Boston Globe distributor dismisses illegal workers
Islanders who look forward to reading the Boston Globe first thing in the morning may have been wondering why it was late the last several days.
Since Sunday, Shoreline News, the company that delivers Boston Globe newspapers on the Island, has been short-handed after the company fired five Brazilian workers on Martha's Vineyard who could not provide documents to prove they were working here legally.
Alan Larkin, the Boston Globe's executive vice president, said that when Shoreline News employees are hired, they are asked to produce a valid driver's license, which allows them to drive in Massachusetts and a valid Social Security number.
"We accept that as proof of legal residency, since you're not supposed to be able to get a driver's license if you're not legal and do not have a social security number," Mr. Larkin said. "And so my understanding is that all of these people had that."
However, with so many stories in the news lately about illegal workers, one of the Shoreline News managers decided it was time to review everyone's documents.
"We had asked the employees to substantiate the documents they supplied when they took the jobs, just as part of a routine check on that," Mr. Larkin said. Of the five Island employees, one woman admitted she did not have the proper documents, three men said they could not produce them, and a fourth man said he preferred to resign.
Shoreline News is an agency of RSI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Boston Globe that handles newspaper distribution on the Cape and Islands. The New York Times Company owns the Boston Globe.
Asked if the incident would effect a company policy change, Mr. Larkin said, "Well, I think we are constantly reviewing our policies, to make sure they're in line with what's required, and my understanding is that this is consistent with what needs to be done and with what other employers do." He added, "But we're going to verify this, to see if these are the right safeguards."
Many other companies may be reviewing their employees' documents as well, as Federal authorities step up enforcement. A recent action in nearby New Bedford is likely to echo across the Vineyard.
According to published reports in the Boston Globe, on Tuesday Federal immigration agents took about 350 workers into custody during a raid of a New Bedford leather goods factory. The workers were loaded onto buses and taken to Fort Devens for processing, where they will be held until court hearings in the next few weeks.
The Globe reported that most of the workers taken into custody are from Guatemala and El Salvador. If they are found to be working in this country illegally, they will be deported.
According to news reports, the waterfront company Michael Bianco Inc. employed illegal workers to produce safety vests and backpacks for the U.S. military. The arrests followed an 11-month investigation by federal officials. State and local law enforcement officers worked undercover, some posing as illegal immigrants and recording conversations with company officials.
Federal officials said two-thirds of the workers had fake Social Security numbers or numbers that did not match their names. Although employers are required to ask for employees' work authorization documents, they are not required to determine if they are authentic.
The raid occurred on the eve of a renewed move in Congress to take up the issue of immigration reform once again. This week, Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy plan to present comprehensive immigration reform legislation to members of Congress. Similar legislation in both the House and Senate failed last year.