By Lori Perkins
Harper Collins is the only American publishing company with a union (a member of the UAW), and now 99% of its employees have voted to go on strike over low wages and poor working conditions if the company does not improve working conditions.
According to a press release sent out by the union, which represents 250+ employees in editorial, sales, publicity, design, legal, and marketing departments, the union is bargaining for higher pay, improved family leave benefits, a greater commitment to diversifying staff, and stronger union protection.
The press release continues, “the mainly women workers average $55,000 annually, with a starting salary of $45,000. Many employees cite pressure to work extra hours without additional compensation. The company, one of the top five book publishers globally, reported record-setting profits in the past two years.”
“Most of us earn low salaries that are unlivable in major cities like New York and Boston," said Laura Harshberger, a Senior Production Editor in Children’s Books and the Union Chairperson. “Our compensation doesn’t reflect our education and skills, or our contributions to the financial success of the company.”
Last year, HarperCollins absorbed the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) Books and Media division. The union 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.
“I worked at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for two years before HarperCollins bought my division in 2021,” said Carly Katz, Audio Coordinator. “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.”
The union also cites the lack of racial and ethnic diversity at the company, attributing this to historically low wages and the lack of real commitment to diversifying.
“All of our proposals are to make HarperCollins a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace,” Harshberger stated. “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.”