The Huffington Post's unpaid bloggers have been angry with Arianna Huffington ever since the publication's $315 million merger with AOL. Many are displeased they haven't been compensated for their work, and this displeasure has taken a solid form in a lawsuit. Some of the bloggers are suing for $105 million, according to the Guardian.
Jonathan Tasini, a writer and a trade unionist who composed over 250 posts for the publication, led the class action suit. He took legal action because, as he said, "people who create content ... have to be compensated."
In an interview with the press yesterday, April 12th, Tasini wasn't afraid to voice his thoughts on Huffington. He said, "In my view, the Huffington Post's bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington's plantation."
He then went on to say, "We are going to make Arianna Huffington a pariah in the progressive community. 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."
$105 million is a third of what Huffpo received from AOL. The writers believe their contributions to the publication have bolstered the site's high value, which justifies getting a payout. Forbes' Jeff Bercovici did the math. If the bloggers win the suit, each of the 9,000 writers will pocket $11,666.
In response to the suit, a Huffpo spokesman said, "The lawsuit is wholly without merit. 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. It's the same reason people go on TV shows: to promote their views and ideas. HuffPost bloggers can cross-post their work on other sites, including their own. Aside from our group blog, to which thousands of people from around the world contribute, we operate a journalistic enterprise with hundreds of paid staff editors, writers, and reporters."
Tasini told the Washington Post that Huffpo had broken a contract because they had an "implied promise" of compensation. "Some people were given some promises about future payments," he said. Exactly who was promised payment was unclear, as he declined to give specific examples.
The suit might be difficult to obtain. Despite Tasini's claim, most bloggers agree to write for the publication for no compensation. Business Insider's Glynnis MacNicol wrote for Huffpo for over a year. She said, "In all that time I was never made any 'promises about future payments.'"
The suit itself doesn't even focus on contracts. One of Tasini's lawyers, Jesse Strauss said, "The legal theory we're going on is one based in common law. This is not a statutory claim. ... This is not a contract claim."
Among critics of the suit was Slate's Jack Shafer. He said, "Of course, the proper time to negotiate payment for an article is before publication, not years or months after the fact, something Tasini's solidarity-with-labor shouting can't erase."