Unionized HarperCollins employees are planning to rally outside the company's headquarters at 195 Broadway in Manhattan's Financial District at 12:30 p.m. on December 16, according to the union. Authors including Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, R.F. Kuang, and Molly McGhee will "co-host" the rally, the union said.
Employees in the HarperCollins Union have been on strike since November, and have been working without a contract since April. Contract negotiations began between the union and the company last December, and the union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company with the National Labor Relations Board for failure to strike a deal.
The rally comes after HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray issued an open letter to authors and agents arguing that the contract demands made by the union, "which are many and far reaching," failed to "account for the market dynamics of the publishing industry, and our responsibility to meet the financial demands of all our business stakeholders—including all employees, authors, and booksellers," and accusing the union of mischaracterizing its negotiations with the company.
In response, Olga Brudastova, president of the Local 2110 chapter of the United Auto Workers union, said the company was "once again attempted to third-party the Union and pick and choose numbers and facts to serve their argument that the strike is unjustified." (Local 2110 of the UAW represents more than 250 employees in the design, editorial, legal, marketing, publicity, and sales departments at HarperCollins.) In a statement announcing the rally, the union writes that Murray's letter "fails to mention that the last bargaining session between the parties saw a comprehensive proposal from the union—a real pathway toward a settlement—which HarperCollins rejected, forcing unionized employees to go on strike."
Agents Weigh In
79.1% of literary agents who participated in a survey conducted by the Association of American Literary Agents say that they support the HarperCollins union strike. The union had previously asked agents to refrain from submitting new projects to HarperCollins until an agreement is reached.
Among the supporters, 74.4% back the strike unequivocally, while 4.7% are "positive with caveats." Meanwhile 9.3% say they are neutral, and 11.1% feel they need more information about the issue to form an opinion. Fewer than 1% of respondents say they do not support the strike at all. A total of 215 members responded to the poll.
A majority of respondents to the poll say they have changed their dealings with HarperCollins in some way as a result of the strike, from delaying deal announcements to only submitting option projects to withholding all business, including meetings, with the publisher. Still, there are some caveats: specifically, some agents noted that they will still submit to the publisher if their clients specifically request it, or if they feel that cutting Harper out of the running will result in lower offers for their clients' books.