Unions Now Target Private Equity Owners of Companies They Seek to Organize

The Los Angeles hotel workers’ union is getting ready to take on private equity. Lowe Enterprises, a real estate investment firm whose private equity arm manages more than $2.5 billion in assets is the target at its Terranea luxury resort.

Resort workers plan to confront their general manager and demand a fair process to unionize. As a new organizing ploy, the union hopes Lowe’s investors – which include insurance companies, international institutions, wealthy individuals, and public pensions– are paying attention.

As private equity firms become more prominent as owners and bosses, labor organizers are tailoring their tactics to confront some of the world’s richest executives. In September, North America’s Building Trades Unions announced an agreement with Blackstone Group, LP under which the firm’s new infrastructure business will manifest a “strong preference” for choosing contractors for its projects that pay for training, respect the right to unionize, and comply with safety rules.

During a strike last winter against the chemical company Momentive Performance Materials, members of the Communications Workers of America rallied outside the offices of Apollo Global Management, LLC, which owned much of the company and put Apollo Chief Executive Officer Leon Black’s name and face on their picket signs.

A report from a union-backed group highlighted the fees Apollo had taken out from Momentive and the pricey mansions owned by Black. Because Blackstone also owned part of Momentive, the report also noted CEO Stephen Schwarzman’s luxurious homes, and the alleged contradiction between Schwarzman chairing a White House panel designed to restore jobs and Momentive’s cost-cutting tactics.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.