JetBlue's Steven Slater Offers Amusing Glimpse at a Dark Problem

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Steven Slater Jet BlueWith his (literally) explosive exit from a JetBlue (JBLU) airplane on Monday, Steven Slater earned himself a quick ticket into the pantheon of middle class heroes. Quickly spawning dozens of supportive Facebook pages, his fans have advocated everything from making Slater a judge on American Idol to putting him in the White House. Most of all, his more than a quarter million Facebook followers agree that JetBlue shouldn't fire him.

It isn't hard to see why Slater touched a nerve. After all, with unemployment currently at 9.5% and underemployment holding steady at 16.5%, few workers feel like they're in a position to grumble too loudly about work conditions, much less quit their jobs. This problem is especially pressing among flight attendants: in 2008, when the airline industry was nearing bankruptcy, several carriers cut back staff and reduced wages for flight crews. According to a representative of the association of flight attendants (AFA), the average monthly workload for a flight attendant has increased by 14% over the past ten years at the same time that salaries have fallen.

This problem isn't limited to flight attendants -- for that matter, neither are explosive outbursts. Less than a week before Slater deplaned, a Connecticut beer distributor was brutalized by a workplace shooting spree, the worst in the state's history. The gunman, 34-year-old Omar S. Thornton, was a truck driver for the company; fired for workplace theft, he proceeded to kill eight people before committing suicide. Since the event, commentators have struggled to explain Thornton's outburst, questioning whether his assertions of racism were legitimate and may have inspired his final act of brutality. A point that seems to have slipped through the cracks, however, is that Thornton had a history of money troubles, including a bankruptcy filing in 2000. In fact, the day of the shooting, a bill collector allegedly tried to reach him at his girlfriend's house. Facing a brutal job market with limited financial resources, it isn't hard to imagine how Thornton might have snapped.

In their respective acts, Slater and Thornton represent opposite ends of a workplace exit spectrum. One has thrilled disgruntled workers all over the country while the other has horrified virtually everyone, but both reflect a growing trend. Work-related stress -- and the fantasy of escaping it -- is a theme that is increasingly bubbling up on the Web. Earlier this week, Jenny, the famed Whiteboard HPOA, captured the interest of millions by resigning through a series of funny and humiliating photos. Although the resignation turned out to be a hoax, the disgruntled former employee -- actually actress Elyse Porterfield -- grabbed the pop-culture spotlight for 24 hours, quickly generating Facebook fan pages and support across the Internet.

Porterfield's staged exit tapped into a popular phenomenon: the angry worker (or former worker) airing dirty laundry on social media. The most influential version of this is probably Jackie Ramos, the fired Bank of America employee who followed up her December 2009 dismissal with a searing online attack on her former employer. However, while outbursts like Slater's and Ramos' are undoubtedly satisfying, few employees can afford to threaten their employability in such an extravagant manner. For most workers who are clinging to soul-sucking, stressful and poorly-paying jobs, it seems likely that resignation porn will remain little more than a pleasant diversion.

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heartinvest

Please stop glorifying this lunatic fruitcake, and start seeing him for what he is, a criminal!! (and a flamboyant fruitcake)

August 16 2010 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jleup77276

This idiot lives with his mommy, so he doesn't need a job. I hope someone who knows how to work and be respectful of others gets the jod he used to have.

August 13 2010 at 9:48 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
mike edwards

so far the comments dont make him out a hero but a big jerk off what he really is not what the liberal media makes him out to be hes no hero our troops are heros not him

August 13 2010 at 8:55 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
hoganlopez

I fly every year and this winter if we go on vacation we have vowed to not fly but drive somewhere because we are tired of being subjected to rediculous flight schedules, crazy new policies every time you fly and rude flight attendants, I do not feel sorry for any of them and I do not feel the gentleman should be considered a hero in any way.

August 13 2010 at 7:44 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Gene O'Neal

He is a total jerk off and should never fly again. No more excuesses or reasons. He is responsible; no one else. No folk hero from here, just a failure and a jerk.

August 13 2010 at 1:42 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
mdominix

The airlines take advantage of us in sneaky wasys, really they are not exactly sneaky more sly. They take your money months before you flight and dare you to try to change it, no problem if you or your family gets sick and cannot travel they will find you a flight that workds for you at a higher pricer fare and charge a change or cancellation fee that works well for the airline but not US.

We do not know how much more we will owe the company store when we check our bags, could be not so much but it could be horrendously expensive,

The food is a problem, on the return flights we find ourselves trying to find food to bring aboard. however, some of us get lucky and we find a decent meal before boarding the plane. If, you are old and need a pillow and/or a blanket it's not available. If you have been loyal to an airline and charge on their credit card you many be able to get a free flight, with your points, or a free up-grade to First Class where there is food and sometimes confort pillows and blankets. But, now the airlines charge you to $100. to take your miles out of their mileage "BANK".

What used to be a practical but fun way to travel is now a trudge and simply a way to get there while being shoved and pushed around.

August 12 2010 at 7:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mike edwards

lets quit every time life gets tough and let the gov support us what if our troops did what that idiot did wouldnt it be just lovlely oh well he is your hero not mine

August 12 2010 at 5:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply