UFT and AFT Officials Invest Membership’s Money in Israel (Ronnie Almonte)

Original online here.


UFT and AFT Officials Invest Membership’s Money in Israel

The American Federation of Teachers and its locals have the power to divest millions from Israel’s war on Gaza


JAN 25, 2024




Since October 7th, Israel has killed at least 200 Palestinian teachers—our colleagues—and at least 4,300 of their students. Thousands more have been injured. Yet, instead of solidarity, officials from American teachers unions are demonstrating complicity. It’s true that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), reversed her position and now calls for a ceasefire. But heartfelt words and pleas from union officials mean little when they are managing tens of millions of dollars of investments in Israel’s war machinery.

Figure 1. Schedule 5 of the American Federation of Teachers’ LM-2 financial report, showing one “State of Israel” bond valued at $150,000. Accessed January 24th, 2024.

Israeli investments are sourced from union dues and pension contributions. According to its LM-2 financial report, the AFT holds one State of Israel bond worth $150,000 (Figure 1). Its largest local, my union the the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), holds two State of Israel bonds worth $100,000 and $65,000 (Figure 2); moreover, UFT officials sit on the board of the NYC Teachers Retirement System (TRS), which has over tens of millions of dollars invested in Israeli companies (Figure 3), such as Israeli defense companies like Elbit Systems, according to the TRS’ most recent Investment Portolios document (2022). TRS also invests tens of millions of dollars in notorious defense companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon/RTX, which supply the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) with F-35 fighter jets, M270 rocket launchers, and other technologies used to monitor, target, injure, and kill Palestinians—including educators, students, and their families.

Figure 2. Schedule 5 of the United Federation of Teachers’ LM-2 financial report, showing two “State of Israel” bonds values at $100,000 and $65,000. Accessed January 24th, 2024.

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Figure 3. A selection of investments in Israeli companies by the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York (TRS NYC). Source: Investment Portolios document (2022). Accessed January 25th, 2024.

It’s not too late for the AFT and UFT to declare opposition to Israel’s collective punishment of Gaza. Union officials—President Randi Weingarten of the AFT, President Michael Mulgrew of the UFT—can redeem the bonds that fuel Israel’s war, and that pay for Israel’s longstanding occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the apartheid regime inside its borders. They can also advocate to pension boards that they divest from Israeli companies as well as American defense companies contracted by the IDF. Of course, union officials will only do so under rank-and-file pressure. This won’t be easy. The UFT Delegate Assembly can’t even get a ceasefire resolution passed. That said, those motions and resolutions have lost by a small, though not insignificant, margin. With a well-designed campaign, divestment is possible.

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