Canadian Airline Files $4 Million Libel Suit Against 22 Striking Fuel Workers Over Twitter Account With ~200 Followers

from the seems-a-bit-extreme dept

Labor disputes can certainly get nasty at times, but Porter Airlines out of Canada has filed a $4 million libel lawsuit against some striking fuel workers based on tweets they sent out, which the airline claims involved "false and misleading information about safety protocols and training practices" by the airline. The strikers, who only just unionized last year, include just 22 workers who handle helping to fuel up the planes. Their twitter account, @PorterStrike, only had about 200 followers at the time (though it's now up to a whopping 400). The union quickly hit back, saying that the tweets were protected free speech, and no different than typical striking talk by union members:
“Before Twitter and social media, these things would have been said in a union hall and on a leaflet,” said COPE Ontario legal representative Glenn Wheeler. “The Charter of Rights provides for free expression, freedom of association. So we think we are in our constitutional rights to offer our version of the way we see things. That’s fair comment.”
That's an interesting choice of words, because he doesn't actually say that the statements were true, which would be the best defense to libel. However, even if the statements were questionable, one has to wonder how much actual "damage" they might do. One would like to expect that statements made by striking workers against their employer would already be viewed through a specific prism, and given how few Twitter followers there were, you'd have to imagine that Porter would have a difficult time showing any actual harm from the tweets in question. Separately, I wonder how much more of a reputational hit the company will take for suing less than two dozen striking workers for $4 million over some tweets...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 4:20pm

    Unions R not needed

    Clearly, this is a rebuttal to the Union, but unions are not needed anymore…there are way too many educated people who will work “at the level” the can exceed at without the help of an organized “dumb squad”.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 4:52pm

      Re: Unions R not needed

      Yes, clearly.
      These workers should be happy just to be employed, they had better watch their step or face the consequences.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      out_of_the_blue, May 14th, 2013 @ 4:53pm

      Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

      Geez, this piece shows how insanely aggressive management can be WITH a union.

      Without unions that struggled to wrest common decency from heartless capitalists, sonny, you wouldn't have a 40-hour week or be getting overtime pay, to say the least. Read a little history and you'll find capitalists in America were some of the most ruthless tyrants ever.

      You arrived in the resulting good times and are stupid to think that without modern protections you can go up against corporations.

      Not that unions haven't been taken over and organized into gangs, nonetheless the good they achieved for working people largely endures.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 5:01pm

        Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

        Not that unions haven't been taken over and organized into gangs [...]

        And on the flip side, it's not like employers haven't been organised into gangs.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 5:45pm

        Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

        Capitalism - providing the highest standard of living in the history of the Planet!

        Socialism - sucking since it started - Unhappy people: 91% of French (Socialist) think economy is doing badly; 67% think Hollande is doing poor job
        http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/05/13/the-new-sick-man-of-europe-the-european-union/

        Communism - Killing 100+ Million since it’s inception…Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Cuba, N. Korea… EVIL

        OFTB is a Communist sympathizer, pushing MURDERING COMMUNIST policies!!

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Sir Hubert Featherstone, May 14th, 2013 @ 6:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

          You should stop by my factory if you are ever seeking gainful employment. I think you would be perfect for whipping these lazy poor ingrates for me. They just want to blab on about overtime pay and vacation time. I'm not paying them to have a family.

          Anyway, I'll be switching the town to a scripts economy soon. So come whip some people and yell "Capitalism!" a lot, whip anyone you even looks like the might say monopoly extra hard.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Mao Zedong, May 14th, 2013 @ 7:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

            "This sounds like MY JOB, I love to whip others." -Mao the Murder

            Sir Hurbert is a cry baby who has never had to run a company. Waaaaaaaaaaaa...

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2013 @ 1:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

              Mao Zedong has no sense of humour. Sir Hubert Featherstone was obviously being facetious.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 6:16pm

          Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

          Capitalism - providing the highest standard of living in the history of the Planet for the one percent

          ftfy

          How many people think the us congress is doing a good job?

          Yup, perpetual war is definitely the way to go, just look at those stock prices. And we can get the illegals to join the voluntary military in return for citizenship thus sidestepping the obvious problems we would have with reinstating the draft, which would be necessary after we run out of young easily influenced poor and middle class teens.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 7:53pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

            Yea, no one has TVs, A/C or Medical care - better than any King in history ever had.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 9:07pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

              Yup, most legal citizens of the capitalistic wonderland do in fact have a television set. Two out of three, good enough for me, I gotta say that most definitely validates your claim to the highest standard of living in the history of the planet.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Zakida Paul (profile), May 15th, 2013 @ 12:04am

          Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

          So much anti Socialisat FUD and if you think those countries are examples of Communism then I pity you. This world has never seen true Communism, despite what the idiot press in the West tells us.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Josef Anvil (profile), May 15th, 2013 @ 2:12am

          Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

          OOTB's post actually made sense and then came that batshit crazy reply.

          Capitalism is an economic system

          Then you claim that France and Holland are socialist countries, which they are not, as proof that capitalism sucks? Because France and Holland both use capitalism as their economic system.

          Then you bring in Communism which you declare as evil. The system isn't evil, the people that manipulate it are evil. Pssst capitalism can be the economic system in a communist state.

          In short, spend some more time in school or use the internet to actually research what words mean before using them in a public space where people can highlight your insanity.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Pragmatic, May 15th, 2013 @ 5:28am

          Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

          LOL! You haven't got a clue, have you?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness_in_the_United_States

          Tell me again about those people with the highest standards of living and how Socialism is EEEEVILLLLL111eleventyone!!

          http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswp2010.pdf

          Unfettered capitalism for the win — if you're in the 1%. For the rest of us, we'd better pray they don't get rid of any more of the safety net or we're screwed. There's no mercy in the market and all that crap about "generous" Libertarians isn't saving the lives of people dying from treatable illnesses because they can't afford to pay for their medical care, etc.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Chronno S. Trigger (profile), May 14th, 2013 @ 8:16pm

        Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

        I agree that unions were useful. As you said, they got us the 40 hour work week, overtime pay, sick leave, and the like. They also got us one more thing that you and quite a few others seem to overlook; labor laws. The 40 hour work week is a law, overtime compensation (not necessarily pay) is a law.

        Today unions seem to be all about taking massive amounts of money from those they supposedly protect (e.g. insanely high union dues) and screwing over anyone and everyone they can (e.g. the Hostess thing).

        There may be legitimate unions, they may even have a place in modern society; but every time I've read about unions or dealt with them, they or on the morally wrong side of the argument.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 9:13pm

          Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

          You know, I would love to wag my finger at the twinkie union, but sadly that spittoon simply does not hold phlegm.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Ninja (profile), May 15th, 2013 @ 3:32am

          Re: Re: Re: Unions R not needed -- NO, clearly ARE!

          That. They had their role but this was lost long ago in favor of greed and corruption. We need Unions. Just not as they are today.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 4:59pm

      Re: Unions R not needed

      Both contributors below must be part of the "Dumb Squad"...I know OFTB is a Dumb Squad Leader…

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Zakida Paul (profile), May 15th, 2013 @ 12:02am

      Re: Unions R not needed

      The fact that an employer can take this action clearly shows that Unions are needed. If you let them, an employer will run roughshod over their employees. Granted, I don't know how they are in the US or Canada, but in the UK the unions are the ONLY ones fighting for workers' rights.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 4:20pm

    damn - I like Porter. Great boutique airline. They're like Apple was before they became huge. Small, hipster friendly. You take a ferry to fly out of the airport located on an island. They fly friggin propeller planes. Sorry to see the legal BS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Jim G., May 14th, 2013 @ 4:26pm

    Wow, even at the new level of 400 followers that is $10,000 per follower. If just 10 TechDdirtians start following they should increase their lawsuit by $100,000!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    davnel, May 14th, 2013 @ 4:44pm

    And, up to this point, I had never heard of the Airline or the union. The Streisand Effect strikes again.
    .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    davnel, May 14th, 2013 @ 4:45pm

    And, up to this point, I had never heard of the Airline or the union. The Streisand Effect strikes again.
    .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 5:52pm

    "fair comment" would mean the comments are true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 5:53pm

    "true, which would be the best defense to libel."

    You are speaking of Canada, right?

    If so truth is not a defense against liable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2013 @ 5:54pm

    If they're striking for higher wages/benefits and the airline wins the libel suit, the airline could use the money to give the employees higher wages/benefits.

    Stopping the lawsuit is hurting the interests of the working people!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Alex Macfie (profile), May 15th, 2013 @ 12:51am

    Corporations shouldn't be able to sue to libel, period.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), May 15th, 2013 @ 1:27am

    Free speech is designed to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.

    The governments and corporations of the world would do well to remember that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2013 @ 2:39am

    the best form of defense is attack. i cant help wondering, therefore, if what has been said is the truth and to try to quell the talkers, the company thinks issuing a law suit is the answer? like stated in the article, they could get more than expected from this stupid move in the form of less passengers

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2013 @ 5:13am

      Re:

      "the best form of defense is attack"

      Yeah, whenever I'm walking down the street in a less than save neighborhood I always attack everyone I cross paths with, I'm simply taking a defensive posture.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This