Unionized employees of HarperCollins will hold a one-day strike next Wednesday, July 20. The announcement follows a vote by the union last week to authorize a strike if the publisher does not agree to what it deems a fair contract.
The union, Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers, represents more than 250 employees in editorial, sales, publicity, design, legal, and marketing departments. The union’s contract expired at the end of last year and no new agreement has been reached. The union is looking for for higher pay, improved family leave benefits, a greater commitment to diversifying staff, and stronger union protection.
“We want an agreement with HarperCollins that will create a more accessible, equitable, and just workplace,” said Laura Harshberger, a senior production editor in children’s books and the union chairperson in a statement. “We have a mandate from our members to strike because the company refuses to agree to a fair contract for the employees that make it so successful.”
Harshberger said a petition started by the union among publishing industry members has gained more than 2,000 signatures in a show of support for the union, which notes that after years of record profits, HC is positioned to improve pay. Women comprise the majority of workers, and are paid an average $55,000 annually, with a starting salary of $45,000.
In reporting financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2022, HC parent company News Corp. said that while sales rose 5%, profits dropped 16% (to $67 million) due to supply chain problems and other issues. Still, executives told analysts they expect the publisher’s financial performance to remain strong. In the same call, CFO Susan Panuccio said that “talent retention” is likely to remain a challenge for News Corp’s book and newspaper publishing companies, at least for the short term.
The union also said that as part of its negotiations, it will press for more racial and ethnic diversity at the company. “Our members are tired of conversations about diversity and inclusion that leave the company unaccountable,” said Stephanie Guerdan, an associate editor in Children’s Books in a statement. “We need structural change that starts with wages, union security, and policies that actually help marginalized workers thrive in the workplace. The company needs to commit to working with us as a union on these issues on an ongoing basis.”
Asked for comment, a HC spokesperson told PW the company does not comment on negotiations.