State teachers union supports divesting pension from coal companies

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/22/2017 8:51:17 PM

Massachusetts Teachers Association, the largest union in the Bay State, has voted to support state legislation to require the Massachusetts pension fund to divest from coal companies and create a commission to evaluate divestment from oil and gas companies.

The vote Saturday by MTA, with over 110,000 teachers, faculty, professional staff and education support professionals in public schools, colleges and universities, boosts support for House Bill 3281.

Delegates proposing the initiative expressed concerns about climate disruption and heightened financial risk to MTA members’ pensions, following a September 2015 analysis that the Massachusetts pension fund lost approximately a half-billion dollars — about $10 million a week — by failing to divest from fossil fuels during the previous year.

The state pension fund for teachers and municipal employees, controlled by the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management board, totals about $60 billion.

Ferd Wulkan of Montague, a retired teacher at UMass Amherst, said, “Massachusetts has been a leader in acknowledging the devastation that will be caused by unchecked climate change and in shifting away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources of energy. Our investments should reflect our values. How can we keep investing in dirty fuels when state policy argues the opposite direction?”

Wulkan is active in Mass Divest, a coalition of organizations fighting for divestment of state pension funds from fossil fuel companies and investing in a “100 percent clean and renewable energy future,” whose members include Alliance for Climate Education, Climate Action Now, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution, the Greenfield Community College Professional Association, Massachusetts Nurses Association and 350 Massachusetts.

“For MTA to go on the record is really significant,” said Wulkan, and it may, along with similar votes by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, GCC Professional Association, and two chapters of Service Employees International Union, encourage legislators to support the bill, whose co-sponsors include Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and Reps. Paul Mark, D-Peru, Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington.

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