This is a strange and interesting story, which says a lot about why corporate executives need to leave online messaging and PR to companies or individuals that fully understand the medium.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is delivering petitions to Burger King headquarters today, to protest the company’s refusal to increase wages for tomato pickers who currently make only $50 a day.

The group has been engaged in a lobbying campaign for some time now. However, as reports, YouTube clips or internet news stories that were posted about the group were often targeted with comments from the screen names “activist2008” and “surfxaholic36.” For example, the article shares one comment left on a news story about the CIW by the screen name “surfxaholic36”:

“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!”

Curious to find out who was behind these postings, the News-Press reporter, Amy Bennett Williams, called the house of Burger King VP Steven Grover. But instead of talking to Mr. Grover, she instead spoke with his daughter, Shannon. When asked about the postings, Shannon responded:

“I don’t really know much about the coalition and Burger King stuff….That was my dad. My dad used to go online with that name and write about them.”

Yikes, busted by your own daughter. As one might imagine, Burger King is currently avoiding comment on this situation, probably while they try and figure out what the hell is going on and why their VP engaged in such moronic behavior.

So brief recap here. A Vice President at Burger King took to the internet to attack a coalition of farmworkers. Keep in mind, this guy wasn’t leading a noble effort to stop online child porn or anything, he was trying to tear down the reputation of a respected anti-slavery group who were fighting to raise the wages of tomato pickers from $50 to $70 a day.

These reports are a validation of the impact and power that messaging on the internet can have. However, it’s also a testament to the importance of knowing how to properly use the medium for messaging purposes, and the importance of using some form of disclosure that notes either who you are or why you are interested in an issue for which you have a financial or business stake. When people (like this Burger King VP) try and use the internet to attack other individuals or groups, without understanding the rules of the medium, they risk this kind of negative publicity. Odds are, the bad press from this discovery will be 1,000 times greater than anything beneficial that may have come from his original anonymous comments.

John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy comments:

“I think this shows a deep arrogance that a person at such a high level in the corporation would be directly involved in that type of harassment…This a huge black eye for the Burger King corporation. It’s the type of situation that lands companies in public relations textbooks on how not to engage the press, the public and your critics.”

One would think this is where the story ends. Burger King VP makes anonymous, borderline slanderous comments, gets busted, internet users scoff at the idiocy of corporate executives who fail to understand the risks, rules and limitations of the internet. But oh no, it gets EVEN MORE interesting. The first comment posted on the story appears to be from MRS. GROVER and is posted under the screen name “madmom2008.” Follow me below the fold to discover even more intriguing details about this story.

The comment from “madmom2008” is as follows:

“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.”

Wow. So if the charges of “madmom2008” are true, she is suggesting that the reporter, Amy Bennett-Williams:

  1. Solicited story information from a minor without parental consent.
  2. Deceived the Grover’s daughter, never making her aware she was speaking to a reporter.
  3. Published the online screen name of this young girl, destroying any chance she had of its continued use, and opening her up to “dangers of the internet.”

Wow. Someone needs to teach Mr. Glover the importance of knowing the protocols of how to best use the internet when taking on an economic/business opponent. Furthermore, someone needs to teach Ms. Williams to be a little more careful when fishing for stories from minors.

7 Responses

  1. Emily

    First of all, why the focus on tomato pickers? A lot of people in a lot of industries are underpaid. Anyway …. obviously the reporter is in the wrong, here. But I guess in an age where magazines happily fund the stalking, intrusive behavior of paparazzi, journalistic ethics and integrity just go right out the window. Pretty low and pathetic to use a child. In fact I think its downright disgusting.

  2. Nicole

    Wow! How dumb. I hate Burger King anyway. Their burgers taste like boiled then burnt a$$.
    Totally GROSS!

  3. James Siegel

    I work at Burger King, part time, but many people work full time there. For those people that is there only job, and the wages for a full shift range between 48-62 dollars a day…before taxes. 62 dollars is pretty much the max, expect for in a few special circumstances which are few and far between. These are real people, and they live solely on these wages. One friend of mine has a child due in two months and has to raise it based on this income and some part time work from his girlfriend…Seriously, the problem here is a everyone is creating a big fuss about what this guy (the VP) is saying about the issue, but the issue itself is the problem. Spending time and effort fighting BK to pay some foreign workers more then their somewhat-reasonable, and definitely comparable, wages is only going to cost Burger King corp a bunch of cash…cash that could go towards raises, bonuses or any thing else that could help the workers in your town. These groups should stop focusing on crap that doesn’t concern them and start working on the situation at home.

  4. James

    Clearly, James Siegel doesn’t get it … how about joining the tomato workers and demanding higher wages for all BK workers?

    Oh, right, it’s better to fight amongst yourselves to the rich VPs get richer.


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