DETROIT — Reaching agreements with the Detroit 3 on new labor contracts is a formidable enough challenge this year, but the UAW could have an even tougher time selling the deals to a membership with high expectations for raises and a growing distrust of the union's leadership amid a corruption scandal.
While the UAW plans its traditional spate of in-person meetings to educate the rank and file about the pacts it hopes to strike with General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, what it does — or doesn't — do to build support on social media could have the biggest impact on how workers cast their ballots.
The narrative on many union issues is now shaped in Facebook groups and on Twitter feeds. Without a strong presence in those debates, the union risks amplification of dissident views in the form of memes and angry comments that could snowball into rejection of the deals. Such opposition helped kill the union's first tentative pact with FCA in 2015.
"Facebook is where the conversation is happening today," Brent Snavely, a director at Detroit public relations firm Lambert & Co., who previously covered contract negotiations as a reporter, told Automotive News. "It presents the best, most efficient way for the UAW to engage with its members, clarify facts, debunk incorrect facts and rumors and explain the process to new members."
With the UAW going on strike at General Motors over the weekend, the demands for information will grow on the union's social media channels.