HuffPost staffers on brink of unionizing stunned by closure of Canadian operations

2021.03.09

This was the message that greeted visitors to HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Quebec websites on March 9.

The two dozen HuffPost employees who were eagerly anticipating being unionized with CWA Canada were dealt a stunning blow today when the company’s new owner announced it was immediately shuttering its Canadian operations.

“We’re shocked and appalled by the decision to shut down HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Quebec just weeks after being bought by BuzzFeed,” said CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon.

O’Hanlon called on BuzzFeed to reverse its “disastrous decision” which is “so bad on so many levels. It’s bad for journalism, bad for Canada, and bad for a bunch of great journalists now thrown out of work after all they’ve done for this company.

“The frustrating thing is, it’s so unfair and unnecessary. If BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti really cares about people and journalism, as he claims, he will reverse this short-sighted decision and work on building a better company.”

The HuffPost Canada Union said on Twitter they were “told this decision was made before our organizing effort and is not linked to our unionizing. Still, it is even more devastating in the wake of the hope and optimism we had following a strong union drive.”

It was two weeks ago today that the media union had filed for certification with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), which was expected to grant the request after an overwhelming majority of the 23 reporters and editors who work in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal signed electronic membership cards.

The application to the CIRB came one week after BuzzFeed announced that it had finalized its acquisition of HuffPost from Verizon Media. While the deal united two of the world’s largest digital media operations, they were to remain independent from each other aside from partnering on content and advertising.

The editorial staff at BuzzFeed’s Toronto operation have been CWA Canada members since March 2019. They posted a statement on Twitter, slamming the decision to take the two Canadian websites’ home pages offline “barely an hour after employees were told of their impending closure, and without warning.” It added they “stand in solidarity with the HuffPost Canada union and ask BuzzFeed to provide fair and generous severance that recognizes the dedication of these employees.”

“HuffPost Canada punched above our weight and did vital, important journalism,” said the Canadian workers. “We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the U.S. and U.K.” who are also facing layoffs. “It is a sad day for journalism.”

The HuffPost Union in the United States, which is part of the Writers Guild of America, will see 33 people — nearly 30 per cent of its membership — laid off.

“We are devastated and infuriated, particularly after an exhausting year of covering a pandemic and working from home,” said the HuffPost Union. “This is also happening less than a month after HuffPost was acquired by BuzzFeed. We never got a fair shot to prove our worth. These layoffs reiterate the importance of forming a union and advocating for our colleagues. We are glad that we are protected by a collective bargaining agreement and that our colleagues will receive severance.”

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