HarperCollins Debut Authors Say They Won’t Work With Strikebreaking Editors

This story was initially revealed by Prism.

Employees on the HarperCollins Union have been on strike for over two months, braving the fierce New York Metropolis winter and picketing exterior the corporate’s places of work. Now, sources say their labor is being outsourced to short-term employees. Whereas some authors are crossing the picket line and persevering with to work with “scab” — or strikebreaking — editors, many are holding the road in assist of the union and say they gained’t work with any short-term employees whereas their editors strike for a livable wage.

“I don’t need publishing to proceed to be a spot that’s solely possible for individuals who come from means,” stated Kasey LeBlanc, who has a younger grownup novel publishing with HarperCollins in 2024.

For over 80 years, HarperCollins has held a status as being one of many largest unionized publishing homes, with over 250 workers represented by Native 2110 of the UAW. The union started negotiating for larger pay, a larger dedication to diversifying employees, and stronger union safety in December 2021 and members have been working with no contract since April 2022. After months of failed negotiations and a one-day strike on July 20, 2022, the union approved one other strike in November 2022.

“Administration has been very tired of bargaining with us over our proposals,” stated Laura Harshberger, union chairperson and senior manufacturing editor for HarperCollins Kids’s Books. “I don’t know why the corporate has been so antagonistic to us this time round … My solely understanding of it’s that they don’t consider that HarperCollins ought to have a union, and so they’re making an attempt to union-bust, however we’re not letting them.”

Harshberger, who has labored at HarperCollins since 2016, is the best degree of worker that’s union eligible and presently makes $68,000 yearly. In response to an anonymous spreadsheet of publishing salaries, a majority of the 101 HarperCollins workers who specified their employer reported making between $45,000 to $65,000 yearly. In response to MIT’s dwelling wage calculator, a single grownup who doesn’t assist any kids ought to make a minimum of $53,000 in New York Metropolis.

A press launch from the union says the primarily feminine workers make a mean of $55,000 with a $45,000 beginning wage. In the meantime, the corporate reported record-setting revenues prior to now two years. As the price of dwelling continues to rise, employees say these salaries aren’t sufficient, particularly in New York Metropolis, the place the corporate relies. LeBlanc stated this makes the publishing trade exclusionist and solely obtainable to individuals who already come from rich households.

“I believe having gifted, passionate employees from various backgrounds who’re capable of work on our books with out the worry that they will’t assist themselves everyday is admittedly essential,” stated LeBlanc. “It’s simply as essential because the tales I’m making an attempt to place out into the world. That’s partially why I assist the union.”

In response to Harshberger, an inside message went out suggesting the corporate ought to rent short-term employees to edit the manuscripts coated by putting editors.

“It’s disheartening, and it’s demoralizing that the corporate is selecting to spend cash on bringing in exterior employees who will not be aware of the programs. They don’t have institutional information, and so they’re probably very inexperienced in how publishing works,” stated Harshberger. “It simply looks like administration is admittedly misunderstanding what’s at stake right here. Most authors don’t need their books within the arms of inexperienced folks. My understanding of what’s occurring on the within is that corners are simply being reduce left and proper and that books will not be receiving the standard assurance that they sometimes would.”

Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, whose debut novel is popping out with HarperCollins in 2024, stated her work has not but been impacted as a result of her editor shouldn’t be eligible to be a part of the union and her e-book won’t be edited for the following few months. Even so, because the employees went on strike, Ruiz-Grossman has donated to the strike fund, despatched emails to the human assets division at HarperCollins expressing her disgust with how they’re treating their employees, and is planning to withhold new e-book submissions till employees get a good contract. If she have been introduced with the choice of working with a scab, she stated she would defer to what the union suggests.

“If you’re signing up as an writer to work with Harper, what you’re signing up for is to work with a devoted, unionized employees who’re being paid pretty and handled correctly of their jobs,” stated Ruiz-Grossman. “That’s not the case once they’re bringing in scabs who will not be aware of your work and who will not be skilled the way in which that the union employees are, who will not be aware of the years of labor that they’ve all been doing with their authors.”

LeBlanc has additionally instructed his agent that he refuses to work with scab brokers. Presently, his editor is non-union, and he has despatched two letters of assist to the administration staff. When requested if he feels any concern about retaliation for exhibiting assist of the union, he stated that’s “all the time a worry.”

“However then I take into consideration the union employees being out on the picket line for over 40 days. Their jobs are in danger, and [potential retaliation] appears like a good value to pay,” stated LeBlanc. “I believe it will be a foul search for Harper to start out retaliating in opposition to their authors. But it surely’s a danger I assume I have to take.”

Emma Specter, whose first e-book can also be publishing with HarperCollins in 2024, is working with a putting editor. She stated it’s been troublesome to not share each chapter together with her editor, however she would additionally by no means work with a scab editor.

“I’m simply in awe of how a lot my editor Rachel Kambury is risking and the way considerate and cautious she and her colleagues are being about ensuring that this strike will get consideration,” stated Specter. “I’ve whole confidence that we’ll simply do extra of a batch edit when she’s again.”

Specter, like LeBlanc, Ruiz-Grossman, and Harshberger, hopes that HarperCollins will meet the union’s wants so the strike could be resolved.

“I hope we will all get again to work in a means that’s extra honest, in a means that’s extra livable for the individuals who really do the work,” stated Specter. “They’re making an attempt to convey a couple of change that’s means overdue.”

Prism is an impartial and nonprofit newsroom led by journalists of colour. We report from the bottom up and on the intersections of injustice.