Newspaper Guild president: Huffington Post strike isn’t over

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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This year’s strike by unpaid bloggers against the Huffington Post isn’t over, Newspaper Guild President Bernie Lunzer tells The Daily Caller.

Lunzer remains optimistic that the strike, launched after the Huffington Post was sold to AOL for $315 million in February, will end in success for bloggers seeking compensation.

“We’re still conducting the boycott. We are still convinced that we will be able to sit down and talk to try to resolve the differences. And we still think that in the end we will have a constructive resolution that writers will appreciate,” Lunzer said in an interview.

In March, the 26,000-member Newspaper Guild threw its substantial weight behind the strike. Lunzer acknowledged that there has not been a meeting between strike organizers and the Huffington Post since the Guild first requested a meeting in March.

The Newspaper Guild’s interest in the strike is not localized, Lunzer said, explaining that “we don’t want to end up with a system where you’re lucky if you get a byline.” Hard-hitting local and investigative reporting is on the decline, he said, noting that “our concern is that there is a place for professional journalism, and that professional journalism gets paid for.”

Arianna Huffington, who strike initiator Bill Lasarow of Visual Art Source previously labeled “a hypocrite” for her handling of the strike, shouldn’t be vilified, Lunzer said.

(Glenn Beck and family encounter hostility in NYC)

“We think that because of the values that Arianna stands for: She is progressive, she does care about social justice, we thought she was someone who would actually listen to us and help us,” Lunzer said, adding, “I still firmly believe that.”

In its early months, the strike caught headlines with a provocative let-them-eat-cake response from Arianna Huffington, who said, “Go ahead, go on strike,” and dismissed “the idea of going on strike when no one really notices.”

Lunzer said that, despite the brush-off, “I’m sure that she would rather that it was resolved.”

Chicago-based magazine In These Times reported earlier this month that the electronic “picket line” called for by organizers was being respected by several prominent progressives, but not all. The magazine listed Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges and author Max Blumenthal as strike supporters, and noted that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has refused to blog for the site.

Robert Creamer of Americans United for Change, the husband of Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky, continues to submit blog entries. He told In These Times, “I strongly favor the unionization of the employees of every employer in America — including Huffington Post,” but that “my relationship — and that of other bloggers on Huff Post — have a completely different quality that than of a professional journalist.”

Lunzer said that he was “sort of insulted” by Creamer’s comments. “It’s not like we don’t understand the difference,” Lunzer said, describing that not all bloggers are professionals, but that a substantial number have a relationship with the company comparable to that of an employee.

The electronic picket line “should be respected by people who respect labor,” Lunzer said.

In These Times reported that the National Writers Union (NWU), affiliated with the United Auto Workers, has hired a full-time organizer to focus on the Huffington Post campaign. Some unions “have floated the idea of labeling people who cross the picket line as scabs and have floated the idea of potentially cutting off funding to organizations that continue to blog at the Huffington Post,” the magazine reported.

A June post on NWU’s website calls on supporters to “honor the electronic picket line” and not to “post or share articles on the Huffington Post until this is resolved.” According to the post, the strike is being led by NWU, the Newspaper Guild and the Huffington Post Union of Bloggers and Writers, a recently-formed NWU affiliate with a confidential membership roll.

Lasarow, who announced the strike but no longer takes an active role leading it, told TheDC that he is confident in the Guild’s leadership. “As the arm of the AFL-CIO that focuses on the interests of professional writers and journalists, The Newspaper Guild is exactly the right organization to be leading this strike,” Lasarow said.

A resolution to the strike appears to depend on The Huffington Post’s willingness to discuss possible solutions.

“Our goal is to sit down with the Huffington Post,” Lunzer said. “We think we likely will be able to get a meeting and be able to resolve this.” A spokesman for the Huffington Post did not respond to a request for comment on this story.