Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Last Straw

Tonight I came across a posting on my union's bulletin board referencing this blog. Predictably, I got lambasted for it pretty quick. Basically, the poster felt that I shouldn't be discussing my employer's problems in a public forum. I disagree from the standpoint that problems within the regional airline industry and piloting profession should be discussed, and not just in the echo chamber of the union bulletin board. But, at this point, there's no good reason that I should identify who my employer is, as the challenges I discuss are by no means unique to them.

I've been having more and more coworkers find this site, and it's only a matter of time before I get "outed." There's no guidance for employees on this subject from my company - at least that I'm aware of - but that probably wouldn't stop them from disciplinary action or perhaps even termination. Given the reaction from fellow pilots, I don't know that I'd get much support from the union. Basically, this is the last straw. I'm anonymizing this blog.

**************

Scratch that. After sleeping on it overnight, and reading a few emails, I've realized that the genie is out of the bottle & there's no way to be truly anonymous at this point, if someone really wanted to know who I am. Rather, the best thing is just to omit the name of my employer. I'll be going through the old posts in the next few days and editing them, and also deleting any comments that name my employer. Sorry if your comment falls victim. In the future, I'd appreciate it if those who know my employer or guess it (it's really not that hard) would refrain from using their name in comments. I'll also be deleting pictures that have my employer's name in them. Let me know what ya'll think of this.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

check with queen of the sky (fired delta stew)about her experience.
Hope you don't quit blogging your stuff is great.

5:23 AM  
Anonymous C said...

It was bound to happen, sadly. As one of those career changer people, I appreciate people like you who talk honestly about what the industry is like. But when your blog gets outed, it's inevitable that people will try to control what you write and how you write it.
-C.

6:33 AM  
Blogger John said...

Hey S,

I feel your pain.

I've been asked to discuss several topics that would be really helpful to aspiring professional pilots. I want to pass on useful information, but the potential for controversy is very real. I always get a bit of a chill when I see that a visit to my blog originated from a certain corporate internet address.

Hang in there!

6:54 AM  
Blogger Flygirl said...

What BS! I'm sorry to hear all of this. What was so great about your blog is that it was personal. So much for freedom of speech, right!?!

7:06 AM  
Blogger GC said...

That sucks, Sam.

9:01 AM  
Blogger GC said...

Reminds me...I've been meaning to ask you to remove my name from my blog link in your blogroll. Just leave RantAir, if you like.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Herr Gokmop said...

Gokmop here, I wanted to make a few comments.

First of all, I'm a flight student and I stumbled onto your blog back in October or so when I was looking for more information on professional pilots. The series that you wrote on jobs in the industry was great and I've been reading since. So I feel like I've gotten a fair sampling of the content.

I know who your employer is, and although they were mentioned several times, for what it's worth I didn't read it as a very negative comment about your company in particular.

Still, I would tend to side with your company. I have also been an entrepreneur, and whether you like it or not, you may be inadvertently seen as a representative of your company. It's simply rarely (or never) a good idea to write something that could be construed as complaining about your employer in a way that's identifiable.

That doesn't mean you have to muzzle yourself - I would hope that your company is OK with you commenting on the industry in general, but I think it's reasonable to request that you not make negative comments about them while they're paying you.

You may have to get a bit more creative about the way you write things, but I hope this won't stop you from saying what you want.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your new approach sounds wise, keeping both you and the company "anonymous enough" to avoid confrontations that cannot benefit, but that possibly could hurt, your professional career. Publicly delivered comments are easily interpreted by some folks as inappropriate which often then leads to a poor over-reaction directed back at the originator. It's a small world after all!

6:05 PM  
Blogger OORANOS said...

Have a good time

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Ron said...

I'm definitely an outsider in this thing, but my impression is that this is going to make the union look bad, not you.

You're right, information about problems in the industry will make its way out one way or another. Trying to squelch it only puts forth the impression that the union has something to hide.

Your site serves many useful functions. It's a creative outlet for you, an informative and entertaining source for us, and goes a long way toward helping people understand what a pilot's life is really like.

If the union and the airline were smart, they'd be encouraging more pilots to write online.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Lost Av8r said...

Damn the man!

5:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be pointed out that Teamster membership at (unnamed) Airlines is not optional. Sorry you have to deal with the silliness.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous J. said...

So much for freedom of speech! Hopefully keeping your employer's name out of the blog will be good enough to keep you out of hot water. I'm glad you didn't just delete everything and say the hell with it.

If you haven't heard of this blog already, check out Queen of Sky http://queenofsky.journalspace.com/ She was fired from her employer over her blog, and it just so happens that she was employed in the aviation industry (as a flight attendant.)

Good luck.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Aviatrix said...

I think that's wise. Those in the industry can figure out who you work for, and that you're proud of them.

You have to think of your readers not as the people who actually read and comment, but as the readers of some newspaper, treated to a selection of comments culled by a hostile reporter and attributed to 'a disgruntled [your employer here] pilot.'

Don't say anything disgruntled--and your comments aren't. You sound exactly like someone who enjoys his job, and wants to fix any problems at his company.

Some people call it being a "shit disturber" when you point out problems. But if there's any shit lying around at my company I WANT it disturbed. I'd like a clean, shit-free company, thank you very much.

I was so glad when your post didn't say ... "so I've decided to stop blogging."

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Astroprof said...

This seems to be a problem in your industry. I have heard of flight attendants and pilots facing discipline for blogging that their employers didn't like. They seem to be hyper-sensitive to even the slightest criticism.

I agree, though, that making issues public and bringing them to light is more likely a good thing than a bad one. That comes from an academic, though.

At least in academia, the tradition of academic freedom allows us to be a lot more forthcoming in our opinions. Of course, tenure helps, too.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your co-workers have discovered this blog it seems that many of them likely share your sentiments regarding the contracting of ramp service at Seatac and many other airports. Airlines that have laid-off their union workforce must now pay the piper for the reduction in costs. I wonder how many of their customers realize the responsibility that has been handed to low-wage workers with no experience. With rising stock prices I'm sure that shareholders are pleased with these decisions - until there is a more costly accident.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Tuomas Kuosmanen said...

Hi!

I think you are doing the right thing - whatever I am interested in this blog is the stuff you write about - the insider view of a pilot job. It's an interesting read at least to me - a private pilot and a Finnish aviation club member in Helsinki (www.mik.fi). This is my hobby. Your writing gives a nice view from the other realm of aviation which I have no experience in.

In that light, whatever company you happen to work for is not really relevant. It might matter most to the people who work for the same airline perhaps, or who operate from the same airports. But for me, it's just another commuter company in the US :-)

So I think you made the right choice.

//Tuomas

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the company wants to nail you they will nail you - removing the name of the airline isn't going to help. Schedules, flights, all point in the direction.
It's just this problem that has stopped me from starting a blog. My life as an FO would be interesting or horrifying, depending on your point of view, but I'm pretty sure the company isn't too keen on seeing them :-)
Good luck!

3:37 PM  
Blogger AlexPope said...

It's true man, blogging about work related issues (regardless if the problems are unique to the company or not) can always lead to scrutiny. I think the term is called being "dooced." (When one is terminated for blogging about work) Anyway, hope it all works out.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Yikes, I think this post set a record for comments...too bad I didn't see any of them before now. A few additional points...

--Hey GC, I'm sorry I didn't see your comment earlier...after my own little incident I realized I still had your name up and I took it down.

--The company could still nail me, but I've seen what it takes to get fired at my airline. It's generally a lot more that just a blog. Also, wrongful termination is one area that the union has had good success in, and several people within union leadership indicated to me that I'd be forcefully represented if management took issue with my blog.

--The union did not take issue with my blog. Certain members of my union did, and mostly regarding individual posts. A number of other union members defended me on the BB, including several in leadership positions. I defended myself on the thread, explained the reasons I maintain the blog, and generally got positive responses and emails.

--I'm proud of who I work for. I think they're among the best regional airlines out there. That's the only reason I left their name up for so long, at my own risk. When I'm critical of the company on specific decisions, such as our contracted ramp service at LA, it's because I want this company to continue to prosper. If they really take issue with that sort of attitude, too bad.

--Teamster membership actually IS optional. Paying dues is not (if you're not a member, they call it a "contract service fee" or something like that.) I'm a member by choice and will continue to be even though a few other members may take issue with my blogging. I'm trying to get more involved in the union & do some volunteering, actually.

--I'm aware of what happened to QOS, numerous people have pointed it out to me. It's one of the contributing causes to me taking my employers name down, and I realize I'm still at risk, but it's a smaller pill that I'm willing to swallow.

--Thanks all for the support & for the suggestions, I appreciate it a lot.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm the guy on the union website that started the whole thing. The point that has been sorely missed here is not that I disagree with what Sam has to say, rather it is the simple fact that we are a unionized work group and we need to speak with ONE voice, and that comes from our Executive Council. I mentioned on our union BB that our specific issues should be covered there so that when the time comes the union leadership will make a public statement that leads us to our next contract. The fastest way to disolve a union is to lack unity. 700 different public voices could do that rather quickly.

Having gone back and read quite a bit of this blog I will agree that there is quite a bit of good information for any up and coming pilot which is what Sam said had originally driven his blog, in addition to updating family of course. I have no problems with sharing information with those who will ultimately be on my seniority list, we need well educated new comers.

As for the freedom of speach thing, I'm all for it. Everyone has the right to say what they believe. I would just ask this, "If Katie Couric began reporting all of NBC's short comings, would she still be employed by NBC?"

As an employee she has every right to criticize and try to improve NBC but I don't think the execs would appreciate her use of external means.

That also does not prohibit her from meeting with up and coming TV personalities and sharing the challenges of the business. Both concepts are very much associated with the first ammendment but one option maintains her employment as well as the public company image.

For the record, I disagree with many of the poor decisions made by our management just like Sam. I also am involved with our union and as a committee chair meet often, on my own time, to battle for what we deserve as the professionals we are. I'm not some cranky old fart that is soft on the company. I am probably just about as critical as the loudest nay sayer out there. I just believe that to be effective we need to use appropriate channels.

Sam, don't stop this. The people that need to learn about the industry are reading and they need insight. If you have the ability to write and keep up with this, then please do so on behalf of all pilots. As an industry, we regional pilots really lack unity and education is about the only way we can fix that. Please discuss the industry challenges and when you have an internal tid-bit of bad decision making by our management, share it in a place that some positive change could possibly come about.

Thanks for you efforts, and I'm really not a jerk.

J

4:26 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

J-

Thanks for commenting here, I was hoping you would. One of the strengths that blogs have over traditional informational media is transparency of reader response - it allows discussion and debate over what's been written, and provides more points of view than the reader might otherwise be exposed to.

I think since our initial exchange we've come a bit closer on our thinking. In reading your comments, I see that you "get" what this blog is about, and I appreciate your words of encouragement. I've thought more about what you've said about airing dirty laundry, and you were right - there's no point in telling potential passengers everything that's wrong with So-and-So Airlines, because their only potential response is not to fly us - and that won't make things change. Removing the name of the airline helps with that issue, I think. Really, the issues that *are* appropriate to discuss in a public forum are industry-wide, so the emblem painted on the tail is pretty irrelevant.

I think we still disagree on whether multiple pilot voices destroy unity or whether the Exco is most effective at public relations. I'll reiterate what I said on the union BB: If you have our 700 pilots talking, writing, and blogging about what we're trying to do, you're not going to have perfect message control, but people will listen, because it comes from credible individuals. To my mind, that's preferable to having a perfectly controlled message that nobody pays attention to because it's just another spin-doctered press release in a world full of them. I think this is a subject we're just going to have to disagree on. That's okay - when it comes to our committment to improve the lives of our pilot group and this profession in general, you and I are 100% on the same page.

I know you're not a jerk, J, and I hope my readers don't think so. They shouldn't after your comments anyways. Thanks for the work you do on behalf of our pilot group. I appreciate it.

-Sam

PS - Come back & comment again sometime!

8:31 PM  

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