NEW YORK -- Huffington Post employees are in discussions with the Writers Guild of America, East, to organize a union, according to a statement released Wednesday.
"In 10 years, Arianna Huffington has built The Huffington Post into a digital-media powerhouse," reads the organizing committee's statement. "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 discussions between The Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America, East, first reported by IBTimes, come amid a wave of union efforts at digital media outlets.
In recent months, Gawker, Salon, ThinkProgress, and writers at Vice Media have organized with WGAE. Guardian US and digital employees at Al Jazeera America have been represented by NewsGuild-CWA. HuffPost, with an editorial staff of about 250, would be the largest digital newsroom yet to organize.
Arianna Huffington, the company's president and editor-in-chief, issued a statement in support of employees' right to organize.
"The Huffington Post believes in an environment of mutual respect among all our staff," she said in a statement. "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."
On Wednesday, members of the organizing committee at HuffPost urged colleagues to get involved. "Our effort is still young, and we want to hear from everyone," their statement reads. "The more people involved, the better the ultimate outcome will be. We’ve heard from our editor-in-chief. Now let’s talk to each other."
Initial reasons for unionizing, according to the statement, include making compensation "more transparent and equitable," defining job responsibilities, establishing standards for hiring, firing and disciplinary actions, promoting diversity, and maintaining editorial freedom and independence.
The organizing committee's full statement is below:
As you may have already heard, some of us have been in talks with the Writers Guild of America, East to organize a union. Our effort is still young, and we want to hear from everyone. The more people involved, the better the ultimate outcome will be. We’ve heard from our editor-in-chief. Now let’s talk to each other.
In 10 years, Arianna Huffington has built The Huffington Post into a digital-media powerhouse. 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. Our colleagues at ThinkProgress, Salon, The Guardian US, Gawker, Vice and Al Jazeera America have all come to the same conclusion.
Below are some of the reasons why we want to unionize. They are just a starting point.
Compensation & Pay: One of the chief goals of unionizing would be to make pay and compensation more transparent and equitable. Creating compensation standards is one of the basic elements of a union contract. We hope to negotiate salary minimums (not maximums); clarify the relationship between workload, pay and titles; and create a fair, regular process for raises.
Clear Job Responsibilities: It is natural for one’s job responsibilities to shift over time depending on the needs of the company, and the freedom to collaborate with colleagues and work flexibly is one of the things that makes HuffPost great. But dramatic changes to employees’ workload and responsibilities, made without employee input, hinder our ability to produce our best work. Through contract negotiations, we hope to establish protocols for changing or adding work responsibilities, and adjusting compensation accordingly.
Establishing Standards for Hiring, Firing and Disciplinary Actions: We need to hire the best people possible in order to keep doing great work. The current hiring process is lengthy, highly subjective, and involves too many levels of review. We miss opportunities to bring on talented people as a result. We would like to see a hiring process that is efficient and sensitive to the needs of our various teams.
Terminations and disciplinary actions should also be transparent and fair. In order for HuffPost to attract and retain the talent we need to be competitive, we should have standards and procedures in place for judging performance, allowing employees to improve based on feedback, and, if it’s appropriate, letting people go. A union contract could allow us to set clear standards, as well as a process to protest unfair disciplinary actions and termination.
Diversity: 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. A union is a formal mechanism to advocate for each other and to address systemic issues at the company on an ongoing basis.
Editorial Freedom and Independence: The only way to ensure HuffPost reporters and writers can hold the monied and powerful accountable is if they are guaranteed protection from retaliation. By negotiating a contract, we hope to formalize HuffPost’s commitment to fearless journalism so that powerful people and institutions can’t use their influence to dictate our coverage or squash stories that are unflattering.
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