Burger Sting

"I think that employees at Burger King earn more than tomato pickers"

Burger Sting

Filed under: News

It can't feel good to get scolded by a nine-year-old. How about 100 of them?

Burger King vice president Steven Grover might feel like he's been sent to the corner after receiving several dozen handwritten letters of reprimand from children accusing his company of being stingy when it comes to paying farm workers. The notes were hand-delivered to BK's Miami headquarters last month.

Young Andre included a drawing of a blob figure with a toothy semismile and the headline "YOU CAN Change" in bubble letters. "I am your number one fan. I try to go to your restaurant any time I get to," he wrote. "Mr. Grover, please give one more penny to the farmers. They do break backing work every day and you only give them so little money."

Like the other letter writers, Andre is a pupil at All Saints Catholic School in Sunrise, whose teacher worked with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farm workers' rights group. CIW says the average Florida tomato picker earns about a cent and a half per pound, making even minimum wage doubtful, since that would require picking about 5000 pounds' worth in a 10-hour shift. The group has successfully pressured McDonald's, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC to increase pickers' pay by a penny a pound. Now CIW is going after the King.

One student appealed to the executive's softer side, signing his/her letter "Your Friend." Another tucked in a drawing of a three-tiered crown with the words "The King Won't Pay." Keith, age nine, wrote, "If you payed one penny more, you would help them and there family eat and go to collage. If you wood take one second to see."

Then there's Natalie, age 12, who, like several students, politely complimented Grover on his company's food before berating him, taking aim at the more cushy gigs of Burger King executives: "I am surprised that you will not pay one, single, tiny penny more for every pound to the tomato pickers.... I think that employees at Burger King earn more money than tomato pickers, but tomato pickers work longer harder." Janine Zeitlin


Return of the 'Fro Foe

Filed under: News

Back in the Seventies, Walter Clark slogged it out as a screw in the Dade County prison system. "Only the first floor was air-conditioned," Clark says. "It was a hellhole."

But his greatest foes were the corrections system's white administrators. In 1979, Clark fought a pair of one-day suspensions he'd received because higherups didn't like his Afro.

He won.

As president of the Organization of Minority Correctional Officers, Clark believes history is repeating itself. "Since the time I went through that hair situation back in the Seventies, there has never been a hair problem in the [corrections] department," he says. Until now.

This spring Miami New Times ran a story ("Frotesters," April 5) about a group of black corrections officers that was fighting department director Timothy Ryan's ban on dreadlocks, cornrows, and other Afrocentric hairstyles. The article lampooned the Irish-American director by depicting him in an Afro, replete with bling and gold caps.

After the story was published, a trio of guards began showing up to work sporting Afro wigs. They were told to remove them, and they did. But they kept bringing them to work. Nothing in the dress code bars hairpieces, but their supervisor recommended five-day suspensions.

In June the hammer came down: Sheldon Fancher was fired. Steve Johnson was given a 30-day suspension and asked to waive his right to appeal. Leonard Hardley received 20 days.

Clark notes that Fancher has consistently received outstanding performance reviews since 2004, his first year of employment.

Fancher's appeal hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday. In the meantime, all three employees have filed discrimination and retaliation suits with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ryan, through a spokesman, declined to comment because of the upcoming litigation.

Clark, now retired, has launched a livid campaign on the guards' behalf. "He is so angry about how [New Times] put him in the paper with an Afro weave that he took it out on them guys," Clark says of Ryan. "He's a racist. Or he's got problems with dreadlocks." Calvin Godfrey


Storm Season Stinks

Filed under: News

Don't be alarmed, South Beach residents. That suspicious substance covering a Bay Road sidewalk — you know, the one that smells and looks like what went down your toilet — might not be what it seems.

Mike Alvarez, Miami Beach's assistant public works director, blames the muck on a malfunctioning storm water drainage pump. "People think it's sewer, but it's not," says Alvarez, who is on 24-hour that-shit-shouldn't-be-there watch. He has been notified about the spot, on Bay Road between 14th and 15th streets, where stinky water with gobs of paper spews onto the sidewalk after tropical downpours.

Kat Weakley, a 45-year-old travel consultant, is one of the latest disgusted residents to call the city to squawk about the malodorous path she uses between her home and a supermarket on Alton Road.

"The guy was like, 'Yeah, we know about it, but we don't know what to do about it.' I'm like, 'That's your job.' The total lack of concern absolutely floored me. There's shit flowing down the street! It's just ridiculous," says Weakley.

Alvarez says the stinky muck is bubbling up because the new storm water pump station on Bay Road, installed by Miami Beach a year ago for about $700,000, gets overloaded in heavy rains, resulting in storm water drain overflow. More bad news for South Beach pedestrians: You're in for a smelly storm season. Alvarez says the pump will get fixed "hopefully by the end of the year." — Janine Zeitlin


More Housing Misdeeds

The Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust is in more trouble. The county-funded economic development agency has recently been the target of some scandalous stories in the Miami Herald, including an exposé on how the trust invested in a failed Liberty City biotech park. Now it's our turn: Earlier this week Riptide learned the trust paid $351,906 to an Atlanta-based development firm for undocumented and unauthorized work. To read more about the shady deal, go to www.miaminewtimes.com/riptide. Francisco Alvarado

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