AFT President Lauds Efforts by Public Employees, Unions, Investment Groups
NEW YORK—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten joined AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting today to discuss the first of what is hoped will be more commitments to invest public pension funds in infrastructure projects to help strengthen the economy, create jobs and revitalize communities.
"Public employees, unions, investment groups and others want to be part of a renewed America. What we're talking about today is America's retirees, and future retirees, helping their country recover economically and invest in projects that might never have gotten off the ground because of budget crises," Weingarten said.
The AFL-CIO committed in June to supporting an investment of $10 billion of pension funds in job-creating infrastructure projects over five years. In addition, the AFL-CIO and the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO committed to working with union-affiliated money managers to invest $20 million in retrofitting buildings this year. Since June, its housing investment trust, alone, has committed more than $200 million.
Two of the nation's largest public pension funds—the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS)—have committed to investing in infrastructure projects. CalSTRS expects to make new infrastructure investments of between $300 million and $600 million in the current fiscal year. CalPERS has committed $800 million to invest in California infrastructure projects.
"We have seen so much finger-pointing and unfair scapegoating directed at public employees and unions," Weingarten said. "The commitments by public pension funds show that public employees are focused on solutions in a fiduciarily sound way to revitalize our communities, create jobs and strengthen our economy."
The AFT has been working for over a year with a committee of AFT leaders—many of them trustees of teacher pension plans—in an effort to utilize public pension fund assets in a manner similar to the California public pension funds' investments. That work has led to discussions with unions, including SEIU, AFSCME, NEA and IAFF, elected pension fund trustees, investment professionals and others, including members of the Clinton Global Initiative, some of whom were independently working on the same set of issues.
The final report of the AFT Ad Hoc committee on revenue and retirement security can be found at: http://www.aft.org/pdfs/press/StrengthRetireSecurity0411.pdf.