Photo: Claire Woodcock
After holding the line for three months, unionized workers at publishing giant Harper Collins have reached an agreement for a new contract, increasing wagesand setting a new precedent in the book publishing industry. The publishing company and the union reached a tentative labor agreement on February 9, which included increases to minimum salaries across levels throughout the term of the agreement. HarperCollins Union ratified the agreement on Thursday. Bargaining unit employees also received a one-time $1,500 bonus following ratification.
The agreement has the potential to drive union organizing within the publishing industry. HarperCollins is currently the only company of the Big Five publishing giants with a dedicated union. Olga Brudastova, president of Local 2110 United Auto Workers says the agreement addresses all priorities in regard to wages, union rights, and diversity. “We are very proud of this agreement,” Brudastova told Motherboard. “Our members fought tooth and nail for every letter of it and the result goes beyond the many improvements we’ve won in this contract. I am confident this will lead to a long-lasting change in work culture at HarperCollins and perhaps in publishing at large. There are more than two options now: stick it out or leave. There is now a third option of collective action and standing up together for what is right.”
The new agreement includes improved compensation and benefits. Upon ratification, HarperCollins employees will receive minimum wage raises with a $1,000 increase on January 1, 2024 and a $1,500 increase on January 1, 2025 for everyone who performs above “unsatisfactory” during their annual performance review. Workers should also expect to see improved union rights, including release time during work hours and paid time to participate in the company’s diversity initiatives, more paid time off, and the ability to continue working remotely until July 1, 2023.
The HarperCollins Union’s collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of 2021, after a one-year pandemic extension of the previous contract was set to expire. The contract was extended again but expired in April 2022. HarperCollins Union staged a one-day strike on July 20, 2022 before going on an indefinite strike on November 10, 2022. Last month, Motherboard reported that 100 unionized HarperCollins workers staged a rally outside HarperCollins’ parent company, News Corporation. At the time, workers had been on strike for 50 work days and HarperCollins’ refusal to return to the bargaining table made the situation look bleak. But something worked. Both the one-day strike and months-long strike drew attention to core problems within the publishing industry, including low wages that can deter potential employees from entering the industry. The union called this counterintuitive to the company’s stated efforts to diversify its workforce. Authors, agents, and other publishing industry employees haven’t been shy about expressing their ire with the second largest book publishing company in the U.S. over the past year. When news broke that HarperCollins Union reached a tentative agreement, authors noted that the strike is bound to have a greater impact on the industry at-large. Strikers go back to work starting next week.