The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the country’s largest teachers unions, recently released a list of hedge funds with whom they felt their members should no longer do business. The AFT released a statement claiming that the list included the names of firms and asset managers who had not been forthright about their intentions with teachers’ pension plans.
In spite of this call for transparency, it appears that the motives of the AFT are political and deeply personal. Many of the investment managers being targeted support education reform, charter schools, and other non-union-approved schooling options. The tactics of the AFT and President Randi Weingarten are nothing short of threatening, with the group promising to continue highlighting “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.”
The AFT seems to have singled out one particular individual in their crusade against hedge funds, even mentioning him on their website. Daniel Loeb, an asset manager at the firm Third Point LLC, has been repeatedly attacked by the teachers union, causing him to cancel speaking engagements and requiring him to release statements to defend his reputation. The AFT even notes that Rolling Stone blogger Matt Taibbi criticized Loeb’s involvement with the organization Students First — which advocates for education reform — because we all know that having a blogger from Rolling Stone agree with you completely proves your argument.
In the statement against Loeb on their website the AFT lists his net worth, his 2012 salary, notes that he is among some of the richest individuals in the world, and then briefly states that he advocates for teachers to invest in 401(k) plans — like most other hedge-fund investors would. The statement is petty and does not indicate that Loeb deserved any of the treatment he has thus far received from the AFT.
Throughout all of this, the only crimes Loeb seems to have committed are earning his own wealth and choosing to advocate for his beliefs regarding education.
However, the AFT is not alone, as teachers unions are no strangers to controversy.
This past September, the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike, effectively shutting down the public school system of Chicago for an entire week. The contract negotiations ended with a nearly 18% raise for the teachers, but at the cost of $74 million in extra expenditures for the city of Chicago. Note that these teachers were making an average of $76,000 annually, which is by no means considered living in poverty. The Chicago Department of Education promptly received a downgraded credit score as a result of the new contract terms, but the teachers continued to voice concerns that poorly performing schools would be shut down and that more funding is needed to prevent this from occurring.
In New York City this past month, the United Federation of Teachers was unable to reach an agreement with Mayor Michael Bloomberg about teacher evaluations — costing the city nearly $450 million dollars in state and federal aid. Mayor Bloomberg, despite all his faults, refused to cave in to the ridiculous “sunset-clause” demand made by the teachers that would have made it impossible to remove teachers who fared poorly on evaluations. Teachers unions have a deep aversion to evaluations, though perhaps it is because many of them would lose their jobs in NYC. Recent reports show that 80% of NYC’s high school graduates enter college without having mastered basic skills and are required to take remedial classes upon entering college. Sadly, statistics like this do little to motivate teachers unions to care about more than their salaries.
In theory, a union to protect teachers sounds wonderful. After all, they are entrusted with the task of shaping the future through the education of children.
But in reality, the AFT has become little more than an organized witch hunt against anyone who does not completely fall in line with their point of view.
The American Federation of Teachers was formed with the intention of preserving the rights of educators. Yet like many other teachers unions, it has allowed political biases and greed to overshadow its original purpose. As of late teachers unions seem to be doing more harm than good, putting children in danger of not getting the education they deserve while union leadership partakes in bullying tactics to get their way.
Remember: the mafia originated from a need to “protect” people too — but would you want any of those guys teaching your children?