At a press conference during the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) labor leaders joined a panel to discuss an initiative that will use Union pension fund money to create infrastructure jobs.

Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO and Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (photo: center and right) said “We are not waiting” (for the government to act). Instead they are prepared to invest $3-4 billion of union pension fund money in “energy efficient, job creating infrastructure improvement projects.” They also want to train 140,000 apprentice and mid-career construction workers in high-demand green construction jobs.

Trumka and Weingarten claim they want to make prudent investments in these areas. But there is a conundrum. Can organizations that depend on union labor be competitive, and generate ROI in the CleanTech space? The recent failures of three U.S. solar power companies, all with union workers, begs the question. The way they are configured today, does it make sense for unions to invest in themselves?

If union bosses really care about “revitalizing the community and strengthening the economy,” as Ms. Weingarten indicated, then maybe the U.S. Postal Service would be a better place to start.

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Rerum Novarum: On the Condition of Workers. It helped to lay the intellectual foundation for the union movement in the US. An excerpt from the document — that remains relevant today:

” The condition of workers is a subject of bitter controversy at the present time; and whether this controversy is resolved in accordance with reason or otherwise, is in either event of utmost importance to the state. But Christian workers will readily resolve it in accordance with reason, if, united in associations and under wise leaders, they enter upon the path which their fathers and their ancestors followed to their own best welfare as well as that of the state.”