CFT pushes CalSTRS to divest from gun manufacturing

UPDATE!  On June 5, 2015, CalSTRS cashed out of its investment in gun manufacturer Remington Firearms, part of the Cerberus Capital Management portfolio.  We thank CalSTRS for listening to CFT.  Read story in the Sacramento Bee.

April 3, 2015—Yesterday CFT members participated in two actions intended to push the California State Teachers Retirement System, (CalSTRS) to follow through on a commitment it made more than two years ago to divest holdings in the company that manufactured the assault weapon used to kill twenty six students and school staff in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. (See press release.) 

 calstrs guns
 Joanna Valentine attended the teach-in in Sacramento

In Sacramento, CFT Secretary Treasurer Jeff Freitas was joined by Los Rios Community College faculty members Linda Sneed, Bill Miller, and Doug Orr, retiree Margaret Shelleda, and UC Davis student Brenda Medina in a “teach-in” outside of the CalSTRS building. The event featured lessons  elating to divestment, pension obligations, the recent history of school gun violence, and the reading of a letter from seven families of Sandy Hook victims supporting CFT’s call for CalSTRS to divest $375 million now from Cerberus Capital Management, which owns Freedom Group, the gun manufacturer. 

“It is long past time for CalSTRS to finish what it started two years ago,” said Freitas, to an audience that included CalSTRS’s chief investment officer, Chris Ailman. Ailman later stated that he supported the action to divest, but that there were legal complications in doing so, causing the delay. 

State Treasurer John Chiang has also weighed in, supporting the action to divest, in a letter to CalSTRS sent a few days ago

CFT partnered with Brave New Films to produce a short video, Gun-Free Retirement, on the effects of gun violence on the lives of CFT members. The video was shown during the teach-in. In addition, Medina read a long list of names of students who have been killed in school gun-related violence since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. 

After the teach-in, the participants went inside to the CalSTRS board meeting. There Freitas reiterated the remarks he made outside, saying, “Even if we took a loss, it would be the right thing to do.” San Francisco City College retired teacher Ann Killebrew read the letter from Sandy Hook families. CalSTRS chairman Harry Keiley reaffirmed the commitment of CalSTRS to sell the portfolio, but said it won’t occur “at the speed that

some of us would like.” 

  AFT Local 1521 president Joanne Waddell, with LACCD students behind her, standing outside capital management company, says CalSTRS must divest from gun violence
AFT Local 1521 president Joanne Waddell, with LACCD students behind her, standing outside capital management company, says CalSTRS must divest from gun violence

In Los Angeles, CFT and Brave New Films held a press conference outside the building housing Cerberus Capital Management. Faculty members from the Los Angeles Community College District, including AFT Local 1521 president Joanne Waddell, and students from the district, including Herlim Li, spoke at the press conference, along with Brave New Films’ Robert Greewald. The group then attempted to deliver thousands of petitions, demanding that Cerberus sell Freedom Group, to the firm’s office in the building. 

The office door was locked, and no one answered repeated knocks. The teachers and students slipped the petitions under the door, as well as the list of students killed since Sandy Hook. 

See news coverage
CalSTRS wont rush to sell firearms investment,” Sacramento Bee“California teachers demand a gun-free retirement,” KCRA

 

Legislature passes changes in contributions to CalSTRS

In June 2014, the California Legislature made significant changes to the California State Teachers Retirement System. CFT formed a task force to study the issue of the system's "unfunded liability" and to submit the union's recommendations to the governor and the Legislature. Learn about the changes and the union's positions below.

June 21, 2014

CFT members and staff,

On June 15, 2014, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1469 (Bonta) to address the CalSTRS projected $74 billion unfunded liability. The legislation, once signed by the governor, will make significant changes to the CalSTRS contribution rates for employees, employers and the state beginning July 1, 2014. While the final legislation was an improvement from Governor Brown’s initial proposal, the CFT’s leadership felt the requirement to achieve 100% funding was not in keeping with standard accounting practice which sees 80% funding as the gold standard. As a result, school districts must shift dollars away from vital educational needs including restoring programs and positions and much needed salary increases in order to comply with the increased retirement funding demands.

CFT Senior Vice President Lacy Barnes convened a task force that reviewed the issue and brought back recommendations to the Executive Council. The CFT leadership and staff actively lobbied the legislature and the governor on our position as well as testified on several occasions. In the end, the legislation that was passed was a compromise between the governor and the legislature that included some of the CFT positions.

The new CalSTRS funding formula includes the following:

• Contribution increases for the employee and the state will be phased in over 3 years.
• Contribution increases for districts will be phased in over 7 years.
• The system will be funded at 100% in 32 years.

CFT CalSTRs memberletter ChartOnly

Additional Provisions:

• The CalSTRS Board will have to report to the Legislature on or before July 1, 2019, and every 5 years thereafter, on the fiscal health of the Defined Benefit Plan and the unfunded actuarial obligation.

• Beginning July 1, 2014, the 2% “Improvement Factor” (also commonly referred to as the COLA) becomes a vested benefit for an active member in any calendar year in which the active member paid increased member contributions.

• For fiscal year 2017-2018 and each year thereafter, the CalSTRS Board has the authority to increase or decrease the state contribution by no more than 0.50% in a single fiscal year based upon a recommendation from its actuary.

• For fiscal year 2021-2022 and each year thereafter, the CalSTRS Board has the authority to increase or decrease the district contribution by no more than 1% in a single fiscal year up to a maximum of 12% based upon a recommendation from its actuary.

• State contributions will be made outside of Proposition 98.

We recognize that a secure and stable retirement is critical to the members of the organization. While the legislature and governor have taken steps to ensure that CalSTRS can continue to fully fund pensions for years to come, asking our members to shoulder more of the financial burden either directly or indirectly once again penalizes educators for a situation not of our making.

It is important to remember that the health of CalSTRS was not an issue until the financial crisis of 2007 caused by the unethical lending practices of America’s largest financial institutions not by anything our members did.

The CFT will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for changes that don’t unfairly burden our members and local districts.

In Unity,

Joshua Pechthalt
President, California Federation of Teachers

Download a copy of the letter here.

May 30, 2014

While the governor and the Legislature were working on fixing the unfunded liability in the CalSTRS pension fund, CFT submitted this letter stating its positions about what the union wanted to see changed in the governor's plan. Read the union's letter to the governor.