Last Days of DiscoFor all those of you who didn’t already know that New York publishing houses and Big Publishing in general function like a knockoff script from a Whit Stillman movie, here’s fresh proof from the New York Times. Apparently, publishing houses are first in line among businesses likely to be hit by fresh U.S. government rulings that they pay their junior staff decent overtime rates.

The Obama administration’s Labor Department regulation basically doubles the minimum salary level for staff to be paid time-and-a-half overtime rates for pulling more than a 40-hour working week, kicking in from December 1st. A great many more low-to-medium-wage earners could now be swept up in the overtime net. This could threaten what the NYT describes, delightfully, as the Devil Wears Prada economy of pitifully overworked and ridiculously underpaid assistants and juniors in publishing and magazine houses. The NYT cites Dan Reynolds, CEO of Workman Publishing, on how to get ahead in Noo Yawk publishing: “You want to bump into the boss at 8 o’clock at night.”

It also quotes that lovely character Andrew Wylie saying he wouldn’t consider paying staff overtime if they worked long hours by choice. “What am I supposed to do, sit at the door with a stopwatch? … I’m not going to do that.” An anonymous former Wylie employee, speaking anonymously to the NYT “because of fear of reprisals,” said that Wylie assistants often worked 50-60 hours a week without overtime pay. And for anyone in publishing who has to manage interns, there’s a useful link here – though it could start off with: pay them reasonably…

None of this will come as a surprise in British Big Publishing, already condemned as “disgusting” and “immoral” for refusing to pay staff the official UK Living Wage. The only reasonable conclusion is that Big Publishing doesn’t care if its juniors live or not, so long as they work.

Until the Obama administration stepped in, that is. Who knows, the modern equivalents of Alice and Charlotte, the iconic, miserably compensated, junior readers in Stillman’s “The Last Days of Disco,” might be able to buy their own drinks in future …


  1. It’s not that publishers refuse to pay a living wage, it’s that they can’t pay a living wage. No one in book publishing makes more than a small fraction of what someone at an equivalent level in more normal industries makes.

    Just look at the numbers and you’ll see why.

  2. Send the jobs to China, or better still, replace them with robots. Vote Hillary/Trump/Wall Street. This is good for very rich people.
    Sanders is the only hope for a better future and Hillary/Goldman-Sachs rigged the vote.

  3. This also means that only wealthy people’s kids can afford to get into publishing. It’s the same with a lot of decent jobs these days. How on Earth can a normal person work for next to nothing and pay rent?

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