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Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Donald Trump could be making an inconvenient enemy in Randi Weingarten, head of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers.

What the Trump Administration doesn't seem to realize, yet, is that Weingarten's influence extends well beyond the classroom and could complicate Trump's grand infrastructure plans because of her union's considerable pension investments.

Reasons Trump should pay attention to Weingarten:

  • Trump and his chief strategist Steve Bannon want nothing more than to use infrastructure investment to pull the union movement away from Democrats. To that end, they've been courting the Building Trades and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. One problem: Weingarten is a key constituent of the AFL-CIO and no grand labor deal will happen without her assent.
  • Weingarten is closer to the Building Trades union than Trump may realize. When Axios visited her D.C. office last week she showed us a trophy the Building Trades gave her to honor her support for infrastructure investment.
  • Trump appears to want private equity to participate in his infrastructure plan, which means he'll be looking indirectly at teacher pension funds that have more than $73 billion committed to the asset class (per research firm Preqin).
  • Weingarten doesn't control the pension money but she's got a substantial bully pulpit. In 2013, financial magazine Institutional Investor ranked Weingarten #1 on its list of the 40 most "influential players in U.S. pensions."
  • Grassroots activism by teachers could impact pension system investment decisions, as evidenced by past actions in areas like firearms industry divestment. If Weingarten gets loud, then it may be harder for private equity firms to raise the new infrastructure-focused funds they'll need to help finance Trump's grand plan.
  • Weingarten also holds a lot of political sway at the local and state levels, which matters because most infrastructure spending is currently financed via the municipal bond market.

So far, relations between Weingarten and the Administration aren't going well. Weingarten says she's seen nothing so far from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to change her view that the secretary has "antipathy toward public education." And the Trump Administration hasn't included her in their union outreach.

Yes, but: A veteran private equity fundraiser tells Axios that while Weingarten is an important voice, she's unlikely to succeed in blocking new infrastructure fund formation if the Trump Administration is offering a generous enough deal via tax credits and other goodies. In a statement Weingarten said the union is "deeply committed to this work and hope President Trump works with the labor movement, including the building trades, and public officials throughout the country to secure a real infrastructure bill."Moreover, Preqin estimates there that infrastructure private equity funds were sitting on around $137 billion in un-invested capital at year-end 2016. That's a global figure, but around one-quarter of all infrastructure private equity investments last year went to U.S. projects.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Pope Francis waving as he arrives near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Iraq's northern Mosul on March 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting areas of northern Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.