NEW YORK — “I’m very proud of what we accomplished,” Laura Harshberger, a senior production editor and chair of the union bargaining unit at HarperCollins Publishers, told the Militant. The more than 200 hourly workers — in editorial, sales, publicity, design, legal and marketing — overwhelmingly approved a contract Feb. 16 after more than three months on strike. New York-based HarperCollins is the only major publisher where workers have a union, United Auto Workers Local 2110. Workers will return to work Feb. 21.
Harshberger said that minimum starting wages will immediately increase from $45,000 a year to $47,500, and will rise to $50,000 by the beginning of 2025. The new contract expires at the end of 2025. While those that are already being paid above the minimum for their job category won’t get an immediate raise, she said, “we won language that guarantees an annual raise to everyone who is meeting their production goals.” Full-time union members will get a $1,500 signing bonus.
“Most importantly, we strengthened the union in a way that will help us in the long run,” Harshberger said. “Every new hire will get a letter from the union and we’ll be able to have an orientation session with them when they start work.” This is important because new hires choose whether or not to join the union. As part of preparing for the strike, the majority of workers were won to the union.
In the course of the strike the mostly young workers won support from hundreds of authors and literary agencies that refrained from carrying out business with HarperCollins. In addition to regular picketing at the publishing house, the union organized two rallies at News Corp., HarperCollins’ parent company owned by Rupert Murdoch.
“I voted for the contract,” Doris Allen, who is in sales of children’s books and has worked at HarperCollins for 15 years, told the Militant. To live in New York, the young workers just starting out really need the $50,000 a year now, she said. “So the results were a little disappointing, but we made some progress, which is important.”