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99.5% of HarperCollins Union Vote in Favor to Initiate a Strike For Equitable Pay

HarperCollins Local 2110 of the UAW union authorizes to strike. Image: HarperCollins Union UAW 2110 and Alyssa Shotwell.

Since December 31, 2021, HarperCollins Publishers employees, part of the United Auto Workers Local 2110 (UAW) union, have been working without a contract as negotiations continue. These union members come from across HarperCollins (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp), from marketing to editorial. Initially, the contract was set to expire a year earlier but was extended due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Now, halfway through 2022, the UAW workers set a vote to initiate a strike. When that vote took earlier this week, 99.5% of the members voted to authorize a strike.

The majority-women workers have been pushing for fairer pay, family leave, and meaningful action regarding diversity and equity rather than the lip-service. Regarding pay, the average starting salary is about $45,000, with publishing centrally located in expensive cities like New York City and Boston. Newscorp reported net sales (this accounts for subtracting acquisition sales) to be up 14% in 2021, with HarperCollins raking in almost two billion dollars. That’s $2,000,000,000! While some of this will drop off since people think the pandemic is over (it’s not), it’s not like these issues brought up by UAW didn’t exist before.

Stoking the flame is the fact that HarperCollins acquired Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) for $349 million two months ago. In addition to finding money for the acquisitions, HarperCollins UAW members have noted that the publisher refuses to recognize the HMH Boston-based union and the seniority of the HMH NYC-based employees.

In a press statement put out by the union, Senior Production Editor in Children’s Books and the Union Chairperson, Laura Harshberger, stated:

All of our proposals are to make HarperCollins a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace. The company says publicly it supports diversifying the industry but management is refusing to meaningfully address the low pay rates or codify policy changes in our union contract. Our members are tired of empty gestures. They want meaningful change.

A few months back, I reported on a mass exodus in publishing where an estimated .5-1% of employees quit or announced they were leaving in one week. Many of the same issues brought up with this strike (and more) were cited then, too. Also, it’s not like there hasn’t continued to be a monthly round of high-profile editors leaving the field forever, despite their employers bragging about record profits in the last few years.

How do I support and stay engaged?

While the union is over 60 years old, they’ve been under UAW for about 30 years. In addition to HarperCollins Publishers, the UAW 2110 also hosts union workers from the ALCU and several education/cultural institutions (including museums) in the New York area.

While many strikes call for boycotts, this one may be slightly different. With over 250 employees in various departments across HarperCollins, there is no central focus. The best thing you can do is share this news online and follow the lead on their social media. They will soon post updates on what they need help with, but making people aware of the issue is always a great place to start.

Many booksellers and authors have preemptively begun to signal support to help raise awareness, like Courtney Milan, Xiran Jay Zhao, Emily Llyod-Jones, Kelsey Rodkey, Sarah Henning, Luna McNamara, Charish Reid, and dozens (if not hundreds) more. HarperCollins has declined to speak to reporters at other publications, citing that they don’t discuss ongoing negotiations.

(via Publisher’s Weekly, featured image: HarperCollins Union UAW 2110 (logo) and Alyssa Shotwell)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time watching movies, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Balder's Gate 3, Apex Legends, and CS:GO.