The Huffington Post took a big step on Tuesday toward becoming the biggest digital newsroom to unionize.
Editorial staff members at the website asked management to voluntarily recognize the Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO as their collective bargaining representative. They formed a union "to ensure that we have a voice in the company's future," the employees said in a statement.
"A union is a practical way to both preserve what's working and advocate for necessary changes," HuffPost's organizing committee said. "In just a few months, staff across the country united around key issues including: Transparent and equitable compensation, clear job responsibilities, editorial freedom and independence, diversity in the newsroom and consistent management protocols on hiring, firing and discipline."
WGA, East said that an "overwhelming majority" of the 350 editorial staffers at the Huffington Post and HuffPost Live, the website's live streaming network, signed union cards.
It would be the biggest coup yet for a labor movement that has swept through online media this year. The editorial staff at Gawker, Salon, Vice and ThinkProgress all unionized with WGA, East, while digital journalists at The Guardian, US and Al Jazeera America voted to join NewsGuild-CWA.
With the exception of Al Jazeera America, each of those outlets were voluntarily recognized by management. Staffers at Al Jazeera America were forced to hold an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, where they overwhelmingly voted to unionize.
The Huffington Post is owned by AOL, which was acquired by Verizon for $4.4 billion earlier this year. Whether management at the website opts for voluntary recognition or a government-supervised election remains to be seen. A Huffington Post spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Members of the Huffington Post organizing committee have said that they are encouraged by the public support expressed by the website's founder, president and editor-in-chief, Arianna Huffington.
Following a report in October indicating that employees in her newsroom were beginning to organize, Huffington told CNNMoney that the company will "fully support our newsroom employees' right to discuss unionizing and will embrace whatever decision they make on this issue."
Gabriel Arana, the senior media editor at the Huffington Post who has helped lead the organizing efforts, told CNNMoney that he and his colleagues are bullish on their chances for voluntary recognition.
"I think a lot of the employees -- at least those I spoke with -- were relieved and happy about Arianna's statement of support. People at HuffPost are generally happy and she's fostered a culture of respect between management and staff," Arana said. "Still, people are always nervous about doing something that in a less friendly environment could cost them their jobs."