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What Writers Can Learn from the Great Depression

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The First Publishing House Strike


Amazon employees in Germany have mounted a strike against the online retailer. Today is a good day to remember other strikes in publishing history…

In 1934, Dashiell Hammett, Edward Newhouse and nine other authors joined brave employees on the picket line outside Macaulay Company publishing house—reportedly, the first publishing house strike in America.

My upcoming book will follow the saga of this strike, but I wanted to share the list of demands that the strikers offered in 1934. It serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come in workers’ rights over the 20th Century and what we need to protect in the future.

The Macaulay Strike Demands

1. All abuse and tyranny on the part of the employers must stop.

2. Employees must be permitted the use of sufficient electric light.

3. The installation of electric fans in warm weather.

4. Employees absent because of illness for a period up to ten days should receive full pay.

5. No discharge without either two weeks’ notice or one week’s salary.

6. Workers employed by the company for a year or longer should receive two week’s vacation.

Newspaper reporters staged a historic strike during this same period. Here’s more about that collective action:

While researching my book, I discovered Edward Newhouse’s bombastic coverage The Newark Ledger newspaper strike. The action began in November 1934 when 45 reporters and editors walked out of the office. The union hired a professional sound truck, a van cruising up and down the streets of Newark, blasting the reporters’ demands. 

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Filed under harpercollins union strike edward newhouse Dashiell Hammett

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