"Has your company made any public statements in support or opposition to EFCA?" asks one of nine pointed questions in a polite, detailed four-page questionnaire.
"If 'Yes,' please explain."
The detailed questionnaire has three parts. The first asks about fund managers' public positions, lobbying, and political contributions. The second asks managers to "disclose any relationships during the past five years between your company and any organization(s) opposing the passage" of EFCA. The form lists 14 organizations, from anti-EFCA organizations like the Workforce Fairness Institute to trade groups that oppose it, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Roundtable.
A third passage asked whether other any trade association to which the fund managers belong has taken a position on the bill.
While the survey assures managers that it doesn't intend to impose "requirements or limitations" on their political activity, a cover letter from Teamsters union leaders tells another story: The leaders are concerned, according to a copy of the local's letter obtained by POLITICO, that Wall Street is "undermining the interests" of union retirees.
The letter, from the two top officials of Teamsters Local 507 in Cleveland, Albert Mixon and Carl Pecoraro, who are also trustees of the union's health, welfare, and pension funds, says some pension fund managers "are undermining the interests" of the union:
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"It has come to my attention that some Wall Street investment managers are raising money, lobbying, or contributing to the lobbying efforts of other organizations against the Employee Free Choice Act," the letter began. "In so-doing, I believe these managers are undermining the interests of the Cleveland Bakers and Teamsters Pension and Health& Welfare Funds."
"As a trustee, I have an obligation to determine whether our fund's asset managers are engaged in partisan political activity that could adversely affect our fund, its participants, and beneficiaries," said the letter, which also "call[s] on you to be a leader among the financial services industry" in supporting pro-labor legislation.
"We feel that our investment managers should be taking a neutral position on this," said Galen Munroe, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who said fund managers with ties to EFCA foes wouldn't – necessarily – be fired. "It's just one of the facts that would go under their overall performance," he said.
Munroe said the letter from Cleveland Teamster leaders obtained by POLITICO was part of an effort spanning the entire Change to Win federation, which includes SEIU and five other major unions. (A Change to Win spokeswoman didn't respond to question about the campaign.)
Another labor official said the AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation, is set to ask its own pointed questions of money managers soon.
Munroe said the survey was inspired by the decision by the Financial Services Roundtable, a leading industry group, to lobby against the Free Choice Act. Another section of the questionnaire asks companies if they have any ties to a set of trade organizations and advocacy groups, including the Roundtable.
"We're happy to openly debate the merits of any issue," said a top lobbyist for the Roundtable, Scott Talbott. "What's not up for debate is our Constitutional right to petition our government.
The EFCA, which has so far failed to find the 60 votes it needs to clea cloture in the Senate, would allow unions to recruit workers by signing cards as an alternative to voting with a secret ballot. The bill could also force employers into binding arbitration in contract negotiations.
"In the coming weeks we will be rolling out initiatives from shareholders, investment groups and businesses in support of the Employee Free Choice Act," said AFL spokesman Eddie Vale, who declined to discuss targeting Wall Street. "This issue isn't just about workers, it's about fixing our economy and growing the middle class."
Financial industry officials took a darker view of the survey. "The fact that union bosses would try and shake down financial institutions by asking that they disclose information" about the bill "is beyond outrageous," said an aide to one trade organization, who – like other industry officials rattled by the letters – refused to speak on the record. He also called it "troubling that Big Labor would use their pension plans as the bargaining chip."
Unions and other large institutions, like universities, have long selectively used board seats and investment positions to advance causes from shareholder rights to democracy in South Africa and human rights in Sudan. Less common is for the institutions to target the behavior of their own money managers.
So far, it's not clear than any of the unions have pulled their pension funds from firms supporting EFCA, or are close to doing so. But it's also clear the threat -- implied but not made explicit in the letters -- has gotten the attention of the firms, who fear that's the next step. So far, there's no signs of firms backing out of the card-check fight because of the survey.
Labor backers have nonetheless cheered the new tactic in the no-holds-barred fight for EFCA.
"It's entirely appropriate for the labor movement to say, basically, 'Look, if you are working to kill our number one legislative priority, we're not going to help you make a buck by profiting from our investments, investments that come from the hard-earned money of union members,'" said Jonathan Tasini, the executive director of the pro-union Labor Research Association.