Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Service Union's Criticism Rankles Edmc

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Service Union's Criticism Rankles Edmc

Article excerpt

An unlikely animus has developed between two organizations best known by their initials: SEIU and EDMC.

Downtown-based Education Management Corp., the subject of a federal lawsuit about recruiting practices and a Senate committee investigation into for-profit schools, is no stranger to scrutiny.

Yet the company, which enrolls 151,000 students in a national system of schools that includes The Art Institutes, Argosy University, Brown Mackie College and South University, was surprised to learn recently that it was being criticized by the Service Employees International Union, which has no existing relationship with the company.

On Jan. 19, SEIU launched ForProfitU.org, a website that paints an unflattering picture about for-profit schools in general but EDMC in particular. On its website, the union streamed a Feb. 2 panel discussion involving former EDMC employees and students. Although the webinar was held at the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel, Downtown, close to EDMC's headquarters, the company was not invited to participate.

"Our feeling is that EDMC gets millions and millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and they are a very powerful corporation," said Kevin O'Donnell, an SEIU spokesman based in Chicago. "They are going to have no problem getting their word out."

In a statement released Feb. 2, EDMC spokeswoman Jacquelyn P. Muller said SEIU's new website was inaccurate and filled with misinformation. She said the webinar was "further evidence that the union is pursuing a one-sided and highly misleading agenda."

Indeed, it was not immediately clear why the SEIU -- which represents 2.1 million members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico who work in healthcare, public services and property services -- is getting involved in the debate over for-profit education.

According to the mission statement written on ForProfitU.org, the goal of the website is to educate people on "the dangers of for- profit colleges." It's a mission that falls in line with what Mr. O'Donnell said unions have historically pushed for: social justice for all working people, not just for union members. …

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