Ariana Huffington’s major cash out on the Huffington Post hasn’t been without incident, and the noisy group of unpaid sweatshop writers who provided much of the site’s multi-million dollar content haven’t shut up- they’ve filed a class action lawsuit.
The suit is headed by writer and union organizer Jonathan Tasini, himself an unpaid HuffPo contributor up until three days after the Aol buyout was announced. Tasini has tangled with media giants before, winning a settlement against the New York Times over the fate of freelancer content.
I posted a few weeks back about the ethical spot Huffington herself is in with the allegations- she often spouts off on TV, rightfully and righteously, about corporate exploitation of the middle and working class while herself gaining massive wealth off the unpaid contributions of writers. To argue no one is forced to spend hours researching and writing a HuffPo post is to lend credence to the idea no one is forced to work excessive hours in dangerous conditions with no paid time off or health coverage, wouldn’t you say?
Huffington recently penned the book Third World America, and in a lengthy screed, described the impetus behind the book:
It was the way that Washington rushed to the rescue of Wall Street but forgot about Main Street. It was the daily drumbeat of depressing statistics: One in five Americans unemployed or underemployed. One in nine families unable to make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans on food stamps.
Upward mobility has always been at the center of the American Dream — a promise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll do well, and your children will have the chance to do even better.
Well, that promise has been broken, and America’s middle class is under assault. The American Dream is becoming a nightmare.
What became clear while writing the book is that the decline of the middle class was no accident. Middle-class America didn’t suddenly lose its mojo. It was the result of tricks and traps. Tricks in the ways we financed our homes. Traps in the ways credit-card companies used hidden fees and fine print and skyrocketing interest rates to get their hands on our money, driving more and more people into debt.
The suit will definitely interest anyone who makes their living writing for the web, and could stand to change conditions for exploited freelancers in this fairly horrific job market. What do you think about the move to sue Huffington and her blog? Do you think the court will side with the writers or the media empire?