Confirming a report by International Business Times last week, Huffington Post staffers announced Wednesday that they had formed an organizing committee to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. The employees list grievances ranging from compensation to newsroom diversity to editorial freedom.
"As you may have already heard, some of us have been in talks with the Writers Guild of America, East, to organize a union," said a statement released by the organizing committee. "The creative freedom we enjoy is one of the things that makes HuffPost a great place to work. We believe organizing is the best way both to preserve what’s already working and to bring about positive change."
"Simply, a union will give us a voice in our newsroom’s future," the statement added.
The news came a day after employees at Al Jazeera America won an election run by the National Labor Relations Board to certify their union after their management refused to recognize the union voluntarily. Huffington Post is now the latest, largest and oldest shop that may join the wave of unionized digital workplaces: Gawker, Vice, Salon, Guardian US, ThinkProgress and Al Jazeera America.
It also is owned by AOL, which Verizon bought for $4.4 billion earlier this year. The communications giant has an antagonistic history with organized labor, recently facing down the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in a protracted battle, and coming to blows over pension benefits and healthcare in 2011, which resulted in a strike.
After IBT reported the union talks, the site's founder and editor-in-chief, Arianna Huffington, told CNNMoney on Friday that she would "embrace" an organizing committee's move to unionize.
"The Huffington Post believes in an environment of mutual respect among all our staff," Huffington said. "Our top priority is always the happiness and well-being of our employees. We fully support our newsroom employees' right to discuss unionizing and will embrace whatever decision they make on this issue."
Along with issues of compensation, standards for hiring and firing, and editorial freedom, the committee pointed to newsroom diversity as a serious cause for the union drive.
"HuffPost has taken a strong editorial stance in favor of diversity, but this diversity is not reflected among the staff. A union could help us formalize our commitment to inclusivity in hiring, and keep HuffPost accountable to that commitment," the statement said.
Huffington Post did not provide IBT with its newsroom diversity statistics earlier this year for a report investigating the different levels of progress among digital media companies.