Huffington Post writers seek union, question company's diversity

[caption id="attachment_377390" align="alignright" width="740"]Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of The Huffington Post. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post.[/caption]

Editorial workers at The Huffington Post are going union, constituting the latest and largest digital media enterprise to do so.

A publicly unspecified number of the roughly 300, mostly New York-based editorial employees have signed up with the Writers Guild of America, East, which represents about 4,000 media workers. Those include writers on "The Daily Show," writers-producers in non-fiction TV shows and network radio and TV copy writers.

Arianna Huffington has already indicated that if her employees chose to go union, she would agree to voluntarily recognize such an affiliation.

That would mean management would not force a vote, such as the one that played out last week among digital workers at Al Jazeera America (who opted to join another union, the NewsGuild of New York). It would rely on a so-called "card check" in which a majority of workers in the proposed bargaining unit signed a statement indicating their desire for union representation.

Writers Guild of America, East Executive Director Lowell Peterson noted “Digital technology is transforming the way people work, and the way information is communicated, the way stories are crafted, distributed, and consumed. Collective bargaining is transforming the way writers, editors, and video employees in digital media build their careers. We look forward to working with the editorial employees at Huffington Post, men and women whose skill and dedication are evident in their work and in the strength of their collective voice.”

The digital outlet's union organizing committee sent a letter to their colleagues entitled “Why We Are Organizing."

The reasons are distinctly traditional even as they play out in a newer media operation. They include more "transparent and equitable" compensation; clearer delineation of workloads and responsibilities; clearer standards for hiring; and more transparent understanding of disciplinary actions and dismissals.

As of now, many of the contributions to the site are by unpaid outsiders, including freelance writers.

There is also the suggestion that the company has not lived up to its own ideological support of diversity precepts.

The pro-union employee statement said the company "has taken a strong editorial stance in favor of diversity, but this diversity is not reflected among the staff. We would like to formalize our commitment to inclusivity in hiring, and keep HuffPost accountable to that commitment. A union is a formal mechanism to advocate for each other and to address systemic issues at the company on an ongoing basis."

Digital workers at Al Jazeera America went union Tuesday in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Other digital operations that have opted for a union include Gawker, Vice, Salon and The Guardian. Gawker is the only place where actual bargaining on an initial contract is underway.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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