A new front opens in a Southern California grocery store labor dispute: TikTok

Labor disputes are as old as capitalism itself, but the battlefields on which they play are constantly evolving.

That’s a lesson Ralphs learned this week when Southern California grocery workers voted for him Permission to strike A digital activist has thrown a TikTok-shaped wrench as part of the chain’s effort to pre-empt strikes by hiring temporary “scabies” workers.

Activist Shawn Wiggs, published under the screen name Shawn Black, said on viral video He uploaded it to TikTok on Tuesday. “Let’s say you’ve always dreamed of bringing an app — or multiple — to that particular Ralphs store.”

Wiggs then directed viewers to a computer script that he said would, with just a few clicks, flood Ralph’s recruitment portal with fake job applications. He told The Times that the text facilitated more than 25,000 such submissions.

“This way, you can fulfill your dream of always working at Ralphs while also punishing the company that violates unions,” Wiggs said rudely in the video, which has now been viewed more than 35,000 times and was It was first reported on by VICE. “The best of both worlds!”

The job page in question is no longer active; QR Code Guidance Applicants there lead to a gray page and the message: “This job cannot be viewed at this time. It has either been deleted or is no longer available.” Wiggs said in his TikTok video that the site lacks basic protection against automated spam attacks like email verification or Captchas anti-bots.

“It is disappointing that these failed attempts were intended to confuse [a community’s] John Votava, Ralph’s representative, said in an emailed statement. “To be clear, we are focused on coming in [an] agreement with [the United Food and Commercial Workers union] That would eliminate the need for temporary workers.”

Votava did not say why the job site was down or whether it would come back again at any point in the future, but said the company had “successfully recruited temporary workers for all sites”.

Tens of thousands of union members voted to allow a strike if their wage demands were not met during impending contract negotiations. Besides Ralphs, a subsidiary of Kroger’s company, other chains that could go on strike include Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions.

“Technology gives the community another way to stand in solidarity with us and we appreciate the support,” Ashley Manning, a cashier at the San Pedro Ralphs store and a member of the employee negotiating committee, said in a statement emailed to The Times. Trade union spokesperson. “Hopefully Ralphs will get a message to stop their anti-union behavior and negotiate a fair contract.”

This is not the first time that social media has been used as a tool for labor activism. Warnings about picket lines to avoid crossing quickly on Twitter and digital communication tools can prove invaluable in standardizing workplaces — especially those without one central office. Social media has also helped economics workers on platforms like DoorDash Organizing strikes.

In summer 2020, TikTokers Use the app to me Ticket booking coordination Much For a gathering then-President Trump was planning, hoping to leave the venue mostly empty when they didn’t show up to claim their seats. The event had a lower-than-expected turnout, although it is difficult to trace this outcome to any individual activist effort.

Some trolls too Use bot scripts To stop their enemies or ban them from TikTok by flooding the platform’s complaints system with reports of content infringement.

Wiggs is a veteran of this type of computer code activity. His anti-Ralphs tool is one of the many scripts he has developed.

He said he has coded similar programs to support organized labor actions in Kellogg, where workers walked off the floor of some of the company’s grain mills in late 2021, and at Starbucks, where workers went on strike this year in cities like Kansas City and Denver amid a widespread union crackdown. He also encoded a script to flood a website with false reports of violations of the new Texas anti-abortion law; The law promises rewards to those who report to others about obtaining or assisting with an abortion.

Wiggs added that this type of “digital labor activism” is on the rise and will continue to grow in popularity. It allows people like me who are not in the strike zone, and are not directly involved in it, to provide support from wherever we are. This is the power that the Internet provides to people who want to make change.”

Although Ralphs’ initial job listing is now offline, Wiggs’ work continues. Using QR codes found on Reddit The famous “anti-work” forumIt has added two more store-specific Ralphs app portals to its code base, he told The Times.

As of mid-afternoon on Wednesday, one of those two gates appeared to have malfunctioned. For now, the other one still stands.

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