That’s an easy criticism to make, but I hope that it isn’t all that well founded.
First off, we are making an effort to bring diversity to the attendees as well as the speakers — not everyone who is there will be paying the full price. We are curating the entire event to spark important conversations. In addition, those conversations go far beyond the day of the actual event. I’m not just talking about this discussion space that we are creating on Medium, but the way that we hope to shape the broader dialogue in the media about what the actual issues are.
Second, think about who needs to be influenced to make workers’ lives better. You can organize workers, as unions or popular movements do, or you can create a consensus among employers (who can afford to attend an event like this) that they will do better as businesses if they enable a better world for their workers.
I was a huge fan of the Occupy movement, for instance, but it was quickly marginalized by the people it sought to influence. Not that many capitalists and bankers showed up at Occupy encampments.
Social change require influence from many directions. Gandhi’s success in India required not just massive non-violent protests, but also a change of heart among British aristocrats and policy makers. The civil rights movement in America needed not just Martin Luther King but also LBJ.
A wise person told me that “You pick the hat to fit the head.” I’ve created a lot of different events at my company. Some are wide open(Ignite!), free but invite-only (Foo Camp), low cost for families (Maker Faire), paid for professionals (Oscon, Strata+Hadoop World, etc.), and here, for executives and policy makers. It is difficult to satisfy every criterion in every event.
I hope this helps alleviate your concern.