Huffington Post contributors go on strike, propose collective bargaining

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Arianna Huffington is being cast by some unpaid Huffington Post contributors as an unethical robber baron. With Huffington awash in funds from AOL’s $315 million purchase of the Huffington Post, contributors have called a strike to demand proper compensation.

The Huffington Post, established in 2005, emerged as a leading source of aggregated news content and liberal commentary written by unpaid contributors. With the success of the site, founder Arianna Huffington rocketed to national fame, frequently appearing as a guest on cable news programs.

Bill Lasarow, Publisher and Co-Editor of Visual Art Source, announced that his organization is “now going on strike. For now, at least, no more content from us will appear on the Huffington Post.”

Visual Art Source members have contributed content to the Huffington Post for free since 2010. Lasarow wrote that “it is unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing.”

How far the strike will spread is currently unclear. But Lasarow wrote that his group is calling for broad participation by Huffington Post contributors. “I am also calling upon all others now contributing free content, particularly original content to the Huffington Post to also join us in this strike,” wrote Lasarow.

Lasarow wrote that his organization has two demands. The first, that the Huffington Post develop a system for paying writers and bloggers. The second, for the site to differentiate between paid promotional content and writers’ work.

The group proposes a system of collective bargaining for contributors, expressing hope that they band together to “form a negotiating partnership with Huffington/AOL in order to pursue these and other important matters so as to professionalize this relationship.”

While not paying contributors is perfectly legal, Lasarow noted, it is “unethical and oh so very hypocritical.”

The group hopes that Huffington will “do the right thing” and agree to their requests. However, Lasarow wrote that he would be unsurprised if “like the corporate titans of the American Right… Ms Huffington, whom I am certain has a good heart and only the best intentions, were to assume the obvious position: Who needs these people anyway?”

Robert Scheer wrote in The Nation on February 23 a defense of Huffington’s system of not paying contributors. “In defense of the use of unpaid bloggers, of which I happen to be one among the many who appear on a regular basis on the Huffington Post, we are not exploited,” wrote Scheer.

The contributors on strike claim that well-known contributors “who will never need to be concerned about pay scales” should be ashamed of themselves for abetting the current situation.

Scheer claimed that “for most contributors, the op-ed page was never a serious source of income.”

Huffington dismissed the strike Thursday at a conference hosted by PaidContent in New York City. “Go ahead, go on strike,” Huffington said, ridiculing “the idea of going on strike when no one really notices.”