In perhaps the most significant organized labor effort at a U.S. publisher in almost 50 years, HarperCollins union members went on a lengthy strike this year. Some 250 employees, all members of Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers, walked off the job on November 10 in what the union called an “open-ended” strike, after staging a one-day strike July 20.
Unionized HarperCollins workers—who come primarily from the publisher’s design, editorial, legal, marketing, publicity, and sales departments—overwhelmingly authorized the strike after contract negotiations, which began in December 2021, broke down in April. The union is bargaining for higher pay, improved family leave benefits, a greater commitment to diversifying staff, and stronger union protection, as big publishing executives increasingly clash with their employees over the business’s low pay and lack of diversity.
The strike is being led by Olga Brudastova, president of UAW Local 2110, which represents the HC union workers, and Laura Harshberger, a senior production editor for children’s books and chairwoman for the union. The strike has drawn the support of many agents and authors, and a strike fund has generated about $42,000 in donations as of December 14. As part of its efforts, some strikers appeared outside the National Book Awards on November 16 to hand out information on worker rights and fair wages, as well as buttons to show support for their cause.
The union’s action generated enough publicity that HC CEO Brian Murray wrote a letter to authors and agents providing an update on negotiations from management’s point of view after weeks of telling the press that the company “does not comment on ongoing negotiations.” The HC union is the largest of a handful of unions in book publishing, and its strike meets a moment when employees at such publishers as Duke University Press and Verso have been forming unions and employees at a few other publishers are reportedly considering organizing as well.