HarperCollins on Strike

  • Post last modified:November 23, 2022

The HarperCollins Union is on strike for the 13th day today, and judging from HC’s response (nothing), they are far from done.

As a book blog, I feel it’s important to show support for all the HarperCollins employees taking the brave move of fighting for decent pay. So let’s talk about it.

Graphic with text reading "I support the HarperCollins union" with the hashtag "#HCPOnStrike" below.

HarperCollins on Strike

Employees have been out on the picket line for nearly two weeks now, and have had significant presences at book-world events during that time. (Did you see the union buttons floating around the National Book Awards ceremony?) As far as I know, HarperCollins management still hasn’t said anything on the matter, which is . . . uncomfortable.

Publishing employees have been underpaid for as long as the industry has been around–this strike has been coming for a while now. HarperCollins is actually the only one of the big five publishers to even have a worker union. And this really was the last option as they have been negotiating for months now with very little progress.

I’m no expert in this area, but I want to highlight that the pay rise the union is asking for is negligible when put in context of the rest of HarperCollins’ expenses. The current proposal of the union would cost HarperCollins about a million in the first year. Yes, that sounds like a lot, but it is also less than a 2022 book advance given to Jared Kushner, of all people. Priorities. Let’s pay the people who actually make the books happen.

My Thoughts

This is a messy messy subject, and I’ve been trying to write this post for a few days now. I would just like to air some thoughts that have been hovering around in my head since the strike began.

A fellow student in my publishing class (99% white, many obviously affluent) a few months ago proudly declared that she supported unpaid internships (in the UK, a country where “unpaid internships” are illegal). Because, of course, she could afford to work for free in the most expensive city in the UK to get a leg up in the industry.

And that’s fantastic for her. But it also shows the ignorance plaguing the publishing industry and halting the progress book lovers have called on for years now. I know that maybe I am a little insulated considering I’ve written within the book review/publishing world for ages now, but it’s astonishing.

I walked into that publishing class (perhaps naively) expecting all of my fellow book lovers and publishing wannabes to be of the same mindset as me and my circle, and some definitely were. I met those who were thoughtful and insightful and taught me so much and will absolutely be amazing additions to the industry. But the majority of students there weren’t.

And it isn’t to say that those students didn’t care–that would be a major misunderstanding of the problem. My finding was that the majority of them came in with stars in their eyes with little understanding of reality.

I’ve finished with school, and as of now, I have given up on applying for publishing jobs. I simply cannot see myself living anywhere remotely near “comfortably” on the salaries publishers today are offering, and no, I refuse to make it a “labor of love” because frankly, that phrase shouldn’t apply to careers in which the top folks are making ungodly sums. The money is there. It just isn’t being given to the right people.

Do I believe I could make the industry better? Yes. Do I believe I would be good in publishing? Absolutely, I know I would. But for now, I’m happy as a lowly book blogger and want to use my voice to amplify the wonderful employees who make my work possible to begin with.

How to Support HarperCollins on Strike

These directions come straight from the HC union themselves–I’m just reemphasising them here since I know those who read 9th Street may not be on Twitter, where they are circulating the most.

Everyone: Donate to the strike fund to help with the living expenses of workers who are out striking. If you have words, direct them to [email protected]. If you want to directly donate food or help in other ways, DM the @hcpunion account on Twitter.

Readers: All of the above. However, make sure you don’t boycott HarperCollins titles. Authors shouldn’t be punished for something that is not their fault. (But, ya know, maybe purchase from your local indie or bookshop.org.)

Bloggers/reviewers: All of the above, and also hold your reviews/mentions of HarperCollins titles until the end of the strike, if you are able.

Maybe once we pay the people in the industry a reasonable wage, we can talk about compensating book bloggers and reviewers for their work–and no, a free book does not count as compensation. (Oops, am I being too obvious?)

All the love (and best wishes to HarperCollins employees),

Some sources I found invaluable and suggest for further reading:

This Vulture article by Sophie Vershbow: “Passion Doesn’t Pay the Bills”

Obviously, the Union Twitter account, which is worth giving a follow.

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