After twenty three days I feel compelled to speak up, once again.
So many people have asked how I’m doing during the HarperCollins Publishers Union Strike, and I’ve responded, “I’m okay.”
In truth, I am not okay, and I haven’t been for a while.
I returned home from the picket line one day last week and recited the chants my union counterparts and I shouted at the top of our lungs in utter frustration. My 25-year-old daughter threw her fist in the air, looked me dead in the eyes, and said “Mom you’ve worked there more than half my life and that job sucked the life out of you!”
I was stunned into a moment of clarity.
There have been many over the years. But this time with throbbing feet in direct competition with the Charlie horses spasming in my sore legs from walking around in circles for hours, I couldn’t justify to myself why I’ve allowed my spirit to be broken in exchange for benefits and money by a group of people who have never and will never see my value.
HarperCollins Publishers has stated publicly that they “continue to negotiate in good faith” yet they haven’t come back to the bargaining table about the indefinite strike for over 20 days. The CEO Brian Murray called the 250 members on strike “a sliver of the workforce."
I have contributed a cheerful spirit, willingness to help anyone, an expansive range of skills and abilities, in return I’ve earned an increasing list of duties with inappropriate titles and pay. I’ve weathered more than a sliver of microaggressions, discrimination, career suppression, gaslighting and disrespect for close to fifteen years with a smile on my face.
During the past few weeks, I have often thought about the three separate occasions that I rang the alarm to upper management about racism and ineffective Diversity and Inclusion efforts. How my input was disregarded, and their indifference to the truth is now an ember in the bonfire of the issues that have led to the HarperCollins Union Strike.
Smiling, I thought about the union members I’ve met and conversed with on the picket line, many of whom I’d seen every day for years and didn’t even know their names. I reminisced on my 20’s and how full of life and determined I was to make my mark on the world. I see myself in so many of my colleagues and am encouraged by their passion and belief that a significant and tangible change within the industry is within our grasp. They keep me going these days!
In addition to asking for raised minimum salaries equitable to the cost-of-living, the HarperCollins Union is requesting that multicultural employees be compensated for their contributions, insight, and feedback as well as a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion.
I remain hopeful; however, I can’t help but reflect on how quickly the promises to address systemic discrimination and pay disparities against Black employees sparked by the worldwide George Floyd protests, dissipated. Millions in tax write off funds donated to the Black Lives Matter organization, while uncomfortable virtual Town Hall Meetings traumatized many of us. Then almost as quickly as the “trend” began, it ended and morphed into a BIPOC umbrella, casting Black people to the side once again.
It’s been two years since I have gone from being the “only one” in several meetings; but being one of few whose contributions and voices aren’t valued as much as others isn’t really progress.
When certain groups of people want things to happen, they happen…..quickly (ask Ye) “Progress takes time” isn’t good enough anymore and the time is NOW!
I have no idea when this indefinite strike will end but I do know that each day this strike lasts it becomes increasingly clear how little the company values all of our time, service, dedication, and loyalty. We have helped the company make millions of dollars every year, often putting our beliefs and morals on the backburner, now HarperCollins Publishers has placed us on the backburner. That speaks volumes to me!
I continue to stand in solidarity with the HarperCollins Publishers Union.