Two weeks ago, I asked a Burger King spokeswoman whether the company had hired a private investigative firm to infiltrate the non-violent Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) or Coalition of Immokalee Workers(CIW). She declined to comment. I asked whether the company was aware of any executives making “libelous” comments against CIW via online posts and e-mails. Again, no comment.
Now we know why.
The Fort Myers News-Press linked Vice President Steve Grover to the anti-CIW posts that he made through “his young daughter’s online alias.” And in an explosive op-ed in the New York Times last week, investigative journalist and author of Fast Food Nation Eric Schlosser revealed that, in fact, the company used Diplomatic Tactical Services – a private security firm specializing in “covert surveillance” and “covert operations” – to spy on the SFA and CEO John Chidsey knew the firm had been hired to do investigations. Burger King’s Senior Analyst of Communications, Denise Wilson, told me that Chidsey “did not know about or authorize the use of Diplomatic Tactical Services to obtain information about the Student/Farmworker Alliance’s plans.” But when pressed on when he learned about it the company declined to comment. Further, when asked whether Burger King would continue to use Diplomatic Tactical Services or any other investigative firms to track either CIW or the SFA she said, “Burger King Corporation has the right and duty to assess security risks and to protect its employees and assets from potential harm.”
That’s a good-sized portion of doublespeak from the home of the Double Whopper.
As Schlosser pointed out, the fact is both the SFA and the CIW have a history of non-violence “inspired by the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” They are supported by the likes of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Pax Christi – the Catholic peace movement. That probably explains why when asked whether Burger King could point to a single act of violence or vandalism committed by – or advocated for by – any member of the Student Farmworker Alliance, the company again declined to comment.