Union Thugs Blacklist Show-Me Institute and Conservative Think Tanks

Union Thugs Blacklist Show-Me Institute and Conservative Think Tanks

“Any incident of bullying is reprehensible and unacceptable.” So says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Unfortunately, she and the AFT are themselves acting as school-yard bullies – in a crass attempt to squash support for school and pension reform.

On April 19, the union released a remarkably cynical document: It asks trustees of teacher pension systems to examine the private donations of individual fund managers – with the intention of removing fund managers who contribute to not-for-profit organizations and charities that support efforts to reform K-12 education.


In its document (“Ranking Asset Managers”) the AFT – one of the nation’s largest public sector unions – placed three not-for-profits on a “watch list” (i.e. blacklist), including: Students First, The Manhattan Institute, and The Show-Me Institute. The AFT also named names of fund directors, advisors, and executives, who dared to support these reform organizations. The union issued the following threat: “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.”

In fact, teacher pensions are financed primarily by taxpayers rather than deferred wages, and the principal obligation of the pension trustees is to ensure the retirement security of their members. They are under no obligation to protect or promote union interests.

By the same token, the primary objective of Missouri and other states is to ensure that students receive a quality education, not to fund district-run schools where most or all of the teachers belong to unions.

This is a clear effort to influence how fund managers spend their own money through intimidation and is a classic example of union thuggery.

The AFT document encourages retirement fund trustees to avoid fund managers who support organizations that advocate for private school choice. The union contends that allowing students to access private schools with public dollars diverts funding from public schools and does not improve student outcomes. But there is a wealth of academic evidence supporting the opposite conclusion.

Money spent on school choice programs is money that goes to enabling families to access the best schools for their children. Moreover, school choice programs don’t hurt the state’s budget; they typically save taxpayers money.

In a recent paper by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Greg Forster notes that 11 of the 12 studies conducted on private school voucher programs have found positive effects for all or some students; none have found negative effects. Forster goes on to state that these programs also prompt public schools to improve their performance.

The AFT states, “The Show-Me Institute has explicitly called for Missouri to shift to a defined contribution plan for state employees.” The union was referring to a recent policy study released by the institute which demonstrates that Missouri’s public pensions are a ticking time bomb and it is the taxpayer who will be on the hook. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that public employee pensions that guarantee employees benefits and expect to consistently beet the market in rates of return are a bad idea. Yet the AFT doesn’t care about this. They are too worried about their own interests.

The AFT says “See a bully, Stop a bully.” We have spotted a bully and it is the AFT. Now it is time to stop letting powerful unions bully individuals into kowtowing the union line. It is time to stop putting the interests of union bosses ahead of the needs of students.     

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