Transit Union Blog Raises Consumer Ire

While blogs can be a boon for business, they also have the potential to backfire on their creators. Just ask the Transit Workers Union in New York City.

The group apparently set up a blog, TWULocal100.blogspot.com, to provide news and information about the transit strike, which started in New York on Tuesday. By midday Thursday, it had garnered 733 comments, according to caches of the comments pages saved by various bloggers. Nearly all were from angry commuters. "To all the transit workers who are on this blog and out in the freezing cold on the first day of winter--I hope that you understand the severity of your unlawful strike," wrote one commenter.

Others heaped invective on the strikers, with some posters advocating that all striking workers be fired, while others resorted to name-calling--"idiots" being one of the tamer insults.

Some transit union members and supporters also wrote in, although their comments were outnumbered by those of annoyed New Yorkers. One commentor, who identified himself as a conductor, upbraided the angry posters, writing: "Boo hoo, you gotta push your baby in 20 degree weather or you going to lose a day's pay....[I]f you were looking at injunctions and fines and lost wages and you strike anyway doesn't that tell you something?"

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After the comments began rolling in, the blog's operators shut off the commenting system, but the comments were still available online because other bloggers had created caches of the posts.

Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Intelliseek, a buzz-monitoring firm, said the experience shows that companies and organizations need to remember that blogs easily can become touchstones for negative buzz. "You should have a sense of where that sentiment is going to be leaning," he said. "Sometimes making comments available is a product of your level of confidence that the tenor of the conversation is going to reinforce your view."

In addition, Blackshaw said, there's a possibility that providing such a public forum for the airing of grievances could attract negative press, or simply become a proxy battle for larger political issues. "It was just intended for strike information, but it became a lightning rod for the anti-strike crowd," he said.

The union was probably not expecting to see an organizational blog filled with negative comments, Blackshaw said. "This is another example of where the blogosphere served as an organizing principle on both sides. I think that the union was surprised to the extent that folks opposed to the strike used the platform to organize."

The Transit Worker's Local 100 did not return calls for comment.

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