HarperCollins workers strike for fair contract – Liberation News


Over 200 employees at HarperCollins Publishers have been on strike since Nov. 10 to demand a good contract after 11 months of bargaining.

As Liberation News reported in the course of the union’s one-day strike final July, the employees’ calls for embody truthful wages, extra variety in hiring, household go away advantages, union safety and higher accountability for the corporate. Out of 204 ballots forged within the strike authorization vote, 95.1% voted in favor of the strike, regardless of the corporate saying layoffs and hiring freezes simply beforehand.

‘Clearly they miss our labor, they want us again’

Liberation Information spoke with a number of employees exterior the corporate’s workplace in Decrease Manhattan on the primary day of the strike. All of them expressed religion of their wrestle, regardless of strikebreaking efforts by administration. 

“We perceive that there’s been plenty of scrambling happening inside this week about getting work finished,” stated Laura Harshberger, a senior manufacturing editor in Kids’s Books and union chairperson. “In the present day, we all know that the President of [HarperCollins Children’s Books], Suzanne Murphy, despatched out a memo to managers that ‘we’ve got a funds for temps, you may rent a temp in the event you want one, we’re going to attempt to expedite the method.’ We’ve been laughing about all of it afternoon, since clearly they miss our labor, they want us again, and but their technique is to stopgap substitute us somewhat than [respond to] the quite simple, cheap asks we’ve got on the desk.” 

Harshberger additionally indicated that the corporate’s ways within the strike’s first week have been lower than conciliatory: “Administration appears to be selecting each day to take an antagonistic stance towards us, and their solely plan appears to be antagonizing, bullying and ready to see if this may blow over, somewhat than engaged on negotiating with us. It’s day 6 and so they haven’t scheduled a bargaining session but.”

Staff expressed hope that their actions may influence the publishing business at giant, which is named a aggressive business to interrupt into. Regardless of record profits final yr, full-time salaries at HarperCollins begin at $45,000 or much less. Poor wages are customary throughout the business, because the “Huge 5” publishers – HarperCollins, Penguin Random Home, Hachette Livre, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan – can simply collude to maintain wages low.

“What we’re asking for right here is to determine a totally cheap ground of a residing wage in New York Metropolis to get it as much as $50,000. If we have been in a position to do this, you’ll assume there’d be a level of competitors and it could maybe enhance wages throughout all the business,” defined Harshberger. “We really feel plenty of help from different employees within the business. We all know that there’s plenty of eyes on us. We really feel a duty to battle as onerous as we are able to for this, within the hope that we may make a change that might have a ripple impact via all the business.” 

Stephanie Guerdan, an affiliate editor in Kids’s Books, joined many on the picket line in expressing love for his or her work however dissatisfaction with the corporate’s union-busting ways.

“We now have been bending over backwards to provide them phrases they may simply comply with, to settle, and so they hold rejecting them out of hand,” Guerdan stated. “This [strike] is in some ways a final resort form of factor. We actually need to get again to work, we simply can’t hold doing it below the situations we have been doing it earlier than.”

HarperCollins employees on first day of strike. Photograph: @MarkLevineNYC Twitter.

Authors in solidarity

Authors have acted in solidarity with strikers all through the week by releasing public statements of help, sending meals to the picket line, and carrying pro-union pins to the Nationwide Ebook Awards. Author Franny Choi even used her beforehand scheduled “takeover” of the HarperCollins Instagram to interview a union leader concerning the wrestle. 

Guerdan defined that authors are negatively impacted by editors’ poor working situations as effectively. Excessive worker turnover at publishing homes creates “orphaned authors,” which refers to contracted writers whose editors have left the corporate. Editors at main publishers coordinate all elements important to a e-book’s success, similar to manufacturing, distribution and advertising and marketing. Thus, books by orphaned authors can anticipate to be uncared for outright by a publishing home or reassigned to an overworked editor unable to provide the e-book the eye it must succeed.

The employees have compiled a list of ways to behave in solidarity with them, similar to donating to their strike fund and emailing the HR division. They aren’t asking for a boycott of HarperCollins books, to stop negatively impacting authors whom they acknowledge as fellow employees. 

A renewed section of wrestle 

Organizers at HarperCollins labored tirelessly to revitalize union membership in preparation for this contract renewal. Just a few employees have been union members after they started to barter their final contract on the finish of 2017. As an open store, all HarperCollins employees obtain union advantages whether or not or not they’re dues-paying union members. 

“As soon as we signed that final contract in 2018, we instantly went into an organizing marketing campaign as if we have been organizing a model new union,” stated Guerdan. “Reaching out to each single individual, having an organizing dialog, discovering out what folks’s priorities have been … actually making an attempt to construct a union that was each clear and accessible, and open to the employees whereas having the ability to battle.”

Solely 36 employees ratified the final contract in 2018, eight of whom had signed union playing cards that day so as to vote on the contract. In the present day over 80% of members have signed union playing cards. “We’re out right here as a result of we love what we do,” stated Guerdan.

HarperCollins employees be part of tens of hundreds of union siblings in hanging this month, together with 48,000 College of California employees, over 1,300 part-time school on the New Faculty, and employees at over 100 Starbucks shops.

Staff first unionized independently at Harper & Brothers in 1942, earlier than its merger with writer Collins in 1990. The union is now affiliated with UAW Native 2110, which represents more than 3,000 workers at workplaces similar to Columbia College, the Museum of Fashionable Artwork, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

From 1942 to 2022, the employees’ wrestle for dignity and energy lives on, and the HarperCollins employees clearly draw inspiration from labor motion historical past. When requested the targets of the strike in easy phrases, Guerdan alludes to the well-known demand of the 1912 Lawrence textile employees’ strike: “Bread and roses. We’re entitled to be each snug and fed, but additionally have time for leisure and the gorgeous issues in life.”

Leave a Reply