November 15, 2013
By Neal Tepel
Institutional Investor has put AFT President Randi Weingarten first in its inaugural ranking of the 40 most influential players in the fight for—and against—defined benefit pensions. Weingarten tops the list for her determination to see that AFT members retire with their pension security intact.
AFT members participate in pension plans with more than $1.5 trillion in assets. These deferred wages provide a secure retirement for millions of families. Weingarten regards the push away from defined benefit pensions and toward defined contribution plans as especially dangerous because it puts the risk of investing and possibly outliving their retirement savings completely on the shoulders of individual workers. As a source of long-term capital, defined benefit plans also make critical investments in our economy, including rebuilding our nation's infrastructure.
The AFT published a report earlier this year that revealed a conflict of interest by some Wall Street firms. Some of these asset managers sought to invest workers' capital while also supporting efforts to destroy defined benefit plans.
A number of the firms listed in that report responded in positive fashion. The AFT is now engaged in a broad-based effort with state treasurers, large asset managers and other unions to support retirement security for all workers. The AFT also believes pension plans can help rebuild our country through investments in infrastructure, while generating a competitive risk-adjusted return. Together with the Clinton Global Initiative, the AFT has committed to encourage $10 billion of investment in infrastructure over the next five years.