HarperCollins workers go on strike

From National Public Radio:

Union members at HarperCollins, one of the largest publishers in the country, started an indefinite strike today. Workers and supporters gathered outside the company’s New York City offices this morning to make their demands.

The action comes after a drawn out negotiation process, with workers asking for higher wages, stronger commitments to diversifying staff and better family leave. The approximately 250 unionized workers are represented by UAW 2110, and include people in design, marketing, publicity and sales. These employees have been working without a contract since April.

“What we’re asking for is a fair wage,” said Stephanie Guerdan, associate editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books and shop steward at the HarperCollins Union.

In the months leading up to the strike, the messaging from the workers has centered on meager pay while the company reported record profits in 2021. According to a recent statement, the average salary for HarperCollins employees is $55,000. The minimum salary is $45,000.

“None of that is an amount you can live on in New York City,” said Guerdan who added that the company is insisting that employees should be able to commute into the Manhattan offices at least one day a week.

A spokesperson for HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp, sent a statement that read “HarperCollins has agreed to a number of proposals that the United Auto Workers Union is seeking to include in a new contract. We are disappointed an agreement has not been reached and will continue to negotiate in good faith.”

The striking workers are asking authors, agents and freelancers to withhold any new business with the company – but to continue to work on any existing agreements or contracts.

Link to the rest at National Public Radio

For those not familiar with News Corp, it’s a very large worldwide media conglomerate run by Rupert Murdoch.

News Corp publications include The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, Barrons, The Australian, The Times of London, The Sun, The New York Post and a boatload of other Australian media companies.

Suffice to say, dead tree publications have had a rough ride over the past couple of decades, but, at least some News Corp pubs have aggressively moved online.

The example that immediately comes to PG’s mind is the Wall Street Journal, which has an excellent and large online edition. WSJ passed The New York Times as the largest circulation paper in the US several years ago.

7 thoughts on “HarperCollins workers go on strike”

  1. Yet again, corporate publishing reminds me of Crazy Eddie, the archetype of the activist that with the best of intentions does the worst possible thing at the worst possible time.

    So of course at a time of supply chain probblems, ballooning paper costs, and inflation threatening sales, the unionized want more money out of the dwindling corporate coffers.

    Dunno, but those job descriptions…
    All ripe for outsourcing.
    And if HC, which was runner-up for S&S gets their wish there will be a lot of “redundant” staff at the merged company…

    • That “one day a week” would be a deal breaker for me. Drop that, and, yes, they could replace all of them quite easily. (Or the strike would break down if they kept the same pay scale.)

      • Yep. COVID created a lot of work-from-home-only monsters. My company has reacted to difficult employees that live 15 minutes from the office by hiring people that live 1,500 miles away and letting the poor performers go. Years from now we’ll find that those who come to the office are more mentally healthy, make a higher wage, and earn more promotions. Out of sight, out of mind.

        • Remote work serves a purpose but it has to actually *serve* a purpose in the company’s business. Too often it doesn’t.
          Also, a lot of companies haven’t caught on that there’s other, better ways to handle white collar workers than the dichotomy of massive ventrsliezed campuses versus work from home. Decentralized remote offices being the sweet spot. Instead of a single central site, usually in a very expensive city center, a collection of small satellite facilities scattered around the metro area are cheaper and just as effective for units that need to be co-located.

          Some time back at tbe day job the building we were housed in needed refurbishment and there wasn’t room elsewhere on campus so the PTB opted for renting a small building in a new suburban tech park nearby. It worked like a charm. The teams that needed to be together stayed together and everybody else was a phone call, email, or videocon away. Worst case, a short car drive away.

          Eventually they dragged up back in to campus but they had to *drag* us back.
          The satellite operation was way better than half a floor in a vintage building.
          Great while it lasted.

    • I can’t agree, Felix. I find it very difficult to find any “best of intentions” among the control persons of commercial publishing — in the particular instance of NewsCorp, because no aspect of the publishing and media empire is not intended by its control persons as merely support for achieving certain political goals, as distinct from worthwhile on their own. (And NewsCorp is not alone in that.)

      • I wasn’t talking about the corporate bossrs, but the drones who think that by unionizing they can make those same bosses change their stripes and bow to them.

        “The action comes after a drawn out negotiation process, with workers asking for higher wages, *stronger commitments to diversifying staff* and better family leave. ”

        Really? Wouldn’t “diversifying staff” imply firing *them*?

        And they want agents to boycott their sugar daddies? Who might blacklist them if they dare listen to the drones who clearly don’t undetstand their role in the food chain they *chose* to live in. Guppies swimming with piranhas think they can call the shots. Classic Crazy Eddie.

        Also: Crazy Eddie works from a rational (to itself), self-serving point of view, with no regard to the interests of others or the consequences of their plan. (Think: “defund tbe Police.”)

        As usual the caveat applies: be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

        Here’s one analysis of the Crazy Eddie archetype:


        “Ringworld had “The Luck of Teela Brown.” The Mote In God’s Eye has “Crazy Eddie.” It may be that Larry Niven has consciously gone into the business of inventing archetypes, or it may only be that he naturally thinks that way.

        What makes Crazy Eddie even more fascinating is that it is an alien archetype. For those who haven’t read the book, some quote:

        “When a city has grown so overlarge and crowded that it is in immediate danger of collapse … when food and clean water flow into the city at a rate just sufficient to feed every mouth, and every hand must work constantly to keep it that way … when all transportation is involved in moving vital supplies, and none is left over to move people out of the city should the need arise … then it is that Crazy Eddie leads the movers of garbage out on strike for better working conditions.”
        “It was not part of his nature to wish for what could not be, but he hoped that the efforts to breed a more stable Mediator would succeed; it was difficult to work with creatures who might suddenly see an unreal universe and make judgements based on it. The pattern was always the same. First they wished for the impossible. Then they worked toward it, still knowing it to be impossible. Finally they acted as if the impossible could be achieved, and let that unreality influence every act.”

        “The Moties’ problem is one of the great problems of life – there are situations that are fundamentally unacceptable and fundamentally unavoidable, and what do you do about it. In the long run death provides a solution to the problems of life, but “final solution” is of no value to the living. For a species, for life itself, there is another long term solution – wait and endure, for all sets of conditions are transient, no situation really lasts forever. For life as a whole this is valid wisdom, and living beings have it built into their very biochemistry – live and endure, regardless.”

  2. So, how’s the health of that strike fund looking?
    New York is indeed an expensive place to live. I saw a video today of a 95sqft NY apartment with shared bathrooms and showers. $1,100. But it had a great widow covering one entire wall.

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