'Overwhelming majority' sign up for union at Huffington Post, ask for voluntary recognition
An "overwhelming majority" of Huffington Post editorial workers asked management Tuesday to voluntarily recognize that they've joined a union, the Writers Guild of America, East.
Word of a unionization move at the high-profile digital media company surfaced in early October, and Arianna Huffington indicated back then she was agreeable to voluntarily recognize a union if the majority so desired.
Now what the union characterizes as most of the roughly 350 editorial employees, most of whom work in New York City, have signed up with the union, which represents about 4,000 media workers. Those include writers on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," writers-producers in non-fiction TV and network radio and TV copy writers.
Voluntary recognition would mean avoiding a formal election process on whether the union was the collective bargaining representative of the workers. Such a vote in the private sector would be overseen by either the National Labor Relations Board or another third-party agreed to by both sides.
The move is part and parcel of a boomlet of unionization among digital media during an era of stagnation and even sharp decline for organized labor. Those who have moved toward unionization include workers at Gawker, Salon, Vice, The Guardian and Al Jazeera America, with only those at Gawker in the process of attempting to negotiate a first contract with management.
The Huffington Post’s organizing committee wrote “HuffPost employees came together to form a union to ensure that we have a voice in the company's future. A union is a practical way to both preserve what's working and advocate for necessary changes. In just a few months, staff across the country united around key issues including: transparent and equitable compensation, clear job responsibilities, editorial freedom and independence, diversity in the newsroom and consistent management protocols on hiring, firing and discipline."
The committee added, "We cherish working here and want to ensure that The Huffington Post continues to set industry-wide standards and stands by its ideals of editorial innovation and sustainable workplace practices.”
The reasons they are seeking to go union appear distinctly traditional, with the only difference being that they are playing out in a new media operation. In the case of Huffington Post, there is some irony that one of the bones of contention is the suggestion the company has not lived up to its own ideological support of diversity precepts.
Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said, “The Huffington Post is one of the world's premier digital media entities, a pioneering enterprise which helped transform the way news and information are shared. The people who write, edit, and create video for Huffington Post are hard-working professionals who recognize that collective bargaining is an essential part of doing meaningful work and building sustainable careers."