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Skyhorse employees look to the NLRB to help unionize

Stephon Johnson | 11/30/2017, 3:46 p.m.
Employees at an independently owned, Manhattan-based publisher have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to request an ...
Skyhorse Publishing

Employees at an independently owned, Manhattan-based publisher have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to request an election to vote for unionization.

Employees at Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. are pushing for better working conditions and the promise of a commitment to equity and diversity. The Skyhorse Publishing Workers Union petitioned the NLRB to include all full-time, part-time, non-managerial and non-supervisory employees in the company’s New York City office. Those who work remotely and in Skyhorse’s Brattleboro, Vt., office were also added to the bargaining unit. The election was held this Thursday (Nov. 30).

UAW Local 2110 President Maida Rosenstein said employees in publishing are tired of being taken advantage of.

“There’s a renewed interest in organizing among younger workers in the industry,” said Rosenstein in a statement. “Publishing companies like Skyhorse take advantage of the skills and talent of young, educated workers but then pay them low wages with little chance of promotion. This group at Skyhorse has said enough is enough. It’s been incredible seeing them come together to support each other and lead the industry forward.”

Rosentein’s union also includes workers from Harper Collins and The New Press, the only two unionized book publishers.

“I knew so many people from all over the industry who just felt so burned out, overworked and underappreciated, even afraid for their jobs,” said Sky Pony Express editor and union organizer Rachel Stark in a statement. “They were starting to leave publishing in droves. I thought, if someone doesn’t do something about this, look at all the talent and passion publishing is going to lose.”

On July 31, the NLRB reviewed the petition along with 1,336 pages of transcript from the hearings that took place with Local 2110 and Skyhorse Publishing members and officials between Aug. 7 and Aug. 25. Skyhorse Publishing hired the law firms Proskauer Rose and Jackson Lewis to dissuade workers from having an election. On Nov. 20, the NLRB reached a decision on employee eligibility. Skyhorse Publishing officials tried to block and delay the election but to no avail.

A publishing company hasn’t successfully unionized since 2001. Earlier this month, the owner of local news sites DNAInfo and Gothamist shut both down after workers voted to join the Writers Guild of America East. Staff voted to join the union in April, but Chief Executive Officer Joe Ricketts didn’t recognize them. NLRB officials required management to begin collective bargaining with the union; Ricketts just shut the sites down.

Skyhorse workers discussed the frequent turnover in their company with organizers who then consulted with workers at HarperCollins and The New Press on what should be done next. Workers then decided that something needed to be done to improve conditions on the job.