Recently a group of bloggers led by journalist and union organizer Jonathan Tasini filed a class-action suit against the popular blog the Huffington Post, founder Arianna Huffington, and AOL, who bought the site in February.

According to Forbes.com, Tasini has been blogging for the HuffPo since December 2005, shortly after it began, and quit just days after AOL acquired the site for over $300 million.

Although many bloggers forgo payment in order to gain exposure for their work by being seen on the popular site, Tasini argues that the Huffington Post has turned its bloggers into “modern day slaves,” who toil away at their computers while the site reaps all of the benefits (read: millions of dollars) for their work.

In a statement released yesterday, Tasini made it clear what he thought of the Huffington Post’s non-payment policy.

“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.’”

In case his point still wasn’t clear, Tasini continued:

“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.”

*Cue Celie in The Color Purple*

Despite the David vs. Goliath nature of the case, Tasini’s been here before. In 2001 he filed a lawsuit against the New York Times Company for copyright infringement, alleging the paper’s practice of using freelancer’s work in electronic databases encroached on the rights of the writer. After losing in the lower courts, Tasini and the National Writer’s Union prevailed in the Supreme Court, and the New York Times Company was ordered to pay the plaintiffs $18 million (which has yet to be distributed).

Tasini and the other plaintiffs in the Huffington Post case are suing the site for $105 million—one-third of the AOL-Huffington Post deal. But according to Tasini, it’s not about money.

“This lawsuit is about establishing justice for the bloggers of the Huffington Post and establishing a standard going forward,” he says. “If we want to have a society that has a diverse, vibrant culture, we have to make sure the people that create the content, whether it be words, images, drawings, photographs – those people have to be compensated fairly.”

Hmm, what did Paulie say in Goodfellas?

What do you think? Should the Huffington Post’s bloggers be paid for their work?

Let’s talk about it!

 

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  • EDTesq

    I think everyone deserves payment for their services. However, payment can come in several forms. If you agree to work for free and your payment is exposure — then that is all you are entitled too. That is the basic law of contracts.

    At some point, as a business person, you need to understand how to value your work and renegotiate your contract. From the details of this article, many of the writers don’t seem to be particularily astute in this area and continue to “starve” with only exposure — because the Huffington Post actually pays some of its writers.

    The bloggers point of trying to liken this to slavery is ridiculous. Slavery is not voluntary. So even though they were working for no monetary payments, it was a far cry from slavery.

    I doubt that this case goes very far … but it will give the Huffington Post some bad press and cost them some money to defend … and it may eventually lead to them changing their payment policy.