Last week, Teamsters 856 confirmed that San Francisco Zoo Executive Director Tanya Peterson, and Robert Icard, Vice President of Operations, installed a feature on their portable radios that could turn any employee radio into a listening device without the employee’s knowledge. Because of the need to respond to animal emergencies, employees carry their radio with them at all times during work–including lunch and bathroom breaks–and were never told their private conversations could be monitored.
Essentially, employees could be bugged at any time. An additional concern is that the radios are GPS enabled. It would be possible, for instance, to know who is taking lunch together and then decide to listen to their conversation.
A non-union management employee blew the whistle to a union steward, stating he had overheard Icard and two other managers eavesdropping through the radio on another manager, and making fun of the way he talks. As a result, the Teamsters 856 members met with management the following Monday where it was confirmed that this eavesdropping capability had been installed.
Stewards David Carroll, Amy Corso, and Corey Hallman, along Teamsters 856 Representative Tim Jenkins, were flanked by more than 30 fellow SF Zoo Teamsters as they addressed reporters at news conference on the issue outside of the Zoo on March 19.
“As keepers, we carry the radios with us everywhere. The radios come into the bathroom with us, the radios come to our lunch breaks, our coffee breaks,” Corso told Channel 7 news.
“It’s super creepy, wrong, and possibly illegal,” said Jenkins.
Carroll, Corso and Hallman echoed Jenkin’s outrage at the possible privacy invasion, telling reporters of management’s attempts to thwart them from finding out more about the radio system through the manufacturer.
The discovery gained widespread media coverage, with Carroll, Corso, and Jenkins speaking to several news outlets.
Members have called for a full investigation into the eavesdropping capabilities, and have met with City officials to discuss their concerns.
In late February, SF Zoo Teamsters publicly announced the formation of a “Professional Practices Committee”, at the Joint Zoo Committee Meeting. The
Professional Practices Committee was formed by SF Zoo Teamsters in an attempt to bring ongoing issues at the Zoo to light in hopes of prompting swifter resolutions from top management.