June 16 • 01:21 AM

Forum post costs local man's job

Ire over outsourcing prompts Chrysler contract worker to post CEO's email address

April 16, 2008
IMLAY CITY — Certainly it has a lot more characters, but to Rob Diel "outsourcing" is a four letter word.

And though he didn't use any profanity in comments about it on a Detroit Free Press online forum, as the source of the post the 40-year-old was on Friday escorted out of Chrysler's Sterling Heights Assembly plant, where he'd been employed as a contract worker for the past three-and-a-half months.

Diel, who's been a contract information technology worker with Chrysler for the past ten years, posted comments last week after reading a story in the Free Press announcing Chrysler's decision to outsource.

After years of frustration watching as automotive companies continually outsource jobs, Rob Diel spoke up on a blog. His suggestion cost him his contract job at Chrysler. photo by Catherine Minolli.

After bearing witness to huge staff cuts across the board, jobs lost to outsourcing for a leaner bottom line, Diel just had to say something about it.

"I was kind of calling for a national boycott of Chrys-ler," Diel says. "If people stopped buying their cars the people would be saying outsourcing is wrong. American workers are losing thousands of jobs."

Using the name "chrysler-worker," Diel invited readers to contact Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli with their opinions, and posted Nardelli's email address and office telephone number on the site. He says he did so out of sheer frustration.

Diel says he got the information from an internal company directory, and posted it after some bantering on the forum about the subject.

"There was another guy disagreeing with me (on the forum) and we went back and forth and somebody mentioned the Chrysler Web site to post a comment so I said why not email Nardelli himself," Diel says.

For the short time the contact information was on the Web forum, it generated enough messages to grab Nardelli's attention. And, Diel says, the attention was not good.

"I was told his Blackberry just lit up," Diel says. "Nardelli was upset and got corporate security involved."

Chrysler's security officials traced the posts to Diel's computer. They called him into a meeting and presented printouts of the comments.

"They knew everything, obviously," Diel says. "They said 'you can't post the CEO's email address on the Internet,' and I was escorted out."

Chrysler officials also contacted the Free Press reporter and moderator of the forum, Diel said, and the post was soon yanked.

Diel says he was surprised to learn that the email address he posted was a direct line to Nardelli, believing an assistant screened the CEO's communications.

"In hindsight it probably wasn't the thing to do, but also for once the everyday worker actually got his opinion across to the CEO, which is rare," Diel says.

Though he might have changed the way he got Nardelli's attention, Diel says he has no regrets about the forum postings.

"I did it out of sheer frustration and out of what I've seen so far in Chrysler not retaining American workers," Diel says. "Already in the last few months thousands of people have been let go, and I'm talking union, contract workers, everyone. If you're American at Chrysler, you're out of there."

Diel says he understands policies regarding use of company computers for personal reasons, adding that his posts last week were the first time he's ever blogged about anything.

"I felt I just had to respond to it," Diel says.

By doing so, Diel had to provide a valid email address which of course led right to Chrysler.

Though he's now out of a job, Diel says his Friday dismissal just sped up the inevitable.

"Our contract was up at the end of May," he says.

Diel also hopes his unemployment status is temporary.

"It is unpleasant to not have a job," he says. "I have a house payment, a wife and a couple of kids but as strange as this sounds I'm honestly relieved to be out of there."

The reason? Stress, he says.

"Since October it's been every single week with the stress of wondering 'is my group next?'" Diel says. "Every single week there'd be another group of guys you'd worked with for ten years saying 'see ya, bye.' The stress in there was bad."

Diel, who's researched the IT job market in Michigan and around the country, says he's hopeful that the publicity from his recent ouster may help land him another job.

"The bottom line is I have to work," Diel says. "I may have changed the way I left Chrysler, but I'm slightly proud of it because it's one of those things where the little guy actually got his opinion heard."

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