It seems Arianna Huffington has something in common with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: They’ve both incurred the wrath of the Left. You may remember barely a month ago when, following Arianna Huffington’s $315 million sale of her website to AOL, a group of unpaid artists demanded their “fair share” of the pie. Arianna refused to negotiate—wouldn’t budge, in fact—so, the artists went on strike. Shortly afterward, the Writers Guild (an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America) called on the (paid and unpaid) writers and bloggers at Huffington Post to honor the e-picket line by withholding their work.
Well, the e-strike at Huffington Post has failed—miserably. Progressive bloggers have refused to honor their union brethren’s picket line. Apparently, “solidarity(!)” only goes so far outside of Madison’s city limits, which Ms. Huffington clearly knew when she dared progs to follow the union’s lead and honor the e-picketline:
“The idea of going on strike when no one really notices,” Huffington said. “Go ahead, go on strike.”
At first, it seemed as though Huffington and her fellow capitalists corporate heads had the union and the unpaid bloggers beat. However, on Tuesday, the unpaid bloggers did something that so many Americans do when they feel aggrieved…they filed a lawsuit.
Today, a group of bloggers led by union organizer and journalist Jonathan Tasini filed a class-action suit against the Huffington Post, founderArianna Huffington, and AOL, which acquired the news-and-blogs site in February.
Tasini was also the lead plaintiff in New York Times Co. vs. Tasini, a lawsuit over the rights of papers to license the work of freelancers for distribution via electronic databases.That case was decided in favor of the plaintiffs.
AOL has been sued over its use of unpaid labor before: In 1999, two volunteers who served as chatroom moderators under its “Community Leader” program sued, saying they were essentially being used as workers in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. That suit was eventually resolved with a $15 million settlement.
Within the lawsuit (a copy of which is here), Tasini (the lead plaintiff) claims that the content he and the other bloggers (“classes”) contributed that Huffington Post derived revenue from is “worth at least $105 million to the Defendants.” Tasini has also set up a website, aptly called HuffingtonPostLawsuit.com. [Of course.]
For Tasini, however, the dispute is apparently more than the money. It’s personal.
“In my view, the Huffington Post’s bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation,” he said. “She wants to pocket the tens of millions of dollars she reaped from the hard work of those bloggers….This all could have been avoided had Arianna Huffington not acted like the Wal-Marts, the Waltons, Lloyd Blankfein, which is basically to say, ‘Go screw yourselves, this is my money.’”
“We are going to make Arianna Huffington a pariah in the progressive community,” Tasini vowed. “No one will blog for her. She’ll never [be invited to] speak. We will picket her home. We’re going to make it clear that, until you do justice here, your life is going to be a living hell.”
Tasini also had harsh words for the progs who continue to cross the e-picket line.
Tasini, who was a Huffington Post blogger for more than five years, says he will personally urge other bloggers he knows to stop contributing. “Anybody blogging for the Huffington Post now is a scab,” he says. “They’re a strike breaker. They’re producing content for somebody who is attacking workers.”
“As we’ve said before, our bloggers use our platform – as well as other unpaid group blogs across the web – to connect and help their work be seen by as many people as possible,” said AOL spokesman Mario Ruiz in a statement. “It’s the same reason hundreds of people go on TV shows to promote their views and ideas. HuffPost bloggers can cross-post their work on other sites, including their own.”
Besides the obvious comparison to Scott Walker’s alleged “attacks” on working people, another one of the interesting back stories to this whole episode of Left vs. Left infighting is the sheer irrelevance of the union in this case.
Were it not for the lawsuit being filed, without a doubt, the e-strike and e-picketing would be nothing more than fodder for those of us who find the sheer hypocrisy of the Left rather amusing. Yet, even on Tuesday,Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) Executive Director Lowell Peterson was trying to make a case for his union on the AFL-CIO blog, describing it as “both a militant union and a professional association.”
I think our success rests on our ability to be both a traditional, militant union whose members are willing and able to strike and, at the same time, a guild that offers a sense of community and professional solidarity.
While that may be true in some cases, it certainly is not in the case of the Huffington Post. Win or lose, it is taking a lawsuit (which could have been filed by any of the HuffPo “slaves” without a union) to give the contributors a sense of hope for their “fair share” of Arianna’s millions.
This begs the question, if workers have the ability to file lawsuits, charges, or engage in other activities without a union—which they do more and more frequently—why does one need to pay union dues when they have the resources to do it themselves? In other words, why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?
[Emphasis added throughout.]
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776