Unionized employees of HarperCollins have voted to authorize a strike if the publisher does not agree to a fair contract.
The union, Local 2110 of the UAW, represents more than 250 HC employees in the design, editorial legal, marketing, publicity, and sales departments. According to the union, current contract negotiations with HC management began in December 2021, when a one-year pandemic extension of the contract was set to expire. The union is bargaining for higher pay, improved family leave benefits, a greater commitment to diversifying staff, and stronger union protection.
Until a deal is reached, the unions will continue to work without a contract. A union spokesperson no new bargaining session has been set, and no deadline for a strike has been announced.
The negotiations are the first to take place since HC bought the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt trade division, and the union said that it is disputing the company’s refusal to include former HMH Boston-based employees in the bargaining unit or to recognize the seniority of former HMH New York–based staff who now work for HarperCollins. The negotiations also come after HC posted a record year in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2021.
“I worked at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for two years before HarperCollins bought my division in 2021,” said Carly Katz, audio coordinator in a statement. “The company's current offer isn't even coming close to accounting for the current rate of inflation. If they can buy a whole division and still have record setting profits, they can raise salaries to match the cost of living.”
Indeed, improving low wages is a major objective for the union. “Most of us earn low salaries that are unlivable in major cities like New York and Boston," Laura Harshberger, a senior production editor in Children’s Books and the union chairperson, said in a statement. The union is comprised mainly of women who have an average salary of $55,000.
“All of our proposals are to make HarperCollins a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace,” Harshberger said. “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.”
“Our strike vote shows that the company needs to take our demands for better compensation and union rights seriously,” said Stephanie Guerdan, an associate editor in Children’s Books who has worked at HC since 2017.
A spokesperson for HC said the publisher does not comment on negotiations.
Though it represents only a small portion of HC’s total workforce, HC has had a union for more than 80 years. Among other workers Local 2110 represents are employees at the New Press, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, and Columbia University.
This article has been updated with further information.