Monday, August 18, 2008

Using the Internet as an Employee "Weapon"

This is the story of how the internet has been used as a "weapon" by employees to publicly embarrass a CEO.

Escalating charges and countercharges are not unusual in labor-management disputes, so it was no surprise when United Airlines pilots reacted — loudly — to UAL Corp.’s refusal to negotiate a new contract and the company’s announcement of plans to eliminate 950 pilot jobs and ground some aircraft to help offset the rising cost of fuel. The pilots union countercharged that the airline’s poor maintenance was responsible for four recent aircraft engine failures.

But the battle didn’t stop there. The United pilots launched a website called “Glenn Tilton Must Go,” “as a daily reminder to everyone invested in a positive future for United Airlines exactly where the source of our problems lies.” According to the pilots, that source is the CEO of United who, they say, has neglected the company’s day-to-day operations for two years, while he attempted to engineer mergers with Delta, Continental and US Airways.

The new website highlights the carrier's poor operational and financial performance, encourages passengers to report any problems they’ve had while flying on United and demands Tilton’s immediate resignation.

Readers have responded. Gerry Braun, a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter, for example, tells the tale of a family unceremoniously bumped off a flight the mother had booked six months in advance so that her grown children could visit their dying father in a hospice just once before he died of cancer.

Not only was the launch of the “Glenn Tilton Must Go” website bruited all over the blogosphere, it’s been widely covered by the mainstream media, including BusinessWeek , USA Today, The New York Times, the UK’s Guardian.

As of today, there’s been no official response from United. But the website strategy employed by the union has served its purpose. Tilton has, no doubt, lost support among his employees and the public. The speed of destruction was enabled by the internet and is there for a long time to come for everyone to see. Years ago it might have been a one shot press release covered once in the print and broadcast media.

Technorati Tags: internet, United Airlines, labor management disputes, pilots union, Glenn Tilton, Gleen Tilton Must Go, Gerry Braun, business, communications, public relations


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