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Ariana Huffington Faces Blogger Class Action Over Pay

Arianna Huffington

Bloggers who contributed mightily for free to the success of The Huffington Post and founder Arianna Huffington may get a payday after all — but not without suing.

Writers have been in revolt for more than a month over the Huff Post’s sale to AOL for more than $300 million.

Now, a group of bloggers plans to file a class action in court today (Apr. 12) against Huffington, The Huffington Post and AOL over their right to be paid for the work they volunteered, according to Forbes magazine.

TheImproper first reported the dissention in a post by R. B. Stuart, a New York author and freelance writer. She was among the first to detaile the complaints in an Feb. 9 Improper article.

“I became incensed to learn that in December The Huffington Post hired away two New York Times editors for well over $100,000 each.

“Then to receive an e-mail from Arianna and [Executive Editor Roy Sekoff] about their “exciting news” of the AOL take over, I was less than enthusiastic.

“Do they really think 6,000 slave writers will continue to write for free for an international conglomerate like AOL, which pays their web writers, even if it is meager?”

Apparently not.

Although the bloggers agreed to write for free, their complaint is not without precedent, according to the Atlantic magazine.

In 1999, a group of volunteer chatroom moderators at AOL sued the company for allegedly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, and AOL eventually settled out of court for $15 million.

Days after the announcement sale announcement, a number of bloggers organized a protest against their exclusion and vowed never to blog on the site again.

“Essentially, the 6,000 writers Arianna lured with coveted bylines, then exploited while the site raked in ad revenue in the millions of dollars have now been sold without their permission, under the guise that we’ll continue to write for AOL for free,” wrote Stuart.

“It is presumptuous and arrogant to say the least.”

The Newspaper Guild, the union that represents newspaper writers, has been urging their members to stop writing for the site.

Meanwhile, Huff Post bloggers have set up their own site to counter the Huffington Post. They plan a revenue sharing system based on advertising revenue.

The Huffington Post’s response has been “How can you resign from a job you never had?”

The site’s policy is to pay for “reporting, not opinions.”

And Huffington, herself, seems determined to play hardball.

The site fired an editor who invited the soon-to-be-laid-off freelancers at AOL’s MovieFone, now a part of the Huffington Post Media Group, to blog for free.

For more check out the Atlantic online.

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