Dec 18
December 18, 2012

New York City Teachers Help Expand CGI Commitment


Photo: President Clinton, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovon, New York City Comptroller John Liu, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and Clinton Global Initiative Chief Executive Officer Bob Harrison gather during the announcement on December 13.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Teachers Retirement System has pledged $1 billion to new investments in infrastructure projects, including improvements to transportation, power, water, communications, and housing in New York City and throughout the tri-state area, part of a multi-year Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action made by the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and partners at the inaugural CGI America meeting in June 2011.

This $1 billion infrastructure investment is another example of America's educators stepping up not only to educate and care for our children but also to revitalize our communities, create jobs, and strengthen our economy.

It's what teachers do. Teachers know that schools are anchors of the community. We nurture and grow the minds of our children in the classroom, and we understand that we all have a shared responsibility in making the neighborhoods, towns and cities around our schools great places to call home.

The New York City teachers' pension funds have always taken a lead in tough times to rebuild the city, from buying city bonds to avert bankruptcy in the 1970s, to investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the stock market to bolster the economy after 9/11, when economic activity had pretty much stopped in lower Manhattan. 

This investment continues that tradition in the wake of Superstorm Sandy so that we can rebuild our city and provide assistance to the countless teachers, students, loved ones, and neighbors affected by the storm. And it comes at a time when crippling budget cuts continue to stifle investment in our aging roads, bridges, and other infrastructure needs.

Last week's announcement is part of a multi-year Clinton Global Initiative commitment, made by the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, and partners at the inaugural CGI America meeting in 2011, to invest $10 billion in infrastructure projects. And the New York investment really brings this full circle. What started as a conversation a little more than two years ago between AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and President Bill Clinton in Davos, Switzerland, about the importance of rebuilding and upgrading our infrastructure and creating jobs, grew into real and direct action through the leadership of United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, New York City Comptroller John Liu, and others, making this vision a reality. I couldn't be prouder of my home city, my home local and the labor movement, and to be doing this with President Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative.

This is part of a broader effort by labor to invest in America's future and create jobs. When President Trumka asked me to coordinate the AFL-CIO's collective effort to invest in infrastructure, we knew we were stepping into unchartered waters. But we saw a great need, as there was nobody else rushing to fill it, and it's what our communities need. Beyond the work here in New York, two of the nation's largest public pension funds  – the California State Teachers' Retirement System and the California Public Employees' Retirement System – have already committed hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in infrastructure projects in their state. And we hope that this work will expand across the country. Infrastructure is a sound investment, with recent estimates of the number of jobs created directly or indirectly by infrastructure investment varying from 18,000 to 36,000 jobs per $1 billion invested.

So for all of you who have projects, I will offer a little twist on an old quote by saying, "If you come, they will build it." Don't be shy, there is work to be done and there are jobs to be created.