As Fair Food activists gather today in Miami to deliver the first 75,000 signatures on a petition urging Burger King to eliminate slavery and human rights abuses from Florida's tomato fields, new information has come to light about who was behind online postings attacking the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an advocacy group that has been pressuring the company to take action. Turns out Burger King Vice President Stephen Grover posted the remarks using his daughter's online identity, the Fort Myers News-Press reports:
...[O]ften during the past year, when articles or videos about the coalition were posted on YouTube and various Internet news sites, someone using the online names activist2008 or surfxaholic36 would attach comments coalition member Greg Asbed has called "libelous."
This one, from surfxaholic36, is representative: "The CIW is an attack organization lining the leaders pockets ... They make up issues and collect money from dupes that believe their story. To (sic) bad the people protesting don't have a clue regarding the facts. A bunch of fools!"
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."
The petition campaign was launched following the December 2007 discovery of a slavery operation in which farm bosses in Immokalee are accused of locking tomato pickers inside trucks and beating those who tried to escape. The case represents the seventh slavery prosecution in Florida agriculture in the past decade. A Senate hearing held earlier this month focused on the inhumane conditions.
The petition calls on Burger King to follow the lead of Yum Brands and McDonald's by signing an agreement with CIW to improve wages for tomato pickers, adopt a zero-tolerance policy for slavery and monitor conditions for farmworkers. The company is currently working with the Florida tomato growers' lobby to fight the advocates.