The Wall Street Journal reports today on a long-running labour dispute in the US between the United Steelworkers union and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
What makes this dispute of special interest from the communication point of view is what the union is doing overall in communicating its position and its efforts to portray Goodyear in as poor a light as possible.
Advertising, for instance, specifically video and YouTube:
[The union] has launched an advertising campaign that spotlights, among other things, what it contends are the hazards of buying tires made by replacement workers. It also is tapping into the power of the Internet with one of its more inflammatory pieces — a [30-second] video spot on YouTube.com that climaxes with a car crash.
That’s not the only video the union has produced and has posted to YouTube – there are more featuring union president Leo W. Gerard attacking Goodyear and US government policies.
It’s the union’s use of the internet, though, that is raising eyebrows according to the Journal:
[…] The union has launched [Goodyear Alert,] a website focused on investors, where it seeks to undermine shareholder confidence by contradicting Goodyear’s relatively upbeat pronouncements about its ability to function during the strike.
The website is an interesting exercise in comparative communication – compare the Goodyear news there to the corporate news on the Goodyear website.
It’s a high stakes game as Goodyear’s share price has actually risen since the strike began last month.
What the union is doing is employing a mix of traditional online and social media communication channels as part of an integrated communication strategy that also includes activities such as leaflet distribution in local communities. This enables them to quickly create and take their messages out to different audiences in ways that reach and connect directly with those different audiences.
How effective it all will be remains to be seen. But what is without doubt is the union’s awareness of the power of online communication and the use of a social media channel like YouTube to reach out to a new audience in a new way.
Businesses take note.
A chain letter to boycott Goodyear tire & rubber products started Black Friday locally in the early stages, going full blown in a couple days to the 70,000 USWA members email list. then all unions nationally and to their members list a couple of weeks later I believe.