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HarperCollins Employees Combat to Finish Cycle of Unfair Wages

When Rachel Kambury, 31, began working at publishing home Hachette six years in the past, her supervisor sat her down and stated, “I am so comfortable you are right here.”



Courtesy of Rachel Kambury

Supporters despatched bagels and diverse snacks to strikers on the picket line.

She was flattered. “I used to be actually comfortable to be there,” Kambury recollects. “However then he stated, ‘You truly beat out 400 different individuals for this job.'”

On the time Kambury was honored and felt validated that she was chosen as a substitute of a whole lot of others for one coveted spot. Although the position was her dream job, the wage was less-than-desirable. It was 2016, and Kambury was incomes round $33,000 — earlier than taxes.

“I shortly got here to this realization of, Oh, that is how they justify these salaries, as a result of there have been 400 individuals who had been prepared and prepared to take my spot,” she says. “They know that and take it without any consideration.”

Kambury has since moved on to different publishing corporations; she’s presently an affiliate editor at HarperCollins. She’s now nicely into her profession, has labored on a whole lot of bestsellers and has bid on books for as much as $500,000 — and but, “I am solely making about $13 an hour after taxes,” she says.

Kambury is likely one of the a whole lot of unionized HarperCollins staff presently picketing for honest pay and higher working requirements. Kambury says that the strike, which began on November 10, will proceed till the workers negotiate a good contract. The union represents about 250 staff, who’ve been working with out a contract since April, in keeping with the New York Occasions.

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The motion has garnered assist from others within the publishing trade, world-renowned authors and on-line supporters voicing their solidarity. The widespread consideration has delivered to gentle, as Kambury factors out, that it is not simply HarperCollins — it is just about all of publishing.

“I’d name it a mix of hazing and the method of elimination,” Kambury says. “This goes for all the main publishers and a few of the smaller ones — they’ve constructed their enterprise through the years increasingly more on the exploitation of labor. They take passionate youngsters proper out of faculty as a lot as potential.”

Kambury is not referring to “hazing” within the conventional sense, however quite refined manipulation by these in energy who reinforce the problematic programs which have made publishing a cutthroat trade for many years.

“You hear issues like, ‘That is the best way it is at all times been,’ and, ‘Once I began I used to be at $14,000 a 12 months,'” she says. “So there’s this type of top-down remedy of younger staff the place it is like, ‘You have to be grateful to be right here. Do not complain in regards to the wage. Do not care in regards to the workload.'”

Kambury factors out one other key downside within the publishing trade at the moment: The generational distinction whereby higher-ups who’ve been within the trade for many years will now “pat themselves on the again” for approving time beyond regulation or granting paid day without work. Kambury says she’s been “fortunate” sufficient to have managers who approve her time beyond regulation, however she has mates within the trade whose managers don’t even allow them to log it — however that does not imply they don’t seem to be working 10-15 additional hours every week, as a result of Kambury says that is a given.

The strikers are asking for 3 main adjustments. First, a elevate in base salaries after which an adjustment to sure ranges after that to make sure there is not wage compression. Second, a dedication to codifying language within the contract to primarily ensure that the corporate’s dedication to variety is not simply phrases — that it follows by means of on what these phrases imply.

And third, stronger union protections.

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After they began this course of again in December 2021, the union stewards put collectively about six pages of proposals Kambury says had been “very doable, nothing loopy. And now we’re down to a few — not even pages — we’re simply down to a few calls for.”

What frustrates Kambury and so many others presently on the picket line is that they consider what they’re asking for is comparatively customary. Nonetheless, as a result of the publishing trade has been constructed on programs of low-paid labor, it is extra of an uphill battle than one would possibly anticipate. “The corporate has made it very, very clear that they take into account us expendable, disposable and replaceable,” Kambury says. “And that is an extremely horrible feeling.”

Regardless of the circumstances, Kambury says the power on the picket line — and on-line — is “electrical and galvanizing.”

“If I may bottle it and switch it right into a fragrance, I’d,” she says. “I’d put on it day-after-day. It is simply so comforting.”

The strikers have been picketing since November 10 and intend to press on, rain or shine. HarperCollins didn’t instantly reply to request for remark.

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