Mar 10, 2022 - Economy

Teachers union president calls for Russia divestment

Randi Weingarten

Randi Weingarten. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on Thursday will call for her organization to divest from Russia-related assets, Axios has learned. This would include assets owned or controlled by Russian oligarchs.

Why it matters: AFT is the country's second-largest public teacher union, with 1.6 million members, and manages around $1 trillion in pension assets.

  • Weingarten also extended her request to other pension funds in which AFT members participate, representing another $3.2 trillion.
  • So far, teacher pensions in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York City have announced Russia divestment plans.

By the numbers: AFT estimates that, were both its direct and indirect pensions to divest, it would represent around $1 billion.

What she's saying: Axios has obtained a copy of the letter Weingarten sent to AFT trustees, ahead of a meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon. It reads in part:

"A number of public pension plans have examined their exposure to Russian investments and chosen to withdraw from assets tied to Russia. These actions echo similar steps that funds have taken in the past around investments in Iran and Sudan, in an effort to avoid the investment risks of funding attacks on democracy and civilians ...
I urge all of you to closely examine your funds for exposure to Russia across all asset classes—including commodities; real estate; natural resources, such as oil, gas and timber; and private equity and hedge funds—and to withdraw from these investments where possible, consistent with fiduciary duty."
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