As a new member of the National Writers Union, here’s why you won’t see content from Huff Post on Cognitive Dissonance. I ask my fellow labor-supporting Tumblr folk to honor the virtual picket line.
Janet Reasoner, NWU, May 25, 2011:
There has been a strike and boycott against the Huffington Post since last March, called by Visual Art Source and the Huffington Post Union of Bloggers and Writers (HPUB), and supported by the National Writers Union (NWU) and the Newspaper Guild (TNG). Please honor the electronic picket line; don’t post and don’t share articles on the Huffington Post until this is resolved.
In February, Arianna Huffington sold Huffington Post (the website and brand) to AOL for $315 million. This was possible in large part because of the work of thousands of unpaid writers and bloggers who made the site/brand what it is.
NWU’s goals in this dispute are:
- Get AOL/HuffPo to settle with writers/bloggers we represent for a share of the $315 million sales price;
- Set a standard that we can take to other online content providers to get writers paid;
- Build a bigger and more powerful NWU;
- Win a livable minimum wage for online content creators.
So what’s the big deal?
HuffPo was built on the hugely popular, yet unpaid, bloggers that populated the site with interesting and fresh content every single day. Arianna Huffington says that writers should be glad to write for free in exchange for all the free exposure they get. They can showcase their work and gain a following. That argument held water until Arianna got filthy rich[er] off of the web site and brand that all of these unpaid writers helped her build. Organized labor is about workers being treated fairly. Management/owners should not be able to get rich while treating their employees poorly or not paying them at all
A brief history:
In March of this year, Virtual Art Source (http://visualartsource.com) announced that the 50 writers they represent would no longer be providing free content to HuffPo. According to their site, they are striking for two demands:
- A pay schedule must be proposed and steps initiated to implement it for all contributing writers and bloggers.
- Paid promotional material must no longer be posted alongside editorial content; a press release or exhibition catalogue essay is fundamentally different from editorial content and must be either segregated and indicated as such, or not published at all.
Ms. Huffington was quoted as saying “The idea of going on strike when no one really notices… Go ahead, go on strike.” (http://www.thewrap.com/media/column-post/arianna-huffington-go-ahead-go-…)
On March 16, the Newspaper Guild posted a piece on their web site (http://www.newsguild.org/index.php?ID=10712) asking all writers to stop supplying content to HuffPo and for everyone to honor the electronic picket line. On March 21, NWU joined the battle (http://nwu.org/support-huffpo-strikers) stating, “We urge our members and everyone reading this, not to write for HuffPo until they are brought to the bargaining table.”
On April 12, former HuffPo blogger and former NWU President Jonathan Tasini (still a current NWU member) filed a class action lawsuit against Ms. Huffington, Huffington Post, AOL, and Kenneth Lerer in U.S. District Court. The complaint, on behalf of a putative class of over 9,000 writers, asks for at least $105 million in damages for uncompensated writers and bloggers for HuffPo.
What’s happening now?
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard, and UAW International President Bob King are honoring the boycott and support is growing.
There are three Facebook pages devoted to the strike against HuffPo — Union of Huffington Post Writers and Bloggers, Huffington Post Justice Campaign, and “Hey Arianna, Can You Spare a Dime?” On the first page, the Huffington Post Union of Bloggers and Writers (HPUB) have a link to the NWU website urging their members to join NWU. They will be speaking at the DA in Detroit, June 23-26.
Many labor and progressive/liberal folks are still getting the message about the strike and virtual picket line. Just last week, there was a link from a large union’s Facebook page to a HuffPo posting (since taken down after several of us pointed out the problem). Many of you are still likely to see your Facebook friends posting links to HuffPo articles. If you do, please send them the link to this article.
You can also send them the link to the Daily Kos posting, Why I’m Boycotting The Huffington Post, And I Hope You Will Too, from April 2. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/04/02/962560/-Why-Im-Boycotting-The-H…).