Last week, the American Federation of Teachers released a blacklist of financial asset managers that fund organizations supporting education reform and/or switching from defined-benefit to defined-contribution pension systems, such as StudentsFirst, the Show-Me Institute and the Manhattan Institute. The report urges AFT affiliates to pressure pension fiduciaries not to invest their money with such asset managers. The AFT also makes a not-so-subtle threat to go after the donors to other think tanks and education reform groups:
This report is not intended as a one-time publication. Future versions will incorporate additional political organizations and their donors. The AFT 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.
This isn’t the first time the AFT has employed strong-arm tactics, but I find it hard to muster any outrage. As this report makes clear, the AFT’s mission is not about providing the best education for children, it’s about protecting the jobs of its members. It makes perfect sense that they wouldn’t want their money going to organizations that they perceive as working against their interests (whether that perception is accurate or not). If they would rather have lower returns on their investments, that’s their prerogative.
That said, if the AFT is going to be consistent and principled, they should support public-sector “right to work” legislation so that no one who wants to teach in public schools is forced to join a union and have their mandatory dues go toward a cause that they oppose. Moreover, the unions should end the practice of having state and local governments collect dues for them, essentially using state power and tax dollars to fund causes that some taxpayers, parents, and even teachers perceive as against their interests.
Of course, they’ll never do that. Without the use of coercion, the entire machine would fall apart.