An effort to unionize Skyhorse Publishing has ended, for now. On Wednesday, pro-union workers at the independent publisher, headed by copy editor Terry Buck, confirmed in an email to PW that votes from a late November election, to determine whether the company's employees would join Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers, have not produced the hoped-for result.
The vote is the latest in a number of high-profile organizing efforts in media—some successful, some not—at companies like Vice, the now-defunct Gothamist and DNAInfo, and Vox Media. The organizing effort at Skyhorse marks the first such attempt at a trade book publisher since 2001, when employees at the New Press unionized.
The election was held on November 30, but the full vote count was not tallied until December 14, as mail-in ballots from the publisher's Vermont offices needed to be tallied. The election resulted in 18 "yes" votes, compared to 28 "no" votes, according to a letter sent from the Skyhorse Publishing Workers Union to staff.
The effort to unionize was led by Buck and represented by Local 2110 president Maida Rosenstein. (Local 2110 represents New York City workers in a range of fields, including publishing and academia.)
Rosenstein said the vote was intended to address certain "conditions of employment" concerning staff, ranging from low wages, cuts in paid time off, and changes made to health benefits.
Buck attributed the defeat in part to actions taken by management. The bargaining unit was initially 51 people, he said, but after management took the group to court the unit was reduced to "35 or so." Further delays set in, as management continued to push back, and a planned summer election was pushed until November.
According to Buck, the organizing committee "faced a lot of bullying in the office" as well as "more subtle repercussions for publicly identifying ourselves as union supporters." He alleged that the unionizing effort resulted in the resignations of five people, noting that all of them were among the 12 initial signers of the organizing effort's letter of intent to management earlier this year.
Skyhorse management was happy with the outcome. "Skyhorse Publishing is pleased that our employees have decided against being represented by a union," Skyhorse's president and publisher, Tony Lyons, said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to fulfill our mission of providing readers with the highest quality books we can find."
While the effort to unionize at Skyhorse has ended for now, employees can request a new election. To that end, the Skyhorse Publishing Workers Union added in its letter that "the union effort has achieved several of the changes employees wanted to see—Skyhorse has hired an HR Coordinator, the facilities have been improved and maintained, and despite 13 layoffs and firings in the first five months of the year, none of our colleagues have been laid off since the union effort went public."