National Writers Union president Larry Goldbetter (r)
with NLN editor Thomas Good at a 2010 labor rally
(Photo: Daniel Millstone / NLN)
NEW YORK — July 13, 2011. Arianna Huffington has 315 million reasons to move from progressive to parasite — and all that stands in her way is you.
FROM PROGRESSIVE TO PARASITE?
On February 7, 2011, AOL bought The Huffington Post for $315 million. In addition to the payout, AOL made Arianna Huffington editor-in-chief of “The Huffington Post Media Group” as part of the deal. Prior to the acquisition, writers contributed their work to the Huff Post in exchange for the exposure. It might seem reasonable — perhaps progressive — to expect that Huffington would have ensured that its writers should benefit from the buyout. But when Ariana Huffington cashed in the writers got nothing.
THE STRIKE AND BOYCOTT
Before the AOL buyout a British blog called Visual Art Source contributed their writers’ material to the Huffington Post. After the buyout left the writers penniless Visual Art called a strike and asked others to join in.
The strike, called in Feburary by Bill Lasarow, Publisher and Co-Editor of Visual Art, was joined by several unions a month later.
ENTER THE NWU
In March of 2011, the National Writers Union (NWU – Local 1981 of the UAW), the Huffington Post Union of Bloggers and Writers (HPUB), and the Newspaper Guild (TNG) announced their support for the strike. The unions asked their supporters not to cross the “electronic picket line,” to boycott the Huffington Post in solidarity with the strikers and the uncompensated writers.
Jonathan Tasini speaking at a fundraiser in 2010
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)
In April, former NWU president Jonathan Tasini filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit in United States District Court in New York on behalf of thousands of uncompensated bloggers.
The Huffington Post Union of Bloggers (HPUB), an affiliate of the NWU made up of former Huff Post writers, are now writing content under their own banner at hpub.org.
Today, NWU President Larry Goldbetter sent the following statement to NLN:
DON’T CROSS THE PICKET LINE,
BOYCOTT THE HUFFINGTON POST
There has been a strike and boycott against the Huffington Post since last March, led by the Huffington Post Union of Bloggers and Writers (HPUB), the National Writers Union (NWU) and the Newspaper Guild (TNG). Please honor the electronic picket line; don’t post or share articles on the Huffington Post until this is resolved.
In the short-term, we are trying to win a settlement for the hundreds of journalists who contributed their work for free in order to bring more traffic to this “progressive” blog. These were journalists who worked on assignment, under editors. After establishing a progressive brand and following based on this free labor, Arianna Huffington sold HuffPo to AOL for $315 million, and landed a $4 million/year job as content director for AOL.
This shows that writers produce more than content. We produce value and wealth, and deserve to share in what we produce. We are working towards reaching a settlement. But even more important, we want to set a standard for a living wage for all online writers we can take to the notorious content farms, like Demand Media, worth $1.5 billion, that pays its 9,000 freelancers a penny-a-word. In the process, and in order to win these demands, we are building a bigger and more powerful NWU.
HuffPo was built by the unpaid writers who filled it with fresh content that made it stand apart from the rest. Arianna Huffington says that writers should be glad to write for free in exchange for free exposure. But it is the Huffington Post that reaped and profited from free exposure brought by these writers.
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, and the Presidents of the UAW, CWA and USW are honoring the boycott as is Jobs with Justice. Support is growing. There’s a lot at stake. We are fighting to shape the future of digital journalism. Don’t cross the picket line.
NLN is honoring the boycott and we ask you to join us.
(Thomas Good is a member of the National Writers Union).