Deal Reached in HarperCollins Strike after Months of Negotiations
By Julia Fitzpatrick
HarperCollins has reached an agreement with its employee union after three months of strikes and negotiations. In a statement on 9 February, it was announced that the deal includes “increases to minimum salaries,” which will rise to $47,500 immediately and to $50,000 by the start of 2025. The deal has also secured “a one-time $1,500 lump sum bonus to be paid to bargaining unit employees following ratification.” The contract has been ratified and will be in place until the end of 2025. The agreement was made against the backdrop of a tough financial quarter for the publisher, which saw earnings drop 52% from last year. HarperCollins has recently begun implementing a plan to cut its workforce in North America by 5% by the end of the fiscal year, citing “a perfect storm” of inflation, supply chain issues and a drop in consumer demand.
The roots of the strike stretch back to December 2021, when the union’s leadership began negotiating for a new contract. The union’s demands for increased minimum salaries, diversity initiatives and a union security clause were rejected by HarperCollins. The previous contract expired in April 2022, and on 10 November around 250 unionised HarperCollins employees walked out. The strike lasted for sixty-six days, with workers picketing outside HarperCollins headquarters in New York for its duration. Vox writer, Constance Grady, visited the picket line and spoke to the strikers about their grievances with the company. Genessee Floressantos, a picket captain and associate publicist for the international sales department, told Grady that the HarperCollins management “don’t see us as individuals. They think that we’re going to give up. They don’t understand.” Floressantos said she was striking, not just because of low wages, but also due to microaggressions and the lack of diversity:
“The company likes to pat themselves on the back and say that in the last fiscal year, 80% of their new hires were from marginalised communities. To that I always ask, ‘Well, what are your retention statistics?’ They refuse to share.”
As the only major American publisher with a union, reforms made at HarperCollins set important standards for the rest of the industry. The striking workers, who returned to work on 21 February, have expressed hope for the company’s future. Cassidy Miller, a rights associate for HarperCollins children’s department, said she is “excited and nervous to get back to work! And to see the ripples this has across the industry.”