General Motors (GM) - Get Report might have you think labor unions are destroying corporate America. But some mutual funds focusing on companies that have good relationships with organized labor are doing quite well, thank you.
GM workers at plants across the U.S. walked off the job Monday after negotiations with the United Auto Workers union failed to produce a new deal. It was the first time a contract breakdown has led to a nationwide strike at the world's largest automaker since 1970.
Despite the fact that production lines were crippled, GM shares actually rose as investors took heart that it wasn't backing down in its effort to cut costs.
TheStreet.com Ratings tracks three open-end mutual funds with investment philosophies in alignment with unions. None of the tech, financial and energy heavyweights in these portfolios seem to be in immediate danger of extinction. And investors have hardly penalized the companies for their union-friendly stances.
As you can see in the accompanying table, their stock selections seem to stress the first five letters of the age-old union mantra of "solidarity."
MFS Union Standard Equity Fund (MUEAX) states in its prospectus that it "generally seeks to invest at least 65% of the net assets in union-sensitive companies and the remaining investments in labor-sensitive companies." As you can see in the table below, it has outperformed the total-return of the
index by comfortable margins in recent years.
Over the past 12 months, MFS Union Standard Equity is more than two percentage points ahead of the S&P 500, and for the past three years its pace has been more than three percentage points better than its benchmark.
Over the longer term, the fund's performance is relatively anemic, however. It has returned an annualized 4.07% for the 10 years ended Aug. 31, trailing the S&P's 6.75% annualized gain.
The fund's top holdings include
Johnson & Johnson
SSgA IAM Shares Fund (SIAMX) invests in companies "that have entered into collective bargaining agreements with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers or affiliated labor unions or have not been identified as having non-union sentiment." It allocates 80% of assets to stocks of IAM companies. The fund may also invest up to 20% of its assets in securities of "non-IAM companies that have not been deemed to have non-union sentiment by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union."
The SSgA union-friendly offering has fractionally underperformed the S&P for the most recent three- and five-year periods, but has stayed ahead of the broad-market gauge in the most recent 12-month period.
Its top holdings also include Exxon Mobil and GE, as well as
As its name suggests, the
Delaware Pooled Trust-Labor International Equity Fund (DELPX), invests in union-friendly companies domiciled outside the U.S. It seeks investments with "characteristics that are compatible or operate in accordance with certain investment policies or restrictions followed by organized labor."
Over the past five years, the Delaware fund has generally performed in line with the MSCI EAFE index, slipping just a bit relative to the international market gauge over the past 12 months.
But the fund has trounced both its benchmark and the S&P 500 over the past 10 years, with annualized returns of 11.10%. Like many international funds, it has easily outdistanced the S&P for the most recent one-, three- and five-year stretches.
Top holdings include
Royal Bank of Scotland
Unlike the first two union-friendly offerings, which have relatively low investment minimums of $1,000, the Delaware fund is aimed at institutions and wealthy individuals who can commit at least $1 million.
Interestingly, only one of the three funds has any holdings of either GM or crosstown rival
, even if the automakers are bulwarks of labor unions: The SSgA IAM fund allocates a paltry 0.15% of assets to Ford and an even smaller 0.13% to GM.
You don't hear of strikes at Exxon -- except maybe oil.
Richard Widows is a financial analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.