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Protestors storm SABEW annual conference

April 28, 2008

A group of protestors from the Service Employees International Union stormed into the Society of American Business Editors and Writers annual conference at lunch Monday to express their displeasure about an appearance by David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, a Washington-based private equity firm.

David RubensteinThe protestors actually temporarily disrupted a speech being given by Robert Steel, the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance, and not Rubenstein, who was scheduled to speak at 2:15 p.m. The hotel security locked the doors to the room, and the protestors were not allowed in.

Rubenstein went ahead with his keynote presentation, a Q&A with Henny Sender, the private equity reporter at the Financial Times. However, during his presentation, security was placed at the ball room doors, and only SABEW members were allowed in.

The union represents nearly 2 million workers in security, health care and janitorial positions, and it’s upset with Carylyle because it wants to organize 60,000 workers at Manor Care, an Ohio-based nursing-home company that Carlyle recently acquired. The union has held similar protests against Rubenstein at other events.

SEIU protestors at SABEWDuring his presentation, Rubenstein discussed the protests, noting they want him to put pressure on Manor Care’s management to improve benefits and to allow them to unionize.

“The theory behind what you saw today…if you can harass or embarrass this person, this person will get of this harrassment or intimidation” and tell Manor Care’s management to do something, said Rubenstein. “I think I am the victim.”

Bernie Kohn, assistant managing editor of business for The Baltimore Sun and SABEW’s incoming president, said that Carlyle had warned SABEW that protestors might show up during Rubenstein’s presentation. SABEW had asked the hotel, the Sheraton Inner Habor, to provide more security, he said.

Some SABEW members had left the Steel presentation and then were unable to return to the ballroom to hear the rest of the speech because of the locked doors.

(Photo by Cliff Cumber, business editor of the Frederick News-Post in Maryland.)

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