On the Picket Line

HarperCollins strikers fight for higher wages, union rights

By Sara Lobman
January 17, 2022

NEW YORK — “We’re fighting for higher wages and union security,” Laura Harshberger, a senior production editor and chair of the bargaining unit at HarperCollins, told the Militant. Some 200 workers — hourly employees in editorial, sales, publicity, design, legal and marketing — have been on strike since Nov. 10. New York-based HarperCollins is one of the largest publishers in the country and the only major publisher with a union. The workers are organized by United Auto Workers Local 2110.

Their contract expired a year ago, Harshberger said. It was extended month by month until April, when the company refused to extend it again. “That meant the ‘no strike’ part of the contract also was no longer in effect.”

HarperCollins had record profits in 2020 and 2021, she said. In the third quarter of 2022 the company made $39 million. “The starting wage is only $45,000 and the average is $55,000. With inflation, you just can’t live on that in New York City. Many of us work a second or even a third job just to get by.”

In addition to livable wages, the workers are fighting for “union security,” Harshberger said. “Right now this is an open shop.” Each individual decides whether to join the union and pay dues, even though everyone benefits from having the union.

After a big organizing effort close to 200 of the 235 or so workers covered by the union contract have joined, Harshberger said. “And not a single one of them has crossed the picket line.” This includes some new workers who have been on strike for longer than they had worked there.

“We’ve gotten incredible support,” she said. On Dec. 16 “we had a rally of 100 people.” Several authors, politicians and workers from other unions came. Those joining the picket line include union members from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37; adjunct professors at the New School; workers from the Starbucks Roastery, who had been on strike; and even nonunion workers from other publishers who are watching this fight closely. “We know we’re going to be here for a while. But we’re ready to stay out as long as it takes,” Harshberger said.

“We have the publishing industry paying attention,” said Kelly Danber, a senior sales support associate who has worked at HarperCollins for five years.

Join the picket lines at 195 Broadway. (Picketing will resume Jan. 3, weekdays 10:30-2:30.) Contributions can be sent to HarperCollins Solidarity Fund, Attn: Lynne Weir, Region 9A UAW, 111 Founders Plaza, 17th Floor, East Hartford, CT 06108.