Pilots Union Sues NetJets over Twitter Account

Lawyers suing over alleged action against members.

NetJets HQ

NetJets HQ

NetJets pilots are upset about an alleged effort by the fractional-ownership giant to use Twitter and other social media to impersonate union members as part of a would-be plot to "weaken and ultimately destroy the union."

Lawyers are suing NetJets Aviation over the alleged action directed against the 3,000-member NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots. The complaint, filed by the San Francisco law firm Kronenberg Rosenfeld LLP in U.S. District Court in Southern Ohio, claims that the fractional operator set up Twitter accounts that encouraged union members to "violate federal labor laws" and bait them into "supporting unlawful job actions." The lawsuit also alleges NetJets attempted to interfere with union elections, and in one Twitter message even threatened to blacklist pilots from other flying jobs if they left NetJets.

The messages that caused the biggest uproar were allegedly posted by Twitter user "TwinkieTheKid" under the handle @usedtobeproud. Union lawyers claim that NetJets management created the "imposter" account to pose as a union member. The account appears to have been active for three days in mid November when NetJets pilots were engaged in informational picketing in Las Vegas. Management also allegedly hung a Twinkie snack cake in its corporate offices along with photographs of union members, communicating the message that they were "under surveillance," according to the complaint.

The suit also charges that NetJets Aviation "unlawfully accessed and obtained confidential communications" from a password-protected union Internet message board. Lawyers for the union say that a member of NetJets' management team admitted to obtaining copies of confidential conversations that had appeared on the message board, making it impossible for union members to continue to privately discuss job-related concerns.

"The great lengths to which NetJets went to undermine the union is unconscionable," said Karl Kronenberger, a partner with Kronenberger Rosenfeld LLP. "Union members have the legal right to communicate with each other privately within their own Internet message boards, and, unfortunately, NetJets' actions, as detailed in the complaint, are inconsistent with their obligations under federal labor law."

The suit calls for the destruction of the confidential information and an injunction "barring further coercion," as well as monetary damages to be decided at trial.

NetJets did not respond to a request for comment.

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