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Blogging and Strikes

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73,000 United Auto Workers at 82 plants walked off their General Motors jobs and launched the first strike against GM in many years.

The action came as a surprise to many workers, according to a USA Today report, which noted some workers were “unnerved and are welling to make some concessions to help GM cut costs.”

Given that GM has two established blogs, you might think the company would use them to get its message across. So I visited both FYI and FastLane to see how GM was applying social media to the labor situation. For example, a blog post could outline the company’s strategy for reducing costs, its plans to return to profitability, and the last deal the company offered before the union called the strike. (Frontline members who weren’t able to vote on the proposed contract might wonder why they were never given the opportunity—and take that question to their shop stewards.)

Ultimately, GM took the middle road. Opting not to remain silent, Christopher Barger GM’s director of global communications technology, posted a brief statement to the Fastlane blog that explains why the blog is not an appropriate venue for talking about the strike:

…as I am sure that you can appreciate, these are sensitive times involving sensitive negotiations; a public blog is not the appropriate place for us to be commenting about them, nor do we think it’s constructive to entertain a discussion of labor issues here.

This afternoon, we issued a statement regarding the UAW’s decision; to this point, that is our only statement on the topic. Any future comments we have will be issued via press statement, and not here on FastLane. Thanks for understanding.

Commenting is disabled on the post, which makes sense since it’s clear the blog will not be open as a venue for discussion of the issue. So GM has used its blog for more than most companies would during a labor action, and less than it might. Ultimately, blogs (or whatever they evolve into) will serve as a channel for conversation about labor issues as much as anything else. GM’s acknowledgement of the strike on its flagship blog is an encouraging first step. I expect the next time (or maybe the time after that), the company will decide to let the conversation happen.

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