The next time Burger King VP Stephen Grover goes online to spread FUD about labor advocates, he should probably leave his daughter out of it. For one thing, she’s a horrible accomplice and will spill her guts to the first reporter who calls. For another thing, this forthrightness clearly makes her too ethical to smear a group that’s trying to bring pay for tomato pickers up to living wage levels.
Here’s the quick back story: tomato pickers in the U.S. are paid ridiculously low wages and treated badly, and some people are talking to fast food companies about increasing their pay by a penny per pound in order to help solve the problem. There was an agreement on the penny pay increase—McDonald’s and Taco Bell were okay with it—but that fell through after Burger King joined up with some Florida tomato growers to claim that the low-wage claims were false and the workers were treated just fine.
It’s gotten so bad that earlier this month, farm workers and their advocates testified before the Senate that claims of $12.50/hour wages were false, and that the industry has a history of worker abuse:
“It may not sound like much, but for the tomato pickers, it means the difference between poverty and decent wages,” Kennedy said. He invoked Edward R. Murrow’s landmark 1960 documentary “Harvest of Shame,” which detailed the grim plight of migrant workers in Immokalee and elsewhere.
“Too little has changed over the years,” he said. The fact that there’s a need for hearings today shows “how far we have to go to provide genuine fairness and justice for this vulnerable workforce,” he said.
“Do the math with me,” Durbin said in his opening statement. Workers would have to fill and empty a 32-pound bucket of tomatoes, each worth some 45 cents, about every two minutes all day long to earn the $12.50, he said.
“Is that possible?” he asked. “I don’t think it is.”
Sanders also decried conditions in Immokalee, pointing out that when he visited in January, a 17-count indictment was handed down for enslavement of tomato workers.
“In America, in the year 2008, it is not acceptable that workers producing the food we eat should live in these conditions,” he said.
Workers face seven-day work weeks, physical and psychological abuse, and debt bondage to their employers, said Lucas Benitez, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
To give Burger King an edge in the discussions, Stephen Grover took it upon himself to spread disinformation to the media, going so far as to hide behind his daughter’s email address. Classy work there, Grover. Where do you think you work, Whole Foods?
At one point, Burger King Vice President Stephen Grover told reporters he was concerned the coalition was pocketing the extra money. After several independent groups that verified the agreements dismissed the allegations, Burger King officials stopped repeating them.
But the allegations were repeated on blog posts, according to a story published Monday in The News-Press in Fort Myers. The paper traced those posts to the online user name of Grover’s daughter. The girl, who is in middle school, later confirmed to the paper her father had used her online screen name.
In a post still available Monday on YouTube, an individual with the girl’s screen name wrote: “The CIW is an attack organization lining the leaders pockets by attacking restaurant companies. They make up issues and collect money from dupes that believe their story….”
Messages left for Grover at work and at home by The Associated Press on Monday were not immediately returned.
Our favorite part of this is how Grover’s wife acts so offended that her daughter has been dragged into the story. Look to your husband, Susan! Don’t blame the press because the girl’s father decided to use her as a human shield!
His wife, Susan Grover, confirmed the screen name was their daughter’s but said she didn’t know if her husband had used it. She accused the News-Press reporter of not identifying herself as a journalist to their daughter.
Reporter Amy Bennett Williams said she did identify herself and told the girl she was taking notes. She also said she left all of her contact information, which the girl’s mother later used to call and complain.
In contrast to Susan Grover’s complaint, we’d like to give a shout out to the reporter, Amy Bennett Williams, who has been following the larger story since the beginning. She’s the main reason any of this has reached the general public in the first place.
“Farm worker advocates to present Burger King with petitions” [Fort Myers News-Press]
“D.C. takes up tomato pickers’ plight” [Fort Myers News-Press]
“The Harvest of Shame” — report from U.S. senator Bernie Sanders [OpEdNews.com]