HarperCollins Publishers: Frequently Asked Questions About the Union

What is Collective Bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process that equalizes the power relationship between employees and their employer. Under collective bargaining, we elect representatives to negotiate a binding contract (also called a collective bargaining agreement) with HarperCollins that sets out the terms of our employment. With collective bargaining, we negotiate for improvements in wages, hours, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.

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What is the Bargaining Unit?

The employees who are covered by the contract are members of the bargaining unit; at HarperCollins this includes non-supervisory staff with the exception of assistants to corporate officials and a few others who are considered "confidential" employees (meaning that they have access to confidential information).

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How is our Union beneficial?

The main purpose of our Union is to bargain a legally binding contract that covers wages, benefits, terms and conditions of our employment. Collective bargaining gives us a democratic voice in improving our lives and helps us protect our jobs.

We have had a union here for over 60 years (and have been affiliated with the UAW for about 30 years), and have been able to win things in our contracts like guaranteed annual raises and health benefits, including mental health coverage. Without collective bargaining, HarperCollins would have unilateral power to change the terms of our employment. With a collective bargaining agreement, the publisher has to negotiate any changes to our working conditions and benefits with us.

Our current contract includes:

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How does the process of collective bargaining work at HarperCollins?

All members of the bargaining unit are surveyed in order to find out what they want to see included in a contract. Members of the bargaining unit also elect representatives, fellow staff at HarperCollins, to a bargaining committee. Then, the bargaining committee sits down with management and negotiates a tentative contract. Once a tentative agreement has been reached, HarperCollins union members must vote to accept or reject the contract.

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What about membership dues?

Dues are important to any union because they provide the financial resources necessary to equalize power with the employer. Union members pay just 1.6% of our base salary in dues. The amount we pay in dues is small compared to the improvements we can make through collective bargaining. Dues support a variety of resources that will give us the clout to represent our members. These include educational, legal, negotiating, and other membership services. Dues also contribute to organizing new groups of workers, the strike fund, and political action.

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Why should I join the Union?

The more members we have, the more clout we have at the bargaining table. If we represent only a small number of people, management doesn't feel as if they need to take us seriously. In addition, if you are a union member, you have a right to participate in the process, by being on the bargaining committee or just voting on the contract.

It can be difficult to justify paying dues when you don't make a lot of money, but the only way to increase our pay is to be in the strongest possible position when we get to the bargaining table by having a critical mass of people signed up for the union. The wage increases and benefits we can win if we stay united through the bargaining process will more than offset the 1% dues.

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Why should we fight for agency shop status (also called union security)?

Right now, our union doesn't have the strength it should have. The strongest unions (those that win the best contracts) are agency shops, in which all employees covered by the contract must pay dues (or dues equivalent), or union shops, in which all employees must join the union. In an open shop (where people do not automatically become union members when they start a bargaining unit job) it is much more difficult for us to get a critical mass of members signed up. This leaves us in a minority position much of the time, and management can take advantage of that by refusing to take our contract proposals seriously, and by regularly violating the contract because they think that no one will notice.

There was an open shop at the Museum of Modern Art for many years (the staff there are also Local 2110 members). When they went on strike there in 2000, winning an agency shop was the key issue. The Museum was trying to cut back on health care for our members, and the union members realized that management felt they could do that because of the weakness of the open shop. The union at MoMA ended up winning agency shop (and maintained their benefits), and when they re-negotiated their contract this year, they were able to win great pay raises and IMPROVEMENTS in health benefits, thanks to the strength of having an agency shop.

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What kind of leverage do we have against the company?

Our best leverage is our membership's value to the company, which is why signing up a critical mass of union members is so important to our winning a great contract.

In addition to that, we can be really creative - a successful campaign for a new contract will include many aspects. We will also solicit the support of local, state and national politicians, who can exert their own pressure on the company.

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