The union that represents journalists at Fortune magazine sent the following letter to CEO Alan Murray about its layoffs last week:
As Fortune employees, we love this publication and have tremendous gratitute for the ways we have been supported as journalists over the years. That’s why we were so deeply let down by management’s counteroffer, with zero additional severance for laid-off employees, on Thursday. It felt like a cold and avoidable exception to the leadership management has historically shown and, if not remedied, will damage Fortune’s reputation as an attractive place to work for years to come.
We recognize that Fortune is facing an unprecedented crisis for its businesses brought on by the coronavirus, forcing it to downsize its workforce. And while the layoffs of 35 of our colleagues, including members of our union’s bargaining unit, are painful for all of us, we are most disappointed that Fortune has chosen to cut them loss while refusing to provide even a reasonable amount of severance pay to last through the depths of this pandemic.
In offering just two weeks of severance to some of our laid-off colleagues — pay that will end before social-distancing restrictions subside in many parts of the country, including in Fortune’s home city of New York — you risk depriving them of any guaranteed income for the remainder of this crisis, when is is incredibly difficult to find another job. In doing so, you are not only failing our former Fortune temmates — several of whom joined Fortune in support of its ambitious growth mission and worked diligently and in good faith toward achieving it — you are also signaling to current and future employees that Fortune does not value their work enough to provide them with a basic modicum of job security.
It would cost Fortune relatively little to provide our colleagues with enough severance pay to make a meaningful difference in their lives, both in the short term while the coronavirus presents literal life-and-death challenges, as well as in the long term for their careers. Raising the minimum severance pay would provide additional support to a very small number of employees — a negligible cost compared to the impact on the safety and security of our colleagues.
If we truly equate responsible leadership with fair treatment of workers — as our coverage and lists regularly underscore — then it is especially distressing that management won’t practice what it preaches at a time when employees are most vulnerable. In light of this we urge you to reconsider our proposal to provide a fair severance package to those who are losing their jobs.
Thank you for your attention,
The Fortune Union