Unionized workers at Scholastic staged a one-day work stoppage on November 1 following the children's publisher's rejection of the Scholastic Union's proposal for annual raises.
Members of the Scholastic Union, all of whom belong to the company's magazine division, did not report to work on Wednesday, and instead held a picket outside Scholastic's corporate headquarters in Soho starting at 1 p.m. The union, which was formed in 1937, currently has 82 members, who are represented by the News Guild of New York.
The union's last collective bargaining contract with Scholastic expired in May 2022, and employees say they have been bargaining with the company since last October. This is the second demonstration staged by the Scholastic Union this year, following a "lunchout" held on June 12 over the same wage-related grievances.
Alexandra Lim-Chua Wee, a union member and senior associate editor at Scholastic, spent the afternoon on the picket line. "My voice is still hoarse from chanting," she told PW. "We walked out today because we want to stick to our demands. The desired outcome today is that we get a fair contract with fair wages that really reflect the work that our members have been doing over the past few years."
In an Instagram post, the Scholastic Union alleged that employees have not received a wage increase since 2021. "Our members are fighting for fair wages and for nearly two years of retroactive pay," the post continues. It goes on to criticize the company for paying its employees low wages while "boast[ing] to shareholders about its 'strong free cash flow' and [forecasting] growth in 2024."
Indeed, Scholastic reported strong financial results for the 2023 fiscal year, with revenue rising 4% over fiscal 2022, to $1.7 billion, and operating income increasing 9%, to $106.3 million. The company's increased profits were driven largely by Scholastic's book fair business, which posted a 29% jump in revenue, to $553.1 million.
The company's book fair business has been in hot water of late, following last month's rollout of the company's new diverse stories offering. Controversy erupted on social media in September, when educators raised concerns about company requiring school fairs to either opt into or out of the offering, which focused on BIPOC, LGBTQ, disabled, and other identities.
Scholastic soon apologized and said it would stop offering the optional collection. "Even if the decision was made with good intention," said Scholastic trade publishing president Ellie Berger in an October 24 statement, "we understand now that it was a mistake to segregate diverse books in an elective case.”
Lim-Chua Wee noted a sense of "frustration" among both unionized and non-unionized Scholastic employees about not only stagnating wages but also the recent handling of the book fair controversy. "I think it kind of all boils down to frustration at a company that does not value its employees the way that it says it does," she said—from its handling of contract negotiations to the way it addressed employee concerns over the book fair rollout.
A representative from Scholastic could not be reached by the time of publication.
Following Wednesday's demonstration, author Maggie Tokuda-Hall (who earlier this year called out Scholastic for requesting she cut a reference to racism from her picture book about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II) expressed her support of the Scholastic Union. "I stand in complete and total solidarity with the striking workers of Scholastic," she tweeted, "who are asking for fair wages and for the publishing giant to stand by their ideals at the bargaining table and at their book fairs."
Lim-Chua Wee feels that "unions are definitely having a moment right now across the country," she said, adding that the Scholastic union is "fired up by the same sentiments" that fueled the HarperCollins strike last year, among other recent strikes. She's heartened to "see our sister shops—in publishing and not—come together and remind ourselves that there's power in numbers, and companies are not companies without their workers."
"We all really believe in what we're doing, and we're really proud of what we did and how far we've come," Lim-Chua Wee said of the day's walkout. "We're only going to keep pushing."