Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo
Gina Raimondo
Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo, nominally a Democrat, is, as Forbes' Ted Siedle puts it, the private equity industry's choice:
[...] to be the public face of their local, as well as national campaign to supposedly “reform” public pensions by steering trillions of government workers’ retirement savings into high-cost, high-risk, illiquid alternative investments. [...]

Raimondo was also the perfect choice to lead the private equity assault on public funds because she has only limited knowledge of pensions and knows even less about private equity.  For her private equity campaign supporters this means that she can be fed and will parrot any misinformation the industry feeds her to the electorate. Hedge funds safe? Private equity worth the hefty fees? You betcha.

A new report by Benchmark Financial Services, commissioned by AFSCME, a union whose workers' pensions Raimondo has been relentlessly attacking, details some of the effects of her private equity, hedge fund-centric leadership. It's working out for Raimondo:
[...] a significant portion of the Treasurer’s wealth and income relates to shares she owns in two illiquid, opaque venture capital partnerships she formerly managed at Point Judith Capital—one of which she convinced the state to invest in on different, less favorable terms.
But it's actually hard to get the full picture of what's going on with the state's pensions, because Raimondo insists that it can't divulge anything about the investments that the money managers she hired don't want to divulge. It's not just unions crying foul at her lack of transparency:
Recently, four open-government groups – Common Cause Rhode Island, the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Rhode Island Press Association and the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island released a letter to the Treasurer voicing their concerns regarding the Treasurer’s strategy of withholding hedge fund records. These groups believe that since the financial reports are paid for with public funds and detail how the state is investing the public’s money, they should be made public in their entirety; further they found “troubling” the Treasurer’s decision to allow the hedge funds to decide what information to release.
In 2011, even an advocate of cutting worker pensions wrote, "the problems Raimondo addressed were not the biggest that the state faced. The main problem with Rhode Island’s pension system is that it has very poor investment returns on its $6.5 billion portfolio of assets."

Raimondo may well run for governor as a Democrat, backed by huge amounts of Wall Street money. But in this fight, she's not the only enemy of worker pensions we should be paying attention to. Former SEIU president Andy Stern recently dove in with an op-ed supporting Raimondo. The later years of Stern's SEIU presidency were contentious, with many in labor charging that he was cutting sweetheart deals on contracts with employers, among other things, while his defenders argued that it was better to have more people in unions—even if it meant relatively weak contracts to begin with. His defense of a hedge fund-backed anti-worker politician is just the latest in a string of post-SEIU moves making his critics look a whole lot more prescient than his defenders.

More of this week's news on labor and education below the fold.

A fair day's wage

  • Coal industry's go-to law firm withheld evidence of black lung, at expense of sick miners. A truly appalling story.
  • Workers in union organizing drives are often pulled into captive audience meetings or interrogated one on one by anti-union bosses. That's something we talk about a lot in describing the barriers workers face when they want to unionize, but it's a lot rarer we get to hear what that actually sounds like. Now, a worker at Iron Mountain, a records management and storage company, has recorded a captive audience meeting held as workers in Georgia try to organize and join the Teamsters. He also recorded as he was interrogated about his union activity.

    Oh, and surprise! This worker was fired. Which would be illegal if he was fired for union activity, but the company says it followed the law, which means he was just coincidentally fired for having coincidentally done something wrong coincidentally right around the time he was participating in union organizing.

  • Finally. Everyone at the National Labor Relations Board who needs to be confirmed has been confirmed.
  • Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) explains why and how he's pushing for improved manufacturing policy.
  • College professor makes laughable arguments about how college professors don't need unions. Erik Loomis takes him to the woodshed.
  • Don't worry, though! Gender discrimination isn't really a thing!
    Women are more likely to be asked to do favors or help out their coworkers, but when they do they are less appreciated for it than men, according to research from business school professor Frank Flynn.
  • This actually really is good news. Target will no longer have questions about criminal history on job applications, removing a key barrier to people re-entering the workforce after prison.
  • Workers at a New York casino are getting a big raise thanks to a new deal with the Hotel Trades Council.
  • Chicago Whole Foods worker Trish Kahle writes not only about why she's joined the one-day fast food and retail workers but where she thinks the campaign could be going and how it could change unions:
    [S]ome left and union activists have raised concerns about the movement’s potential and the limitations of its strategy – perhaps most notably about SEIU’s history of settling concessionary contracts, cutting deals with employers that short workers, and most recently, in the health care wars in California. Others are concerned the workers aren’t in control. Still others worry Fight for 15 isn’t a real organizing drive, but a PR campaign. [...]

    The Left needs to move beyond conceptualizing workers’ institutions like SEIU as monoliths incapable of change. It’s difficult to change them, but not impossible. Anger over the betrayals of business unionism and bureaucracy should not trick us into seeing unions as completely and irreparably divorced from the membership. Rather, it should make all the more clear the need to organize new workers and rebuild unions from the bottom-up.

  • Olympic uniforms are going to be made in the USA.
  • Over 1000 #dctaxi drivers at first #Teamster meeting to form association. #labor #DC #1u http://t.co/...
  • Baltimore is giving Amazon a sweetheart deal to locate a warehouse there, low-wage jobs and all.
  • Eight scary facts about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


  • There are 16 New York City charter school executives who earn more than the city's education chancellor, who makes $212,614. Two are paid more than $400,000, two between $300,000 and $400,000.

    The kicker? These schools are having hissy fits over the idea that the city might charge them rent for the facilities they use—they say they can't afford it and are public schools that shouldn't be charged rent. At base, the issue is this:

    “These are private-sector salaries,” said Brooklyn College professor David Bloomfield, noting charter schools don’t always act like public schools.

    “There is a degree of shape shifting. They’re private when they want to be private. They insist that they’re public when making use of public revenue sources.”

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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