our pension funds are being used to oppose unions.

Take a few minutes to read this article in The Intercepts which describes how our pension funds are being used by companies owned by private equity firms in order to fight unions.

Which begs the question as to what voice do we as members of pension funds like the Illinois Teacher Retirement System have in the management of the system’s investments?

To be clear, of the sources of pension fund revenue, teacher contributions and returns on investment have been the most reliable.

The state has been the least reliable.

They continue to short their pension responsibilities by billions of dollars every year.

I’ve been writing about the threats to our teacher pensions for years.

I have spent that time organizing to preserve them.

I was on the phone the other night with a friend who retired a year ago.

“Thank goodness for all those bus trips to Springfield,” he told me.

Many of my retired friends lost interest once the Illinois Supreme Court declared that our pensions could not be diminished or impaired – to use the language of the state constitution.

Once our monthly checks were secured by the Illinois Supreme Court many of us have moved on to other things.

An interesting side bar:


The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that requires investors for private pensions to act in the interest of the individuals in these plans.

ERISA does not apply to public pension plans. When some members of public pensions like TRS brought suit to have ERISA cover our public pension plans, the US Supreme Court ruled that they had no standing.

They and we are in a defined benefit pension plan.

In other words, those who manage our retirement savings can do it in secret, can charge hidden fees, can hide actual earnings, but since our monthly pension check is guaranteed, we cannot claim that we are harmed.

In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “After today’s decision, about 35 million people with defined-benefit plans will be vulnerable to fiduciary misconduct.”

If, like me, you believe that even though we are retired we are still part of a movement for workers’ rights and social justice, then the idea that our pension funds are being secretly invested in private equity companies to bust unions, is outrageous.

But much of that information is hidden from us by TRS trustees and investment managers.

A monthly guaranteed defined benefit can’t be enough to shut us up.

We have standing no matter what the courts say.

3 thoughts on “our pension funds are being used to oppose unions.

  1. Since our pensions don’t require investors to act in our interest, that doesn’t sit well. I still remember the Stuart Levine debacle. With our luck our fund manager would be a protégé of Bernie Madoff. What assurances, if any, do TRS annuitants have that what should be done is being done if it’s not required by law? We can’t even get info on the fee structure. I have to wonder if our state legislators are in the same funds as we are and have the same fund manager. I worry that whomever is managing our funds is the direct result of nepotism from our state legislators rather than competence. No wonder why some nights it’s harder to get to sleep than others!

    1. Given the lack of transparency re Jay Singh and no info on the firing of Executive Director Richard Ingram only a fool wouldn’t worry.

  2. Hello Fred,

    The title of this article is “Our Pension Funds Are Being Used to Oppose Unions”, yet in the blog or the linked article there are no connections to TRS, IMRF, or SURS, just to other public pension funds in other states. Do you have any specific information on funds that TRS, IMRF, or SURS, are using that fund anti-union operations? If you do please send that information to me and I will send it on to the IEA representatives on those respective pension boards. I work as a UniServ Director for the IEA and a member contacted me about this post, I just want to make sure that I haven’t missed anything. Thank you and I appreciate all the work you do in supporting public education unions. Solidarity!

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