Some 250 editors, marketing assistants and other employees at HarperCollins Publishers went on strike Thursday, with the two sides at odds over pay and benefits, diversity policy and union protections. It was a rare work stoppage in book publishing, where HarperCollins is the only company among the industry’s so-called “Big Five” to have a union.
“We feel really good about what we’re doing and the spirit in which we do it,” said Carly Katz, audio coordinator at HarperCollins and one of more than 100 striking staff members who have been picketing. outside the publisher’s offices in midtown Manhattan.
“We think this is the kind of action we need to take to get things moving,” said Parrish Turner, editorial assistant at HarperCollins’ children’s division.
The HarperCollins Union, United Auto Workers Local 2110, went on strike for a day last summer and this time plans to stay on indefinitely until a deal is reached. The employees had been working without a contract since April.
“HarperCollins has agreed to a number of proposals that the United Auto Workers Union is seeking to include in a new contract,” a HarperCollins spokesperson said in a statement. “We are disappointed that an agreement has not been reached and we will continue to negotiate in good faith.”
No new negotiations are currently planned.
The strikers represent a small percentage of HarperCollins’ global staff, which totals about 4,000 people. The publisher is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and earlier this fall laid off a “small number” of employees, citing cost management and uncertainty about the publishing market. This week, News Corp. reported an 11% drop in sales at HarperCollins in the fiscal first quarter, citing the strength of the US dollar and warehousing issues at Amazon.com as factors.
In recent years, entry-level and intermediate publishing employees have increasingly expressed their dissatisfaction with pay, workload and diversity on social media. Book publishing has long been a predominantly white, low-paying industry, and starting salaries remain below $50,000 at many companies, making it increasingly difficult for employees to afford to live away. New York.
Many authors and agents have expressed their support for the union. Tara Gonzalez of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency tweeted that she won’t be sending any submissions to HarperCollins until a deal is done. During the strike in July, Neil Gaiman noted that it was published by HarperCollins in the United States and tweeted “I hope the wonderful people who work there who get my books made and put on the shelves , will succeed in their demands.”
In a memo sent last week and widely circulated since, Zandra Magariño, the editor’s senior vice president for personnel, wrote that “While our goal remains to reach an agreement on a fair contract with the United Auto Workers Union that is beneficial to both parties, HarperCollins has plans in place to ensure that operations continue uninterrupted during a possible strike.
Union representation at HarperCollins long predates ownership by Murdoch, which purchased what was then Collins and Harper & Row in the 1980s. In 1974, Harper & Row employees went on strike for 21-2 weeks before accepting a new contract.
While few publishers have unions, organizing efforts have surged at independent bookstores across the country, with employees citing the pandemic as making them more sensitive to working conditions. Moe’s Books in Berkeley, Calif., and McNally Jackson stores in New York are among vendors whose employees have formed or joined unions.
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