Written by Occupation-Free Portland Occupation-Free Portland
Published: 23 December 2016 23 December 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 23, 2016
In Historic Vote City of Portland Votes to Suspend Investments in All Corporate Securities Including Occupation Profiteer Caterpillar and Prison Profiteer Wells Fargo
In a unanimous vote on Wednesday 12/21/16, Portland’s City Council halted investments in all corporate securities including Caterpillar and Wells Fargo, two companies of particular concern for violations of multiple criteria of the City’s Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) policy. Occupation-Free Portland, a coalition of Palestinian human rights organizations and church groups, and the Portland Prison Divestment Coalition, convened by Enlace, and representing 25 leading racial and migrant justice groups, with support from the environmental group, 350pdx.org, joined forces to urge the City Council to make the historic move to place Caterpillar and Wells Fargo on the City’s do-not-buy list.
The coalition of groups successfully urged the City Council to support the recommendations of the appointed Socially Responsible Investment Committee (SRIC) to divest from Caterpillar and Wells Fargo for violating criteria set forth in the city’s SRI policy.
As the hearing opened, Commissioner Steve Novick introduced an amendment to add Wells Fargo and Caterpillar to the City’s Do-Not-Buy list. Commissioner Amanda Fritz immediately added an additional amendment to stop all investments in corporate securities until the new City Council can return to this issue in 2017.
The City Council’s unanimous approval of Fritz's amendment means that not only Caterpillar and Wells Fargo but every corporation is now ineligible for Portland investments.
“After today’s decision, it will be important for Caterpillar and other corporations to have discussions in their board rooms about their corporate conduct, and decide to make the change to not sell products and services to human rights abusers,” noted Palestinian-American lawyer Hala Gores.
Weighing in on the Portland City Council decision, Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, comprised of over 40 Rabbis and Rabbinical Students from across North America and Israel/Palestine, stated, “Many of us in the Jewish community deeply appreciate the solidarity of people of conscience in pursuing conscientious nonviolent strategies, such as socially responsible investing as a path towards building a more ethical and sustainable world. Thank you, members of the City Council, for your commitment to ethical investing and for setting an example for other cities of what socially responsible investing looks like.”
Occupation-Free Portland Steering Committee member Maxine Fookson added, “We applaud City Commissioner Steve Novick, who, in his opening statement, countered the accusations by opponents to placing Caterpillar on the do not buy list that Occupation-Free Portland is motivated by anti-Semitism and the reference to the Jews within OFP as being ‘fringe’.”
Novick said, “I share the desire of folks in Jewish Voice for Peace” (part of Occupation-Free Portland) “to make Israel a better country. Frankly I was disturbed a few weeks ago to hear them referred to as ‘fringe Jews’”.
In earlier hearings, and in written testimony, the broad coalition of groups and community members presented compelling evidence of Caterpillar’s and Wells Fargo’s violations of human rights, tax avoidance, unfair labor practices, environmental desecration and corrupt corporate governance.
Occupation-Free Portland (OFP) focused on the case of Caterpillar, a company that knowingly sells its militarized D9 bulldozers to the Israeli military for use in home demolitions, destruction of agricultural land and destruction of Palestinian city and village infrastructure.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights state that corporations are responsible for human rights violations – even those committed by their customers’ use of their products, if the corporation knew or should have known of such use by the customer. For over a decade Caterpillar has been informed of concerns with the use of its D9 bulldozer in the Israeli occupation.
Occupation-Free Portland Steering Committee member Curt Bell said, “The City's vote yesterday afternoon makes me proud to live in a city that refuses to invest hard-earned tax dollars in companies that not only violate human rights but also desecrate the earth.”