Union employees at HarperCollins staged a day-long strike in front of the book publisher’s downtown headquarters demanding pay increases, more workplace diversity and stronger benefits.

UAW Local 2110 picketers march around Dey Street during a strike against HarperCollins and one supporter raises a sign with the slogan “If Black lives really mattered, they’d pay them a living.”

Tasmia Afrin / City Limits

UAW Local 2110 members march around Dey Street during a strike against HarperCollins as one supporter raises a sign with the slogan “If Black lives really mattered, they’d pay them a living wage.” Photo by Tasmia Afrin

On Wednesday, union employees at HarperCollins staged a day-long strike in front of the book publisher’s downtown headquarters demanding pay increases, more workplace diversity and stronger benefits. The workers, represented by UAW Local 2110, say they have been without a contract since December 2021. 

“I want very badly to sit at my desk without thinking about bills but the company’s refusal to bargain has led me out here,” said Stephanie Guerdan, 32, an associate editor of children’s books and one of the organizers of the strike. 

Chanting slogans like “Passion doesn’t pay the rent” and “With wages this low we can’t even afford a little house,” about 50-100 people walked a picket line on Dey Street in the sweltering mid-July heat. Guerdan said that some workers have been forced to take second jobs to pay their bills. 

About 250 employees from different departments including editorial, marketing, legal and design are members of UAW Local 2110. Union officials say their average salary is about $55,000 a year, with some starting salaries as low as $45,000 a year. A June 2022 report by Douglas Elliman found that the average rent in Manhattan, where HarperCollins’ headquarters are located, was $5,058. 

The picketers also demanded HarperCollins address what they say is a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the company. One picketer carried signs reading “If Black lives really mattered, they’d pay them a living wage,” while others chanted, “Diversity in publishing matters.” 

In 2020, HarperCollins announced Gisselda Nuñez as the company’s Vice-President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

When asked about the strike, a HarperCollins spokesperson said that while the company does not comment on negotiations, “our hope is to continue our discussions at the negotiating table.” 

Bystanders at the picket line had their own takes on the strike. 

“All workers need to unite. An injury to one of us is an injury to all,” said Tatiana Cozzarelli, 36, an adjunct professor who was watching the picketers. 

Another was less supportive. “All you union workers do is protest,” yelled one man to the picketers. “Go work and make the money instead.”

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