same in its records.

Some no-match letters result from errors: a misspelled name, transposed digits in the number, or an unrecorded name change. For this reason the letter advises employers that they are not supposed to fire the employee but, rather, to notify him/her about the discrepancy.

Many employers assume that a person about whom a no-match letter is received is undocumented and immediately fire the employee. In other instances, employees in whose name no-match letters are received simply walk away from their jobs, assuming they are sunk.

Reliable estimates say the SSA has sent no-match letters to as many as seven million workers, a huge proportion of the some 11 million undocumented immigrants, which threaten to undercut legalization efforts. Labor and community activists say an immigrant who loses a job because of a no-match letter doesn’t disappear but is simply forced to find another job under even worse conditions.

Thousands of workers have lost their jobs because of this. And although some employers profess to be sorry to lose their employees in this way, others show their fangs, going so far as to immediately offer the employee their job back—but with loss of all seniority, at a lower wage and no benefits. In other cases, immigrant workers involved in union organizing drives or strikes suspect that the sudden “discovery” of a no-match letter is a convenient union-busting tool.

At a recent workshop on the no-match situation, co-sponsored by the Chicago Federation of Labor and Chicago Jobs with Justice, several unionists talked about using contract language and grievance procedure to make sure that employers do not use no-match letters as a pretext for firings and union-busting.

UNITE and United Food and Commercial Workers, and perhaps others, are developing such contract languages. Labor activists in unionized shops also advise grievers to be thoroughly educated on this situation and prepared to go to bat for workers who receive no-match letters. All agree that the sudden blow-up of the no-match crisis makes the fight for legalization more urgent.

The campaign, coordinated by SEIU, but involving the active participation of Catholic and Protestant churches and hundreds of labor and community groups, to deliver one million post cards calling for legalization of the undocumented to Congress by Oct. 9, has acquired even greater importance.

The author can be reached at Zola2642@aol..com