As 48,000 grocery workers at Kroger-owned stores prepare to go on strike, Kroger subsidiary Ralphs is trying to hire scabs to replace them. In response, a coder on TikTok with a track record of flooding websites with bogus data has done much the same to the job application site, bombarding it with fake applications in the hope of disrupting the company’s hiring.
“My motivation for creating this bot [...] it was to disrupt Ralphs’ union-busting efforts,” the coder, who goes by the name Sean Black, told Motherboard in an online chat. Ralphs is a convenience store owned by Kroger based in Southern California. Black said the tool has filed over 23,500 applications so far.
In a TikTok video laying out his plan, Black shows viewers how to use a tool available through his bio to automatically submit a fake application to the Ralphs site.
“This way you can fulfill your dream of always working at Ralphs while also punishing a company that is union busting,” he sarcastically says in the clip. “Best of both worlds.” (After the publication of this piece, it appears that the Ralphs job application page became unavailable.)
Black points out that the application site doesn’t use email verification or a CAPTCHA system either, methods that would potentially curb this sort of activity.
“Companies are stupid and don’t take security seriously,” he concludes in the video.
Black told Motherboard the tool uses temporary email service Guerrilla Mail for the signup process, and also has the ability to switch to another service called Mail.tm if Ralphs tries to block the first option.
Ralphs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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In September, Black devised a way to flood a so-called whisteblower site looking for information on people seeking abortions in Texas with bogus data. He then created an easy-to-use iOS shortcut meaning even non-technical users could join in the effort.
Since then, he has made tools to flood a Kellogg hiring site with data when the company said it would replace striking workers. The Ralphs code works in a similar way, Black told Motherboard.
Black said he created the Ralphs tool after his friend Elise Joshi heard about the scab hiring and asked if he could do anything about it. On Twitter, Joshi tweeted on Tuesday, “I’m in class and successfully sending Ralphs’ false job applications using code made by [Sean Black].”
Black told Motherboard he “just wanted to do my part the best way I know how.”
Update: This piece has been updated to include that the job application no longer appears available.
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