WASHINGTON: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is in the early stages of a public campaign that takes on the private equity industry, calling on it to share its wealth with a wider array of stakeholders who are affected by its dealmaking.
The campaign marks one of organized labor's most visible efforts to take on the booming sector of the financial services industry, which has recently been taking tentative steps to polish its image. It also sets up a possible confrontation between one of America's most powerful unions and the PE industry's newly organized trade group, the Private Equity Council.
"The private equity industry is growing larger. It's buying and selling larger pieces of the economy," said SEIU spokesman Andrew McDonald. "It's important that all people know what's going on."
The SEIU led off the campaign late last month with the release of a report that profiled the PE industry and its major players, and includes case studies of five deals that the union said showed how workers can be cut out of the process.
The union also launched a website, BehindTheBuyouts.org, to serve as an ongoing clearinghouse of information. McDonald said that the study is "the first of what will be a series of engagements," but declined to elaborate.
The ultimate goal, he said, is to give "workers and communities...a seat at the table" in PE deals affecting them.
Private Equity Council president Douglas Lowenstein released a statement defending the industry as a positive contributor to the economy, and charging the SEIU with presenting a skewed picture of PE's effect on jobs.
The Council did not return a call for comment before press time.
McDonald said that the SEIU has had "discussions" with the Council, and expressed hope for a dialogue.