This episode was recorded on Monday 23 January 2023. On Thursday, 26 January, the HarperCollins Union announced that HarperCollins has agreed to enter mediation.
In this interview, I speak with UAW2110 President Olga Brudastova, and we go over the breakdown in negotiations that led to the HarperCollins Union strike, along with the demands of the union.
Thank you to Barb, Bransler, Clay, Agnes, and Susan for the questions and to the Patreon community for the enthusiastic support and encouragement for this interview.
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
Links? Oh yeah we have links!
- The HarperCollins Union on Twitter and Instagram – and their LinkTree
- The January 26 Press Release
- Donate to the Union Strike Fund
- The crappy PW article we mentioned
- United Auto Workers Chapter 2110
- Scabby the Rat! (apologies – I called it Scabbers in the audio, but it’s Scabby)
- Why the HarperCollins Union is still on strike
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Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 547 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and this is a special podcast episode with United Auto Workers chapter 2110 president Olga Brudastova. We are going to talk about the HarperCollins strike. This episode was recorded on Monday, the 23rd of January, 2023, and on Thursday, the 26th of January, the HarperCollins union announced that after fifty-six days of striking, HarperCollins has agreed to enter mediation. So we don’t cover that in this interview because, well, we can’t predict the future that well, but we do go over the breakdown in negotiations that led to the HarperCollins union strike and the demands of the union that they have right now.
I want to say thank you to Barb, Bransler, Clay, Agnes, and Susan for the questions, and I want to say a very special thank-you to the Patreon community for their enthusiastic support and encouragement for this interview. If you would like to support this show, please have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
And now, on with my interview with Olga Brudastova.
Olga Brudastova: Hi, my name is Olga Brudastova. I am the president of Local 2110, UAW.
Sarah: And you’re here to talk to me about the HarperCollins strike.
Olga: Correct, yeah. One of the many workplaces that we represent is HarperCollins Publishers, New York, and we’ve been on strike there since November 10th, for over two months now.
Sarah: Which is infuriating, from my perspective. I am absolutely appalled that the strike has gone on this long? What is the perspective from your, from your position and for the people who are on strike as it continues this long?
Olga: Well, the morale remains high among our members, and really around two hundred workers have withdrawn their labor, continuing to picket, maintain our social media and email and hardship fund, all of that, but one question that both journalists and members and really all of supporters ask us is, What is the company’s game plan? And that is the question that we don’t know the answer to, because nothing they’re doing makes much sense to us as far as, like, corporate strategy may be concerned.
Sarah: I have seen other news reports that internal memos that have leaked out to strike members indicate that there are a whole bunch of titles that are being moved to 2024 and 2025 because the people who do the work aren’t there. I can’t imagine what morale is like inside the building for the people who aren’t real, rep-, represented by the union. They must be completely burnt out.
Olga: Yeah, they are. We also hear that, unfortunately, some of those sort of people that are non-union but not execs are all sometimes considering even quitting HarperCollins –
Olga: – because they’re overworked, because it’s stressful, because it’s also posing the question of whether the company’s jeopardizing their reputation altogether by letting this happen for so long, and yeah, again, like, they, it’s very, it’s, like, just so unclear what the company envisions for their next steps. Like, the easiest would be for us all to just reach an agreement, get back to work, and restart our relationship.
Sarah: Yeah! And I know you’ve talked about this many times, but would you be willing to sort of outline the demands of the union? I know that contract negotiations began early last year? Like spring of 2022? Or, I know that they said they’d been working without a contract since April of 2022.
Olga: Yeah, but bargaining started even before that, actually in December of 2021, because our contract was expiring at the end of that year, 2021.
Olga: Yeah, and –
Sarah: So that’s over a year without a contract.
Olga: Yeah. We, for a while, until April, we were extending it, and we trying to make progress, but in April the company stopped agreeing to extend the contract and also, that was the point when they refused to schedule any more bargaining sessions, and we had to organize an open letter with union members and supporters to bring them back to the bargaining table. Since then we also had a one-day strike in July, and again, at every step we kind of make some progress so we are hopeful, but in the end of the day, by November we didn’t make enough progress to avoid this strike altogether. And what we are fighting for is really very basic: we’re fighting for a livable wage that also reflects, you know, some real numbers, real for the industry, real for the skills that people bring, the commitment, the contribution to their record-breaking profits –
Olga: – and – [laughs] – it’s living in New York City, ‘cause yeah, the lowest minimum right now is $45,000, and we’re trying to bring it to fifty.
Sarah: I have many Patreon listeners who support my show who are very curious about this, this interview and have lots of questions, and one of the questions I had was from Barb, who just didn’t understand: How can they not talk to you? How can they not negotiate? They just ignore you?
Olga: They kind of do, yeah, and they lie to agents and authors, saying that they already met some of our demands, like the one on wages, which they didn’t.
Olga: Like, we would have, we would have known, yeah.
Sarah: That, that’s actually verifiable, right? ‘Cause there’s like a check, and it has a number and – yeah.
Olga: Yeah. Well, yeah, and also, we didn’t miss any emails, any proposals from them, so yeah. And, but there are other demands too, like union security that could make our union stronger sort of long-term. Doesn’t cost them anything, and it’s really just an anti-union stance, and it’s very weird because other News Corp subsidiaries have union shops where people, everyone who is in the bargaining unit contributes to the union, one way or another. And of course in diversity and equity and inclusion, we want some language that is actionable, that is a real commitment from the company and not just empty words.
Sarah: Yeah. In my understanding, the union proposal included specific actionable items for addressing DEI at HarperCollins, and the answer is just silence? Wow.
Olga: It’s been, we’ve had a lot of back and forth on that, and both sides modified their proposals, but we haven’t been able to reach an agreement that addresses all of these three issues sufficiently. While we made some progress on diversity issues, it’s still not enough, ‘cause what they’re committing to right now is just establishing a joint committee, which is great, long overdue with the union, but again, we, we want more than just a space where we can talk; we want something that can be real and legally binding on them.
Sarah: And quantifiable.
Sarah: It’s all well, it’s all well and good to have a, a committee, which will then spawn a task force and then some working groups, but actually quantifiable results are a different thing.
Olga: Yeah, and they want our members to participate in their initiatives in this committee, but they don’t want to pay for that work. They don’t want to consider it part of the work-work, and it is. It is work towards making the company better, so it should be counted as such.
Sarah: A few people asked me, and I also want to know: What has support for the strike been like inside and outside of the book industry? Because HarperCollins union is the only union inside New York publishing; am I right about that?
Olga: Among the top, the biggest publishers, yeah.
Sarah: I mean, I know their warehouses are probably unionized, and the distribution channels are probably union, but the HarperCollins proper union, among the big five publishers, I think they’re the only ones with a union.
Olga: Yeah, among the big five, for sure.
Olga: I’m sure the rest of the industry is watching us, but – and I’m sure, you know, there is division, but for the most part what we hear is voi-, are voices of support, both from inside HarperCollins, from, like, middle management, from authors, from agents, from booksellers, from freelancers. People do agree to not engage in new work contracts –
Olga: – with HarperCollins, not submit reviews or even books or, yeah. It’s, it’s really impressive how, how people just understand what’s, which side of the argument is on the right side of history.
Sarah: Yeah. And there’s also a trend, nationally and globally, for more overt union action. It’s happened a lot more in the past –
Sarah: – I would say five to ten years. It’s really surprising to me that their strike, the HarperCollins strike is going on with, with no, with really no movement.
You mentioned the ways in which people around the industry have, have supported the strike, and we at, at Smart Bitches, we do reviews, obviously I have a podcast, we do Books on Sale. We feature books, like, our whole job is to feature books, and we stopped featuring HarperCollins titles and actually recently started indicating by saying “[Redacted HarperCollins title due to strike]” to indicate we’re not saying this on purpose. Like, here are all the titles that we’re not mentioning, and at the end of every episode I total up the number of HarperCollins titles I edited out of the show.
Sarah: Just to, like you, like we’re saying, add a quantifiable number to this process, and obviously we’ve also donated to the strike fund. What are ways that readers can support the strike?
And I also, I have a, a clarification question, actually: up until about early January there was some mixed information on social media about what imprints were included, and on January 5th, Harlequin and Inkyard on the union Twitter feed were saying, No, no, no, it’s fine; those are not included in our request for no coverage. And now they are included. Was that just a miscommunication, or is this an effort to increase pressure?
Olga: It was a miscommunication after a holiday break, but –
Olga: – we tried to speedily correct it. We were looking at different divisions of HarperCollins, and of course there is also Harper UK, for example and, and we were trying to assess, okay, which labor is directly done by our members? And it turned out that Harlequin books are actually worked on by our members?
Olga: Yeah. It may be not, while we don’t represent workers, like, affiliated formally with Harlequin, the work gets shuffled. For example, if someone is working on audiobooks, they might be working across imprints –
Olga: – so the distinction is actually very blurry. So based on that assessment, we included very clearly Harlequin imprints into our list.
Sarah: Yeah. I, we, we have always included them lately; if it’s any HarperCollins, we’re not talking about it, and in romance that is a lot of books, just so many books. Which, I mean, I understand that to, to HarperCollins, I am a sneeze. Like, my contribution to their bottom line is insignificant, but it is staggering to me how many books that we’re not talking about. It’s a lot of books that your, that the union members work on.
Olga: Yeah, and the books that our members work on are really like bestselling, like New York Times bestsellers, award-winning books. Like in December we had a rally co-hosted by Rebecca Kuang and other authors, and it was really amazing to see them there in person and hear their supportive voices, but also to see commitment from these people whose, you know, who are ready to, in a way, put their, like, careers and talent on the line –
Olga: – to support our members.
Sarah: Yeah. I, I’ve seen a number of authors unequivocally, repeatedly supporting the union.
So what can readers do? How can readers help?
Olga: We don’t ask people to boycott titles altogether. If you see a book that is HarperCollins that you want to buy, it’s okay.
Olga: Because we also don’t want to hurt authors, and actually it’s a very serious consideration for our members. They miss the work, they miss the people they worked with, but we do ask people to donate to our hardship fund if possible, or at least circulate information about it. We have a bunch of events coming up. We are going to have another rally outside News Corp on February 2nd. We might have some other events as well in the works, so join us when you can; stop by the picket line. If you want to or can donate any food or water also, just DM on Twitter or Instagram and our folks will help you figure out the logistics of it.
Sarah: And the strike fund now takes credit cards.
Olga: Yes, we, from a paper check only system to an online donation page, and it took us a while because there is some, there are serious legal limitations to –
Sarah: Oh yes.
Olga: – how a union can organize a hardship fund, but we found a way that is legally sound and more streamlined for everyone.
Sarah: Yes. And have donations been significant?
Olga: Oh yeah! I think in the first few hours we raised, through this online platform, like ten thousand dollars. I believe –
Olga: – over the weekend, I checked, it was forty-five or fifty thousand dollars…
Sarah: Heck yeah! That’s awesome!
Olga: Yeah. Yeah, and we distribute funds every week. We have a weekly schedule, and we distribute, I want to say between ten and twenty thousand dollars in any given week to our members, based on their needs and hardships, and, you know, it’s all going directly to them, to our members.
Sarah: And my understanding is that they, they have not been paid since November 10th. The minute they went on strike, HarperCollins said, And we’re not paying you.
Olga: Correct, yeah. There is an obligation for an employer to pay for, like, scheduled vacation or –
Olga: – that kind of stuff. Those miniscule paychecks might have come in somewhere, but for the large part, they, there was no money from HarperCollins.
Sarah: So the strike fund is supporting the people on strike with rent and food and probably hand warmers, ‘cause it’s cold in January in New York.
Olga: Yeah! The, so we have a, a few systems of support. The hardship fund is very significant because also it shows the employer that we can gather support and generate this power…
Sarah: Quantifiable numbers! They like those! [Laughs]
Olga: Exactly, yeah. [Laughs] Yeah, and, and in dollar amounts, which they understand better than other numbers.
Olga: We also have a UAW strike assistance fund, which comes from dues money, and workers receive that starting day one of the strike, and luckily New York State, striking workers are also eligible for unemployment insurance?
Olga: So, but that also has a, has limitations and an end date and all of that, but at least there are some systems of support that let our people just dedicate their time and resources to this fight.
Sarah: I, I don’t know if this is a question that you can answer, and I totally understand if you cannot, but are other unions engaging or talking about going on strike alongside the HarperCollins union? ‘Cause I know it’s a very small union, and I was wondering if other unions had, have, had indicated, Okay, this is going on too long. We’re going to do a sympathy strike with you. I think that’s what it’s called, sympathy strike, right?
Olga: Yeah, but very often no-strike clauses don’t allow that –
Olga: – with one exception – well, with few – but Teamsters Union, for example, supported us from the very beginning, and their drivers refuse deliveries to, refuse crossing the picket line to the building. But that’s the issue with publishing industry that hopefully will change soon, or maybe once the strike is over, that the density’s pretty small in terms of unionization, and we just need to organize more.
Olga: And people need it, too; we hear it all the time, so I’m sure once this fight is over, we will, we should see a surge in unionization among publishers at large, which will definitely help us fight for better working conditions across the board.
Sarah: Yeah. ‘Cause publishing is not a high-ing pay, high-paying industry; it’s a very, very low-wage industry for the location that it is in.
Olga: Yeah, and especially comparing to media industry and the unions and their demands in media. It’s very weird, the disparity between the two, because the skills are very transferrable, so very often people stay in publishing for the love of books, but that also makes it so easy to exploit their love and passion.
Sarah: Mm-hmm. Yes. Absolutely, it does. And anything where an employer can talk to you about how it’s a calling, it’s an honor, it’s easier to exploit from there. I used to work in nonprofits, so I remember all of that very well.
Sarah: Now, you aren’t actually a HarperCollins employee, right?
Olga: No, I’m not. I got involved with the union when I was a grad worker at Columbia, and when I finished my Ph.D. I started working for Local 2110 as an organizer.
Sarah: And now you’re the president of the union.
Sarah: Has this strike experience, with your history with UAW, has this strike experience been different or strange? I’m still shocked it’s going on this long! Like, I know you and I have been talking for like twenty minutes; I’m still shocked that it’s still going on!
Olga: Well, the, what the company is or isn’t doing is, isn’t particularly strange, as far as strikes go?
Olga: What is strange is that they don’t have any kind of, any plan whatsoever; any, like, solution to this situation; and continue pretending like nothing’s happening; but we know that that’s not true. Also, it’s an indefinite-length strike; it’s, you know, maybe HarperCollins feels like they’re locked into their position and they need a graceful way out? We’re happy to work with them on that, on, we can –
Sarah: I’m sure all of the executives listen to my show. (No, they don’t.)
Olga: Yeah, but, you know, if, if that’s the issue, talk to us; we’ll figure it out together; but at the end of the day, what our members want is to go back to work and continue with their work and normal life. Strike is, strike, striking can be fun because you, you spend time with your coworkers, you bond, you build the community, but it’s very difficult, and it was a difficult decision to begin with.
Sarah: No. No, it’s very difficult. I remember talking to people in the early days of the strike about how, you know, you don’t mention these books; we’re not reviewing them; we’re not covering them; and I remember saying, Yeah, strikes aren’t meant to be comfortable? This is not an easy – this is a, this is a last-ditch effort. This is the last thing you do before, like – this is, this is the nuclear option, to walk off the job. That, this is not meant to be easy or comfortable.
Olga: Yeah, but clearly our members find it worth their effort.
Sarah: I also find it just so staggering how demoralizing it is for HarperCollins to demonstrate that the work that the union employees do and the work of the non-union employees doesn’t matter to them. It doesn’t matter that this is so difficult, and I was, I was particularly infuriated because HarperCollins UK – I recognize they’re not part of the UAW union – they just announced a seven-figure book deal for Boris Johnson? They’re going to drop seven figures on Boris Johnson, and they can’t raise the floor of their salary? Are you serious? I, it’s like, it, it, it’s, it’s kind of astonishing, like, you know, we can see you! We can see everything you’re doing here. And yet they’re –
Sarah: – and yet they’re not budging.
Olga: Yeah, it, there are a few such numbers that are really staggering. For example, I believe the president of HarperCollins, his salary is twenty million a year, and our whole payroll for the bargaining unit is about fourteen million a year? Yeah, and also on top of that, HarperCollins’, like, current, current since April proposal on the money adds only fourteen thousand dollars to the payroll.
Sarah: They sneeze fourteen thousand dollars!
Sarah: So do you think that part of the resistance is coming from above, since HarperCollins is part of a larger conglomerate that has a very long anti-union history of, and sentiment?
Olga: I guess so, ‘cause that is typically the, the way it goes, although it is very weird that that would be the coverage that they choose for themselves these days, considering they are maybe looking into a merger with Fox or maybe, you know, considering some other acquisitions. Who knows? Maybe that wouldn’t be what they would want in the media, but that’s what they’re choosing, so I guess having a certain opinion is more important than anything else.
Sarah: I roll my eyes. I know this is an audio production, but I’m rolling my eyes.
In terms of the, the strike as it is right now, have you noticed more press coverage? Have you noticed more, more coverage of the strike? I mean, I’m paying attention, so of course I notice it, but I know there was a questionably both-sides-y article in Publishers Weekly. Have you noticed other coverage increasing right now?
Olga: I think we’ve, we’ve had pretty steady coverage. Definitely now that the length passed the two-month mark, it maybe is getting more attention just from that perspective alone.
Olga: Yeah, and that piece that you mentioned from Publishers Weekly, it was really surprising because we’ve been in constant communication with PW; we’ve been, you know, providing all the background that they might need and helping them with writing, and then they go to this clearly anti-union lawyer, who I also question how they even came across this kind of lawyer, who’s not even in New York, and they listen to, they publish his opinion when he doesn’t even know all the facts of the case, he doesn’t even know our situation, so this is really surprising, and I hope they change how they approach coverage of our strike.
Sarah: It’s, it was really baffling. That whole article was just weird, absolutely weird.
So what would you like people to know about being in a union as a – I mean, you’ve been doing union organization for most of your career now. What would you like people to know about being in a union? I know that for many people, one of the things that’s very inspiring is how young the people in the HarperCollins union are. These are, these are people who are younger than me; these are, these are, these are my colleagues, ‘cause as a blogger I talk to the marketers and the publicists and the editorial assistants. But they’re very young, this group of people.
Olga: Right, and it’s mostly because the people who represented HarperCollins are lower level employees –
Olga: – in the offices. They are assistants across design; art; publish-, like editorial; sales; marketing; you name it, so of course demographically, more often than not they might be younger. But in general we have, we represent – we’re an amalgamated local union, so we represent over forty different workplaces –
Olga: – and actually HarperCollins union goes back to 1942, originally?
Olga: Yeah, not always with UAW, but still. So the change with the union is always slower than one would like it to see, but it’s, it’s a change that you have a say in, unlike just trusting your employer, and what attracted me to organizing originally was that academia didn’t have community, and the union gave me the sense of community and –
Olga: – sense of camaraderie with people across, departments across the university. And I think similarly here at HarperCollins, people meet each other, now also in person, whom they’ve never met, like, before or would never be working together so closely, and they’re really building bonds.
Sarah: And it’s hard! I mean, the, they’re headed, they are hitting their step goal, but striking is hard!
Olga: Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely, and it’s been raining and windy and –
Sarah: Yeah, it’s been gross. It’s like the worst time to be outside marching.
So completely selfish question: are you going to get a rat?
Olga: [Laughs] If anyone wants to help us out with that, please be our guest?
Sarah: The rat is very expensive; the rat’s like ten thousand dollars a day, right?
Olga: It’s, yeah, it’s the expense; it’s also, you need a generator, you need to store it, you need fuel for the generator.
Olga: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, that rat’s a pain in the butt!
Olga: Yeah. But, you know, if anyone wants to help us out with that, do reach out. We ourselves have had limited capacity for just, you know, like in carrying the signs and the water and the –
Olga: – food, but yeah.
Sarah: And the, and the hand warmers and the scarves and, yeah.
What do you think – I mean, I know it’s hard to predict the future, but what do you think will happen next? Is there a next step for the union? Do you have any plans for, okay, we’ve hit seventy-five days? Like, what, what are your next steps, other than to consistently persevere in the strike, which is, like, the biggest action, obviously.
Olga: Yeah, we continuously develop plans for, like, either escalation or actions or events so that we have new pressure points coming up all the time.
Olga: We have seen a lot of support from politicians, from central labor council, on top of industry people like authors and agents and freelancers. So at this point, you know, the ball is so much in HarperCollins’s court, and they say that we don’t want to bargain. That’s not true; we were the last ones to present a comprehensive proposal. We, that proposal could have been a clear pathway towards settlement –
Olga: – and they just rejected it. So whenever they are ready to change their opinion and their stance, we are here to bargain. We will be there, day and night, at the table.
Sarah: I mean, it sounds like, saying that you don’t want to bargain is attempting to say, Well, we don’t like what they offered.
Olga: Yeah! That’s a good translation, I think.
Sarah: Yeah! [Laughs] We didn’t like your offer, but we’re going to blame you for it.
Sarah: Okay, great. Terrific! Wonderful. Oy! Is this one of the longest strikes that you’ve dealt with as president of, of UAW?
Olga: Oh yeah! Well, actually this is the first open-ended strike that I’ve kind of been a leader with, and it’s –
Olga: – it’s really impressive, but we have, in 2110, a long history of such militant actions. For example, in early 2000s we had a six-month-long strike at MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, and one of the issues there was also union security and strengthening the union, and they won. So we have, we’ve done it before, and that strike was –
Sarah: It’s not your first rodeo.
Olga: Yeah and, you know, the, the strike was a long time ago at MoMA, but it changed the labor/management dynamic for a long, long time –
Olga: – and it sent a message for decades ahead.
Sarah: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s stunning how, how – I mean, New York City and New York State are both very union-positive locations. It’s really stunning that it, that it just continues with no movement. What do you think will – do you think there’s anything that can bring about change? Like larger financial numbers, quantifiable dollar signs? [Laughs]
Olga: We’ll see. I mean, again, something’s got to give –
Olga: – and it’s never one thing that moves the employer; it’s a combination of different –
Olga: – pressure tactics, so we’re going to use everything we can. We are already using everything we can. But again, they know how to reach out; they know where to find us –
Olga: – and everything!
Olga: Yeah, it, it really will take them reassessing their values as a publisher –
Olga: – and they have to do it sooner rather than later.
Sarah: It’s, the thing that I think surprises me most is the fact that the longer it goes on, the more it looks, like I said, HarperCollins doesn’t care about the work that their, that their, that their employees do. I mean, they’re already trying to hire scabs and temps to work on books, which is not a great option in a process of publication that requires so much continuity. It’s just astonishing to me. Like, we can see you! We can, we can see what you’re doing! What are you doing? It sounds like your, your reaction is also, What are you doing? [Laughs]
Olga: Yeah! Maybe, you know, I’m missing something, but I don’t think I am, because there’s really, the only way out is to reach a fair contract with us –
Olga: – that’s it. And I think, we’ve been on strike for over two months; we’ve demonstrated that our members are committed to that –
Olga: – and are staying on the line, so one day longer, one day stronger!
So I always ask this question of my guests, so I’m going to ask you as well: do you have any books that you would like to tell people about? Obviously that are not HarperCollins titles.
Olga: Oh, wow. Actually, the last one I finished was one of HarperCollins’ imprints.
Olga: By accident!
Sarah: It’s all right! Like you said –
Sarah: – it’s not a boycott.
Olga: Well, I’m not a, I’m not a very literary person myself, but I recently read Mexican Gothic, like a couple years too late, but – [laughs] –
Sarah: If it’s, if it’s a new book to you, it’s a new book, is how I think of it. Yeah.
Olga: Yeah, but I was absolutely amazed by that, so yes. [Laughs]
Sarah: I imagine that being on the picket line with a bunch of book people means that everyone’s talking about book recommendations?
Olga: Yeah. I always ask members to provide context, educate me about that, because of course their level of understanding and knowledge is so different from mine. Mine is just the reader and, like –
Sarah: And like you said, this is labor that translates across every imprint, and it’s transferrable to other industries.
Sarah: But, so this is a specialized kind of learning. This is a specialized skill set that these people have. I mean, there’s a lot of institutional knowledge that’s walking around outside the building, waiting for a contract.
Olga: Yeah, and you would think that some of the tasks that they do are simple –
Sarah: [Laughs] No!
Olga: – like how to send an email with the correct attachments to the correct people, but we’ve got, we get reports from the inside that even those fail or have been, like, there have been errors – [laughs] –
Sarah: Yeah. I’m –
Olga: – the simplest of tasks.
Sarah: I am not sur-, I am not surprised. It’s always the, in my opinion, it is always the people who have the box cutters and the Sharpie markers and the high level of email skills that are actually running the day-to-day elements of a comp-, of a company. Especially in publishing.
Olga: Yeah, absolutely.
Sarah: Especially in publishing.
So where can people find out more about the union, about the strike, and how to help?
Olga: The best way to find out more about us and ways to help is follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
Olga: Both are @hcpunion, one word, and on Instagram, in Linktree, you can also find all the information that you might be curious about: some of the sort of resources for supporters, design sort of items, and yeah, everything that we put out is there.
Sarah: Yeah. Oh, another thing I just remembered to ask you about is, this is for me as a consumer. This is one of the first digital picket lines that I have encountered that has lasted like more than one day. Like, I’ve said, heard people say, you know, Please don’t order from Amazon on this day because this warehouse is on strike, and you don’t know if your stuff is coming from that warehouse. No problem! Not placing an order. But this is a very long, this is a very intricate and nuanced digital picket line. Is that a new experience for UAW across the board?
Olga: I would say so, yeah, and it’s also very interesting industry because you can actually harm their bottom line by withdrawing your labor, but also there’s still a lag between when, for example, you talk to the author and when the book gets out?
Sarah: Oh yeah, it’s a long lag time.
Olga: But the longer we are out, the worse off HarperCollins is, so I would think that the snowball effect is only going to benefit us.
Sarah: Yeah. As I know from talking to authors who are HarperCollins authors, that they find out, you know, a month before their book’s supposed to be on sale, nope, it’s been moved.
Sarah: This book has been moved; nope, this book has been moved again. Now they can’t plan promotion, they can’t plan any of their responsibilities because the target keeps moving, so it does sound like that, for now, the strike is happening. In a year or eighteen months, you’re still going to see this aftereffect of all of this missing support!
Olga: Yeah. Unfortunately, yeah.
Sarah: Well, thank you so much for, for doing this interview; I really appreciate it. Is there anything that I have not asked about that you would want to make sure to communicate?
Olga: Well, I guess if, you know, there are people who would like to learn more about having a union and unionization or HarperCollins union, you can always reach out to Local 2110, [email protected].
Sarah: I’ll link to everything; don’t worry.
Olga: Yeah. [Laughs] And yeah, just ask, and we can always, you know, help, advise, or at least just have a conversation.
Sarah: Thank you! Thank you so much for your time, and if there is anything else that I can do to provide support, please feel free to reach out because I and all of my, my team are a hundred percent behind the union. This is absolutely deplorable that it’s gone on this long.
Olga: Thank you so much for all the support and for helping us spread the message.
Sarah: It is my pleasure.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you again to Olga for explaining all of the details, and as always, our support for the union is unquestioned.
I will have links to everything we talked about: the PW article, what I mean by “Are you getting a rat?” That would be Scabby the Rat. If you’ve walked around New York and you’ve seen a union strike with a big, giant, like twenty-foot-tall inflatable rat, that’s, that’s the rat; that’s Scabby. I will also have links to the union and the latest information from the HarperCollins union on social media.
As always, I end every episode with a terrible joke, and I would never leave you hanging without one. This joke comes from Josephine in our Patreon Discord.
Did you hear about the dating agency for chickens that had to shut down?
Yes, it’s true. The dating agency for chickens – they had to shut down ‘cause they were struggling to make hens meet.
[Laughs] I love a good chicken joke, especially because we went grocery shopping today and wow! eggs are expensive right now. [Laughs more] Hens meet.
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a great weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
[end of music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
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Thank you, Sarah and Olga, for this informative interview.