HarperCollins and striking workers reach tentative agreement


Just hours before their strike against HarperCollins turned three months old, union members reached a tentative agreement with the New York publisher on Thursday night.

More than 200 union employees from the editorial, sales, publicity, design, legal and marketing departments had walked out on Nov. 10. The workers said they were making three main demands on HarperCollins, which is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.:

  • Raise the starting salary from $45,000 to $50,000.
  • Make meaningful progress toward increased diversity.
  • Enroll new employees in the union automatically.

Over the past several days, both sides had been working with a federal mediator in hopes of bringing the bitter strike to an end. Thursday evening, HarperCollins announced it had agreed to increase minimum salaries and pay a one-time, lump-sum bonus of $1,500 to bargaining-unit employees following ratification of the contract.

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Reached by phone minutes after that announcement, associate editor Stephanie Guerdan said: “There were tears of joy all around. I’m extremely happy to have come to this agreement. It’s been a long time coming, and I think our members are going to be excited about the stuff that’s in it.” As a union shop steward, Guerdan had spent many extremely cold days this winter marching in the picket line.

In a statement issued before Thursday night’s agreement, the publisher said that “based on publicly available information, HarperCollins’s current entry-level hourly rate is the highest in the publishing industry.” The statement also noted that since the last contract in 2018, “HarperCollins has raised entry-level salaries 25 percent.” Management indicated that it believes workers should have a choice about joining the union and paying union dues.

Union leaders will present the contact details to their members Friday morning. Those details have not yet been made public.

A vote is expected next week. If ratified by the union membership, the new contract will extend through Dec. 31, 2025.

HarperCollins is the only Big Five publisher with a union, though it represents just 237 of the company’s approximately 4,000 employees worldwide.

The long strike had posed a dilemma for readers and booksellers sympathetic to labor. The union insisted that it didn’t want anyone to boycott books from HarperCollins. But critics were asked not to review HarperCollins titles, and agents and authors had been urged to hold their submissions until an acceptable contract arrived.

Even before last night’s agreement was reached, Guerdan said: “We’ve already made a difference in the publishing industry because this month Macmillan and Hachette both raised their entry-level salaries to $47,500. And I am definitely drawing a direct line between fear of organizing at their houses and these raises.”

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