Forbes Media employees are seeking to unionize at the most inopportune time for the company.
The NewsGuild of New York on Tuesday said that “over 80 percent” of Forbes’ 105 editorial workers submitted cards seeking to be represented by the union.
The news comes just as its current owners are in the midst of trying to sell the financial publishing company to new owners for a reported $650 million.
Susan DeCarava, president of the NewsGuild of New York said, “We call on the company to voluntarily recognize the Forbes Union so that we may swiftly get to the table and begin bargaining a contract.”
“We’re organizing to promote greater diversity in our newsroom, to gain more of a voice in editorial decisions, and advocate for a more supportive work environment where there are clear pathways for promotion,” said senior media editor Dawn Chmielewski.
Last week CEO Mike Federle, chief financial officer Mike York and chief content officer Randall Lane flew to San Francisco to meet with a group of potential buyers, including Michael Moe, CEO of GVS, a Silicon Valley-based merchant bank. The investors the execs pitched reportedly have a one-month exclusive period to try to hammer out a deal to buy the 103-year-old media enterprise famous for its Forbes 400 list of richest Americans.
At its heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the publication was stuffed with thousands of ad pages a year and published fortnightly.
But by 2012 the Forbes family sold off the famous Forbes yacht, The Highlander. Two years later the family long sold off its iconic headquarters in Greenwich Village and moved to its current home in Jersey City.
The company is currently owned by a group of Asian investors via Integrated Whale Management, which bought 95 percent of the company in 2014 in a deal valued at $415 million.
Forbes now prints just six issues a year, but has has diversified into a digital publisher — changes that have helped the company be profitable in 2020, a situation that’s expected to improve in 2021.
While Steve Forbes, a grandson of the company founder B.C. Forbes, has remained a visible spokesperson, the company’s day-to-day editorial operations have been managed by Lane, the chief content officer.
The company said it first learned of the unionization effort in March. At that time, it issued a memo to employees that said in part: “Forbes’ owners and our management team made a promise in early 2020 to keep the team intact. Forbes succeeded, avoiding layoffs, furloughs or salary reductions and ending the year with 59 new employees. And this year, while many of our peers are shedding jobs, especially in the newsroom, we’ve added 44 new employees.”
It also claimed its salary package and compensation were better than similarly sized companies. It had no response on Tuesday to the union’s request for voluntary recognition of the NewsGuild.
Moe at GVS had not returned an e-mail seeking comment.