This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 at 7:56 pm and is filed under Consume!, The Political Weblog Movement.


[NOTE: a lot of this will seem familiar to most regulars... but I'll only be mentioning one obvious name that came up recently anyways.]

The CIW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) recently found a spy in their midst. They have also been the victim of a series of anonymous comments questioning their honesty, integrity and motives.

See if you can spot the cleverly hidden smear in this statement from Burger King denying their involvement in such things;

“I have no idea what should be secret about helping farmworkers” – Keva Silversmith, spokesperson for Burger King (source)

An entertaining intervention from Mr Silversmith, but the man to watch here is Steven F. Grover, Burger King’s vice president in charge of food safety, quality assurance and regulatory compliance (i.e. ethics).

Steve Grover was last year compelled to withdraw several claims and suggestions that he could not substantiate about the CIW pocketing money meant for workers.

Soon after that, someone was making very similar claims anonymously:

Take a look at this comment by ‘Activist2008′ under an article by Amy Williams:

Activist2008 wrote:

Unfortunately, with a little research you will find that the CIW is a self-serving attack organization that has no real members. See their IRS filing form 990. (http://dynamodata.fdncenter.org/990s/990search/esearch.php ) The CIW creates conflict and spreads misinformation to reap millions in cash. As I read in your article Burger King supports the CIW’s goals and has has tried to work with the CIW. Why don’t you question that with the CIW?. Sounds like you support the unquestioned internet extortion tactics the CIW is so good at. For 6 years the CIW protested YUM, McDonald’s and now Burger King and the workers in Immokalee are not seeing a single penny of the money nor audits. The CIW has accomplished nothing in the last 6 years with its self-serving missinformation and attacks. The CIW is not helping the workers by speading this missinformation and asking others to follow in its self serving attacks.

3/6/2008 1:18:28 PM

Now take a peek at a comment by this same individual under another article by Amy Williams about these and other anonymous attacks being traced back to Burger King:

Activist2008 wrote:

What a paranoid rant, I have never seen such a crock. For the record my comments are my own and have nothing what so ever to do with Burger King. I like how you attack your reader s freedom of opinion and speech! Sounds like my poor little opinion has really made the CIW mad along with their little writer. Tells me that the CIW has something pretty big to hide and might just be up to no good? Instead of the paranoid rant how about proof that the workers are really getting the money the CIW says they are. I suspect changing the subject is a lot easier than that proof!

4/13/2008 9:42:57 PM

We’re really in familiar territory here, aren’t we? There’s an added highlight posted under the equally convincing username ‘humanrights’…

humanrights wrote:

I note that the CIW is always attacking and trying to pick a fight with Burger King, Subway, Whole Foods Chipotle and others? If the CIW was truly about helping workers why are they always on the attack, picking fights and so totally paranoid. Any real human rights group that is truly out to help workers would be happy to have a big company attend their meetings. The company might learn something! Now the CIW is calling that spying! Clearly the CIW must have a lot to hide and I don’t believe they are out for the workers at all.

4/15/2008 3:45:28 PM

Activist2008 was also active on YouTube under the name ‘activist2′. This since-deleted comment was made 3 weeks ago under this video of a CIW demonstration and press conference

activist2 (wrote):

The CIW is a self-serving attack group with no real worker members. The CIW creates conflict and spreads misinformation to unquestioning duped supporters via the internet. The CIW reaps millions in cash from unknowing or duped supporters. Burger King does not hire tomato pickers, you might as well protest yourself for buying tomatoes in the supermarket. The protesters are supporting the CIW extortion tactics to line the CIW’s pockets. Who is really exploiting the workers!

Again, I ask you to compare these comments with a recent view/position expressed by Mr Steven Grover…

Independent – Slave labour that shames America: “We see no legal way of paying these workers,” said Steve Grover, the vice-president of Burger King. He complained that a local human rights group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers “has gone after us because we are a known brand”. But he added: “At the end of the day, we don’t employ the farmworkers so how can we pay them?”

Now we’re near the really fun bit, and some very, very familiar ground. Watch this:

One month ago, ‘activist2′ posted the following to another CIW video

activist2 (wrote):

The CIW is a bunch of fools who don’t have a clue how the world works. People need jobs and these folks are protesting the wron people.

But the most interesting entry is this entry from two months ago by ‘surfxaholic36′ under that same CIW video

surfxaholic36 (wrote):

The CIW is an attack organization lining the leaders pockets by attacing restaurant companies. They make up issues and collect money from dupes that believe their story. To bad the people protesting don’t have a clue regarding the facts. A bunch of fools!

That second comment was made using the YouTube account of… the daughter of Steven F. Grover, Burger King’s vice president in charge of food safety, quality assurance and regulatory compliance (i.e. ethics)!

Amy Williams – Daughter of Burger King VP says dad wrote anti-coalition postings: Although Shannon Grover also uses the name surfxaholic36 – mostly on social networking sites – she said the anti-coalition posts are her father’s alone. “I don’t really know much about the coalition and Burger King stuff,” she said, reached by phone at the family’s Miramar home Friday. “That was my dad. My dad used to go online with that name and write about them.” Asked if she’d ever written about the coalition online, she was adamant: “No, that was my Dad. That was him.” Steven Grover did not return calls to his home or office, nor did Burger King spokesman Keva Silversmith respond to calls and a request to speak to Burger King CEO John Chidsey.

Click here and scroll down for the rest of that article (it’s under a mirror of the AP article)… oh, and do look out for this comment that appears to be an authentic intervention from Mrs Grover. Watch closely as she plays the victim, lays the smear and makes her threat:

mdmom2008 wrote:

This is a little girl, far from 18 years old! This reporter and publication choose to cross that gray area and speak with her, without parental concent. The reporter, according to my daughter, did not make it clear that the was a reporter, only giving her name and that she was from Ft. Myers. I, as her mother, am livid that the Senior Managing Editor Cindy McCurry Ross allowed reporter Williams to expose the screen name and personal name of my young daughter, exposing her to the dangers of the internet. I am even more so apalled, as Ms. Ross states that she is a mother too, and she understands, but it seems she is more interested in producing this type of yellow journalism, than protecting children and tomatoe pickers alike. She also refused to give me the steps involved to get Shannon’s info. She suggested she close any use of identity they used. So, this child who as you can imagine, has not been to PR training was frightened and still recovering from this incident.

4/28/2008 1:47:59 PM

Later in that same thread, ‘humanrights’ makes a welcome return…

humanrights wrote:

Well it looks like this totally proves what surfxaholic36 was saying. The CIW and their writer at the News Press are far more interested in attacking Burger King and anyone associated with the company than helping farm workers! What does all this have to do with helping farm workers at all. Comrad Williams you ever heard of free speach? My guess is you do not think much of it and would stamp it out if you could.

4/28/2008 10:53:54 PM

Yes, that’s the spirit. You keep reaching for that rainbow… and a bloody spell-checker!

(ahem)

I would like to make my position on this clear if I may:

This was a clumsy, blunt, and downright dirty PR campaign to begin with.

Exactly how much of the anonymously-delivered portion Steve Grover was directly responsible for remains unknown, but he either knowingly posed as his daughter in order to anonymously smear the CIW or (more likely) was doing a little work from home and – like Grant Shapps – used the wrong account during this sock-puppeting attempt.

For that alone he deserves sacking.

Unless of course Burger King are a bunch of bastards who reward such behaviour, in which case Grover should get a raise and his daughter should get a pony (or a car, depending on how old she is)… if she can be convinced to play ball and keep her mouth shut in future.

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UPDATE (10pm) – I just spent a few lazy minutes trying to find out how reporter Amy Williams might have made the Grover connection and/or discovered the number for the family home. I got very far, very fast. I tried it again from another angle and quickly ended up with the same information, plus some added details for Mrs Susan/Susie Grover… who will probably shout at me if I show you those details and the names and photos of both of her young daughters that she herself has published online alongside a nickname/email used by Shannon, thereby (*dramatic pause*)… exposing her to the dangers of the internet!

[Psst! At that same location, Steven Grover also makes a contribution which neatly ties everything back to his role at Burger King; the page displays the bulk of Steve's work IP address next to his entry which is in the range 65.174.40.112-119 and most likely to be 65.174.40.114 specifically.]

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UPDATE – A lovely round-up from The Consumerist

UPDATE – Oh, and I really should mention that while Burger King is using the cheapest of tricks to cheat workers out of a pennies, they are also launching a $170 burger in the UK. Class.

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UPDATE (30 Apr):

1) My tracking reveals that a few people from the Burger King Corporation dropped by last night. One of them had a bit of a poke around. Hello Burger King, peeps. With you in a sec…

2) All comments from the latest Amy Williams article were deleted at some stage last night. Since then, a number of other comments have been published screaming about the right to free speech, liberal Nazis, etc…. it never gets old, does it? Emailing, watching and waiting today to see what happened to the old comments.

3) Mrs Susie Grover has removed some of the sensitive material that she herself put on the web (this time, it was her turn to exploit Shannon in pursuit of a buck) but I won’t be linking to it or even dropping hints about where it can be found, as it still reveals their home address, Susie’s mobile number and a fax number which is actually their main phone number at home. (She’s the wife of a VP and she can’t afford a dedicated fax line? Burger King must be squeezing every penny.)

4) Most of Mrs Grover’s gripe is likely to come down to the reporter initially assuming that young Shannon was 18, because Shannon claimed to be 18 on one of her main online profiles. If the Grovers can’t be bothered to check their daughter’s public profiles – when not using them to engage in flame warfare for their corporate masters – then they’ve only got themselves to blame and they have no place playing the victim or waving little Shannon in our faces (again).

shannon profile data

5) Psst! Mr and Mrs Grover! You might want to have a quiet word with Shannon about toilet-papering people’s houses. Seemingly harmless pranks like this can end in tears. Perhaps Steve can sit down with her for a bit and teach her how to treat other people with kindness and respect.

6) Hello again, Burger King peeps. Will you be firing Steve Grover over this smear campaign or not? Normally, I wouldn’t expect you to, but a VP using his daughter’s YouTube profile to smear activists looms before you as an international PR disaster. Just something to think about.

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UPDATE – One of the photos published by Mrs Grover is a classic of the ‘family portrait at the mall’ genre (right down to Vaseline on the lens), and I wanted to share it with you. I tried a version using facial pixelation, but that seemed too creepy. This is better, yes?

Steve Grover