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Shame on TIAA-CREF for Muzzling Shareholder Voices!

June 2013

Once again, TIAA-CREF has denied its shareholders the right to have their voices heard through the ballot box at this year’s shareholder meeting.

Rather than listen to shareholders, TIAA-CREF cravenly sought assurances from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it wouldn’t be penalized for not including a resolution calling for divestment from corporations that profit from Israel’s human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). The resolution was backed by over 200 conscientious shareholders who do not want to finance their golden years by investing in continued defiance of international law, a resource grab (unilateral annexation of land and water) and daily violations of Palestinians’ dignity, freedom of movement, right to self-determination, and human rights.

TIAA-CREF hasn’t always been averse to doing the right thing. At least twice in its recent history the giant retirement investor has chosen to live up to its motto, “financial services for the greater good.” In 1986, in response to mounting public and congressional pressure against doing business with apartheid South Africa, TIAA-CREF used its considerable leverage to pressure 43 companies in its portfolio to either withdraw from South Africa or sign onto the Sullivan Principles. Indeed, TIAA-CREF even sent a fact-finding team to monitor compliance to those principles, which had been created in 1977 as a code of conduct for American businesses operating in South Africa. More recently, in 2010, TIAA-CREF divested from five energy companies following a year of (failed) behind-the-scenes negotiations to accelerate the end of state-sponsored genocide in Darfur.

Anyone who has visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories can attest to separate and unequal treatment of Palestinians. Discriminatory practices include Israeli-only roads, separation walls dividing neighbors from each other and farmers from their livelihoods, and a siege that has impoverished the Gaza strip. It’s within that context Grassroots International (in partnership with We Divest) continues to accompany Palestinian civil society by calling for TIAA-CREF’s divestment from Elbit Systems and all companies complicit in this occupation and resource grab:

  • Caterpillar (profits from the destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards by supplying armor-plated and weaponized bulldozers for systematic
  • Elbit Systems (profits from providing surveillance equipment mounted on the separation wall, which the International Court of Justice declared unlawful)
  • Motorola Solutions (profits from Israel’s control of the Palestinian population by providing surveillance systems around Israeli settlements, checkpoints, and military camps in the West Bank, as well as communication systems to the Israeli army and West Bank settlers)
  • Northrop Grumman (profits from the production of parts for the Apache helicopters and F-16 aircraft used by Israel against civilians in Gaza during Israel’s 2009-09 assault)
  • Hewlett-Packard (profits from Israel’s system of racial control of the Palestinian population by operating biometric scanners at checkpoints in the West Bank)
  • Veolia (profits from racial segregation by operating Israeli-only buses in the West Bank and overseeing the use of a landfill for Israeli settlers built on Palestinian land)

Lend your voice to the growing call to action by signing our Elbit petition and joining thousands of other activists on July 16 at 1:00 p.m. at CREF’s offices in Charlotte, North Carolina (8500 Andrew Carnegie Blvd) to protest TIAA-CREF’s indifference to Palestinian suffering.

Can’t travel to Charlotte, North Carolina? Don’t worry, activists are organizing protests at local TIAA-CREF offices across the nation on July 16—join one!

Whether in North Carolina, or your hometown, on July 16 regain your voice: speak out and speak up for Palestinian human rights!

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