Business

Teachers union calls for pension fund to dump fossil fuels

The Boston Teachers Union has asked the state pension fund to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The group endorsed a bill at its September meeting that would require the Pension Reserves Investment Management board, which manages its retirement funds, to divest from oil, coal, and other fossil fuel companies. The union has about 6,500 active members and 3,500 retirees, according to Richard Stutman, its president.

Many colleges under pressure from climate activists have considered or taken similar steps as a symbolic strike against global warming. Opponents of divestment say it could reduce the returns of institutional investors while having little impact on fossil fuel companies. In the Boston area, groups at Harvard, Tufts, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have called for their schools’ endowment managers to take such a step.

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“I think it was overwhelmingly clear to us that while some people say there are some pension implications, we can figure out ways around that,” Stutman said. “If you don’t do something about global warming, our pensions won’t matter.”

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A spokesman for the pension fund didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Other state employee unions, including representatives of nurses and service workers, have endorsed the bill that would require the pension fund, known as PRIM, to divest from such companies. The environmental groups 350 and the Better Future Project have supported the movement.

The senate version of the bill would require PRIM to identify and divest its fossil fuel holdings completely within five years. The pension fund holds around $62 billion. A hearing was last held on the bill in June, according to a legislative calendar, but it has not progressed since then.

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.