Strike threat forces Fortune management to postpone prestigious conference

Fortune magazine has postponed its prestigious CEO Initiative conference in response to a strike threat by union members who are frustrated by a lack of progress on contract negotiations.

The conference, set for mid-September in Washington, DC, would have been the magazine’s first in-person event in several years and was billed as “a forum for global corporate leaders committed to addressing major social problems as part of their core business strategies.” Workers, who are members of the NewsGuild of New York Local 31003, planned to picket the event.

“The CEOI conference is all about moral leadership and progress and how business can be vehicles for the good,” Assistant Audience Engagement Editor McKenna Moore told The Daily Beast. “Fortune is not living up to those values.”

The magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list grades companies on how trustworthy, caring and fair they are in times of crisis. Despite that, contract negotiations have dragged on for nearly two years, including a year and a half during the pandemic. 

Members of the Fortune Union, who have endured significant layoffs, report that management has refused to move on severance pay, protections from outsourcing, diversity and source protection. The company also insists on continuing to evaluate workers based on traffic and quotas, which workers said are “inimical to good journalism.”

On Monday, union members met with Fortune CEO Alan Murray to discuss how they could reach a fair contract and avert a picket of the conference.

“In that meeting, we told them we want the event to go on and are prepared to reach an agreement to avoid any disruption,” they said.

Instead of agreeing to non-stop bargaining to finish negotiating the contract, Murray said they needed at least 30 more days of bargaining. Later, workers noticed that several prominent speakers had been scrubbed from the announcement of the event, apparently out of fear that the speakers would refuse to cross a picket line.

“The company made it clear that they would rather disrupt their own event than give us the basic rights and respect we deserve,” union members tweeted. “We pushed them to bargain with us, assuring them there was ample time to reach a deal and allow the conference to go on. But they refused.”

On Tuesday Murray wrote in a email to employees that he plans to postpone the conference.

“At a time when the journalism profession is under tremendous economic pressure, it’s difficult for journalists to do their best work while under the perpetual threat of cost cuts and layoffs that threaten their livelihoods,” said Finance Reporter Rey Mashayekhi. “Benefits like severance during layoffs provide the economic security and peace of mind that far too many in the industry lack, and ensure that journalism professionals get a fairer piece of the revenues their work generates for billionaire publishers.

Follow the Fortune Union on Twitter @Fortune_Union.