Workers at HarperCollins, one of the Big Five publishers, go on strike
They are asking for higher wages, better family leave, and a commitment to more staff diversity.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
On Thursday, Nov. 10, workers in the UAW 2110 union at HarperCollins Publishers began an indefinite strike. This union represents 250 workers and includes people working sales, publicity, design, and marketing. Union workers have been working without a contract since April.
The workers are asking for higher wages, better family leave, and better commitment to diversifying staff. These demands reflect two major issues with the publishing industry: cost of living and a lack of diversity among staff.
All of the Big Five publishers — Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and HarperCollins — are headquartered in New York City. This means that staff has to be able to either live in or commute into the city. The current cost of living in New York City for a renter is over $76,000 a year. HarperCollins pays its employees an average of $55,000, with a minimum salary of $45,000. That’s a difference of $21,000 and $31,000.
“None of that is an amount you can live on in New York City,” Stephanie Guerdan, associate editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books and the union’s shop steward told NPR.
A press release from the union stated that employees also felt pressured to work late with no additional pay.
A 2019 survey from Lee & Low Books shows that the publishing world is overwhelmingly made up of white (76%) cisgender women (74%), who are also straight (81%) and nondisabled (89%). This lack of diversity in publishing can have a negative effect on diverse books and authors.
A spokesperson for HarperCollins said in a statement, "HarperCollins has agreed to a number of proposals that the United Auto Workers Union is seeking to include in a new contract. We are disappointed an agreement has not been reached and will continue to negotiate in good faith."
The union announced the start of the strike on Twitter and gave instructions on how authors, agents, freelancers, reviewers, blurbers, bookstores, booksellers, and management can give support.
- Authors and agents are asked to not create new contracts.
- Freelancers are asked to not take on a new contract.
- Reviewers and blurbers are asked to hold content if they can.
- Bookstores and booksellers are asked to share the union’s “I stand with” graphic on their social media and print out its bookmark to hand out to customers.
- Management is asked to write to Brian Murray and the People team in support and to not physically cross the picket line.
Cabot, the author of the Princess Diaries series, tweeted “As an author who’s been fortunate enough to be published by Harper for over 20 years, I know how hard the brilliant editorial, marketing, and publicity staff there works. That’s why I stand in solidarity with @hcpunion.”