Local: Education

Teacher’s union head targets pension fund investors

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Education,Sean Higgins,Labor unions

The Wall Street Journal reports that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sought a private meeting with hedge fund investor Dan Loeb at a conference sponsored by the Council of Institutional Investors where she is a boardmember. Why? To talk about corporate governance. The Journal op-ed page gives its take on her agenda:

Ms. Weingarten’s real concern is that Mr. Loeb puts his own money behind school reform and charter schools. In particular, Mr. Loeb is on the board of the New York chapter of StudentsFirst. That’s the education outfit founded by former Washington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee that is pushing for more charters and teacher accountability, among other desperately needed reforms.

Ms. Weingarten sent Mr. Loeb a letter demanding a meeting at the CII conference with her and “a small group of pension fund trustees,” including “two funds that are current clients of yours.” Her agenda? “These plans are concerned about their ability to invest with your firm going forward,” Ms. Weingarten wrote, given Mr. Loeb’s support for StudentsFirst and its “outspoken attacks” on defined-benefit pension plans.

Mr. Loeb wisely declined the honor of showing up for this political mugging, which means that everyone else at CII lost an opportunity to hear how they might be able to boost their investment returns to finance teacher retirements.

But no one should think that Mr. Loeb is Ms. Weingarten’s only target. Her attempted ambush coincides with a new report that her union sent to pension trustees this week called “Ranking Asset Managers.” Ms. Weingarten isn’t interested in how they rank by return on investment.

Her “rankings” are all about politics. The union report says it wants pension trustees to “take into account certain collateral factors, such as a manager’s position on collective bargaining, privatization [read: vouchers] or proposals to discontinue providing benefits through defined benefit plans.”

The report adds the lovely threat that “The American Federation of Teachers is committed to shining a bright light on organizations that harm public sector workers, especially when those organizations are financed by individuals who earn their money from the deferred wages of our teachers.”

Read the whole thing here.

For more on Weingarten, you can read about my Twitter conversation with her earlier this month.

 

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