[UPDATED, With Mouse Response] Lawsuit: Disney Encodes Its Workers' Social Security Numbers on ID Cards, Exposes Them to Identity Theft
Although the suit portends to represent more than 20,000 Mouse minions, it was strictly a Unite HERE/progressive OC labor movement affair--in addition to Unite HERE secretary/treasurer Ada Briceño addressing reporters, other speakers were Rick Eiden, executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, and Tefere Gebre, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation. And the three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit--Kristi Richards, Josh Stern and Jorge Iniestra--are all Unite HERE Local 11 members who have taken part in previous actions against Disney to highlight the union's years-long fight against Disney over a labor contract.
|Iniestra, backed by his colleagues, holding Disney's Mickey Mouse job of a warning|
With the rumble of an Anaheim Police Department helicopter above him investigating a suspicious package, Iniestra provided the best moment of the press conference. He claimed that a worker discovered that a smart phone app that reads bar codes was able to divine the Social Security numbers of Disneyland employees if they scanned their employee IDs with it. When Unite HERE went with their discovery to Disney management, he claimed, they responded by telling the workers to not lose their ID lest malevolent people decode their ID and grab their Social Security number. To further drive the point, they printed up fliers in English and Spanish warning workers to "Keep Your ID Close," with a photo of Mickey Mouse smiling at them.
Man, was Iniestra furious! But when a reporter asked how many Disney employees have had their identities stolen, Iniestra replied that a few had--then quickly stressed that he had no idea if said identity thefts were a result of someone decoding the IDs of the employees. The lawsuit calls for injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and "reasonable attorneys' fees and costs," with no dollar amount affixed to either of the demands.
Lurking on the edges of the press conference was the Disney PR machine: head spinner Suzi Brown and her right-hand man, John J. Nicoletti. Brown wasn't too thrilled when I greeted her, but Nicoletti was all genuine grins and shakes--he used to be the main spinmaster for Anaheim, and he was always quick to answer my requests for information back when I used to cover my hometown (and, to Suzi's credit, she's always been more than forthcoming to our requests for info--but we can't always sing butterflies and rainbows about Disneyland, Suzi!). We chatted for a bit, but when I asked for a comment, he handed me the following, with Brown listed as author:
We disagree with the legal premise of the lawsuit. Protecting cast members' personal information is a responsibility we take very seriously. The fact that Local 11 leadership is trying to sensationalize this situation, like many others over the past three years, underscores that they seem to have no genuine interest in resolving their labor dispute.
Hmm--no denial of what Unite HERE claims. More on this soap opera as it develops . . .
ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 22, 7:39 A.M.: Today at noon, more than a few employees at the Disneyland Resort will stand in front of the Grand Californian Hotel, a common sight over the past couple of years given the scorched-earth battle between the Mouse's hotel workers' union and the Mouse Himself. But that labor struggle won't be the purpose of the scheduled press conference--instead, some of those workers will announce their participation in a class-action lawsuit alleging Disney is forcing them to expose themselves to identity theft.
It's an interesting claim: Disney apparently encodes the Social Security numbers of its workers in ID cards, and the plaintiffs claim that there's an app for iPhone and Droid that can retrieve it.
How the app can do that isn't explained in the press release put out yesterday by Unite HERE Local 11, the union that represents Disneyland's hotel workers. But the potential thievery doesn't just involve them, but more than 20,000 Disneyland employees.
The Weekly will attend the press conference and have an update later in the afternoon. Details to come. . . .