UAW Forced to Face Fiat and Facebook

detroit-social-media-uawAs UAW talks with Fiat Chrysler continue one thing is evident: While negotiations between the union and automakers are traditionally fraught with tension, social media can make them even more contentious and complicated.  Detroit News reporter Michael Martinez examined this very dynamic in his piece, “Social Media Tool for UAW Members to Vent Anger,” published today.

Whether negotiating contracts or trying to keep any type of news or information under wraps until it is ready to be communicated to a larger population, today’s world of instant communications and social media make confidentiality incredibly complicated. Leaks, rumors, innuendo – all can be put forth by virtually anyone at any time and shared with the masses.  To that end, it has never been more difficult for any organization to control and disseminate information that is accurate, on message and well timed.

Martinez called me for perspectives for his article, asking a couple of key questions: In the wake of scores of negative posts and tweets on social media regarding the proposed contract, how should the UAW respond?  And, could they have done anything differently?

As I said in the paper, the very nature of social media can quickly spawn an electronic mob mentality, leading to pseudo e-protests and rallies, especially when volatile issues are involved.  What the UAW should be doing now and moving forward is focusing on communicating accurate information and their rationale to their constituents early and often. That includes not only social media but all communications avenues.  The UAW can’t necessarily manage the masses but they can manage the message.  And while it does not represent another person at the bargaining table Facebook, Twitter and the rest do represent for the union a challenge that is formidable.