Report card gauges union pension fund assets’ ties to building trades jobs

Some real estate and infrastructure fund managers dealing with building trades pension funds are doing better than others when it comes to connecting pension fund assets and union jobs, according to a report card released Wednesday at the North America’s Building Trades Unions’ Washington legislative conference.

Building trades unions with a collective $600 billion in pension fund assets are increasingly demanding that connection, with a goal of moving $70 billion in pension assets over the next 10 years into funds that invest in businesses that create union jobs, NABTU President Sean McGarvey said.

“We want all of our resources to support our value, not to undermine it. That includes leveraging our own money,” while also securing competitive returns, Mr. McGarvey said.

It is the building trades’ third report card on how well fund managers connect pension fund investments to projects that create union jobs, following one released at last year’s conference on investment consultants. This year’s ratings focused on asset managers for real estate and infrastructure funds. Of the 24 real estate and infrastructure fund managers responding to this year’s survey, 14 earned grades of A+ or A, while seven earned an F. Two managers earned a B, and one got a C. Another 32 firms did not respond.

The survey rates managers in five categories: having a responsible contractor policy, how well that policy is enforced, if union member work hours are tracked, having a labor liaison and advance project notification method in place, and whether the managers require neutrality from third parties if union organizing campaigns are involved in a project.

The report card is part of the building trades’ Capital Strategies campaign to leverage pension fund assets, with $120 billion in agreements so far covering real estate and infrastructure investments with firms such as Carlyle Group, Blackstone Group, BlackRock(BLK), Oaktree Capital Group, Allianz Global Investors and GCM Grosvenor.

The “first big move,” Mr. McGarvey said, was the $13 billion plan to update New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport announced in October, with $12 billion coming from private funding, including through the Ullico Infrastructure Fund and the Carlyle Global Infrastructure Opportunity Fund.

“We have lots of work ahead of us to continue to move the needle,” he said.

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