TWWSJ-member teachers join divestment lobby

This letter was delivered to CalSTRS this morning with 341 unique signatures from members all over the state, from over a dozen unions.

To: CalSTRS Administration
P. O. Box 15275
Sacramento, CA 95851-0275

Dear CalSTRS administrators:

We the undersigned, contributing members of CalSTRS, demand an immediate, comprehensive report on the strategies and results of CalSTRS’ “engagement” with CoreCivic Inc. and the GEO Group. If you have no data on any benefit from this “engagement,” then shares in these companies must be sold immediately. Multiple news reports and investigations have documented the suffering of immigrants held in for-profit prisons owned by these two companies. GEO group and CoreCivic have used teachers’ money — our money — to profit from the separation of families at the border.

CalSTRS’ policy includes twenty-one “Risk Factors” in determining investments. CoreCivic Inc. and the GEO Group violate several of these factors including “Respect for Human Rights,” “Respect for Civil Liberties,” “Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status,” and “Worker Rights.” And yet substandard medical care at Adelanto Prison, owned by GEO group, has led to permanent disability and even death of immigrants being held there (Human Rights Watch, 2017). Adelanto Prison was deemed the “Deadliest Prison of 2017” (Detention Watch Network, 2017). Inmates — immigrants awaiting asylum — went on hunger strike multiple times last year to protest the lack of medical care and the multiple year backlog in getting their cases heard (KQED, 2018). As teachers who have worked all our lives to serve children and families, that CalSTRS invests our money in corporations which profit from the destruction of communities — oftentimes the communities we serve — is appalling.

The morality of investing in for-profit prisons is being increasingly scrutinized. New York and Philadelphia recently divested from both GEO Group and CoreCivic, liquidating $48 million and $1.2 million, respectively. Our own University of California system has also already divested $25 million from for-profit prison corporations. CalSTRS’ stated policy of “engagement” over “divestment” sounds noble, but what has this “engagement” actually accomplished? How is it being measured? At what point are the methods and operations of for-profit prisons acceptable? Could this “engagement” be better described as enabling corporate wrongdoing?

Simply put, we do not want our retirement funds used to support this unconscionable system. We urge a full and transparent report, with actionable metrics that show progress over time, on CalSTRS’ involvement with these companies since initial investment. This report should be posted on the CalSTRS website and included in the quarterly newsletter. Should “engagement” with these companies not change their practices, these stocks and any others with similarly destructive practices must be divested.

We have a choice — to help move towards a socially responsible model of investment as a whole, or to propagate the status quo. Make no mistake. This is our money, and we do NOT want it used to line the pockets of businesses that undermine the families and youth we work for.

Very truly yours,

[undersigned]

A TWWSJ member wrote the letter, led the effort to collect signatures from teachers around the state, and attended the board meeting on July 20. She says, “The board meeting is PACKED!!! Dozens of teachers from unions all over the state are giving their testimony. Very moving and educational.” Facebook group members can follow the discussion over there.

Media coverage:

By | 2018-07-20T18:04:19+00:00 July 20th, 2018|Actions, Call to Action|0 Comments

TEACHERS: Lobby CalSTRS on Retirement Investments

PLEASE SHARE WITH OTHER TEACHERS!

If you’re a member of TWWSJ’s private Facebook group, you may view this post and discussion there.

CalSTRS, the California State Teacher’s Retirement System, has about 13,000,000 invested in Core Civic and The Geo Group, two for-profit prison companies making money off of immigrant misery at the border. It’s time for teachers to make our voices heard. The City of New York and the City of Philadelphia have both divested their pensions from these companies, California must do so as well! Please:

1. CONTACT YOUR UNION REP and share your concerns with them. Ask them what are next steps.

2. SIGN A LETTER IN SUPPORT OF DIVESTING FROM FOR-PROFIT PRISONS, spearheaded by a TWWSJ member: https://goo.gl/forms/T9fwPoaNSKU1h2K23

OR

Contact Cal-STRS directly! Reach out to the Teacher’s Retirement Board Compensation and Investment Committee at:

  • Email: Board@CalSTRS.com
  • Phone: 916-414-2201.

Sample text:

“I was recently informed that CalSTRS holds stock in CoreCivic Inc., and the GEO Group, two companies involved in running private prisons. These prisons are implicated in the mass incarceration of Americans, and now profit from the imprisonment of refugee children at our borders and the separation of refugee and immigrant families.

As a teacher who has spent my entire career working to serve children and families, I am appalled that CalSTRS would invest our money in organizations which profit from the destruction of families and communities. It is unconscionable that our retirement funds are being used to support this immoral system.

CalSTRS stated approach is “engagement not divestment”. As an account holder, I demand that you a) show me exactly how they are putting pressure on the companies to be better and b) show me evidence that that “pressure” has had any impact whatsoever. If you are unable to do that, then I call for the immediate divestment of these stocks (and those of any other private prison companies) held by CalSTRS and for a socially responsible and beneficent model of investment as a whole.”

3. Check ANY and ALL pensions, investments, and mutual funds for involvement with Core Civic (CXW) or Geo Group (GEO). (CalPERS, FRS). If you have holdings in these prison-for-profit companies, consider divestiture.

4. Reach out to these state leaders to urge divestiture of State pensions in for-profit prisons.

5. Educate yourself further on this issue by reading below. Feel free to discuss, comment, and ask questions.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available. Check back soon!

It’s incumbent upon us to DO something. We’re teachers. We know how to make things happen! If you’re not in CalSTRS, there are plenty of other actions to take. Google “fight family separation at the border” for ideas! Let’s come in on the right side of history. Let’s NOT look back in five years and say “my G-d, I saw it coming, why didn’t I do more?”

By | 2018-07-21T13:20:52+00:00 June 22nd, 2018|Actions, Call to Action|1 Comment

TONIGHT: Town Hall with Rep. Ro Khanna

Town Hall with Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17)
Wednesday, May 2nd
7:30 to 9:00 pm

Quinlan Community Center in Cupertino
10185 N Stelling Rd. (map)

The Cupertino Town Hall is open to attendees on a first-come, first-served basis. RSVP via Khanna’s website. The RSVP does not guarantee entry.

Please contact the CA-17 District Office at 408-436-2720 if you have any questions about the town hall.

Can’t make it tonight or live in a different district? Find similar events at the Town Hall Project, or check out TWWSJ’s events calendar for other local actions.

By | 2018-05-02T12:24:19+00:00 May 2nd, 2018|Actions, Call to Action|0 Comments

Get Ready for Silicon Valley May Day 2018

Join Community, Labor, Faith, and Justice organizations – and your friends at TWWSJ – to March for May Day 2018. This event is put together by the May Day Coalition. Endorsing organizations include: Calpulli Tonalequeh, Working Partnerships, SAHE, South Bay Labor Council, SEIU USWW, SCC Peace and Freedom Party, South Bay Progressive Alliance, SCC Wage Theft Coalition, Rise Up for Justice, LUNA, Unite Here Local 19, Fight for $15, SJ Peace and Justice Center, South Bay Labor Council, CWA, Stand San Jose, CTA & others.

This is not a TWWSJ event — we are there to support and show solidarity with the message of the organizers. We’ll have our banner, wear your shirt!

Please RSVP at the actual event Facebook page to help organizers know how many to expect. If you want to join TWWSJ members at the event, join our Facebook event, too.

Consider training to be a Security Monitor at the event. Training takes place on Saturday, April 28. RSVP on Facebook.

For the last 12 years, SCC unions, community-based organizations and immigrant rights groups have made the May Day March a Silicon Valley tradition. Now more than ever with the current presidential administration, we need to come together to reflect the resistance and solidarity with other communities. This year their goal is to mobilize 30,000 people!

The route of this year’s May 1st march will begin at Roosevelt Park (map). From Roosevelt Park we will march down to City Hall (map).

Schedule:

  • 4pm: Participants will gather
  • 5pm: Begin the march
  • 6pm: Program at the end of the march

Participants with disabilities: The route will be on the sidewalk and street. There will be sign interpreters and large print chant sheets.

The theme of the march is “sow, grow, know.”

Ways to help if you cannot attend:

  1. SHARE the event to your Facebook timeline and other groups you are in.
  2. Print and download a flyer and ask local businesses to display in the window. Download PDFs of flyers for printing (English and Spanish, different sizes) from Google Drive.
  3. Ask your faith community, school, community center, or other organization to march with their banner and show up in support of our immigrant and labor community.
  4. Make a donation to help defray expenses: The money would be used for the coordinating expenses of the march (permits, water, truck rental, generators, portable bathrooms, stage, sound system, etc). Please make the check out to:
    Collins Foundation, MEMO line: “May Day 2018”
    Mail to: Collins Foundation, 48 S. 7th Street, San Jose, CA 95112
    (read more about the Collins Foundation)
  5. Sign up to be a Rapid Responder and/or ask your faith community about putting together an accompaniment team for immigrants being detained by ICE. There are regular trainings on weekdays, evenings, and weekends. The training is short and very worthwhile. Find out more and sign up via PACT’s website.
Silicon Valley May Day 2018 flyer

Silicon Valley May Day 2018 flyer (download in sizes and languages on Google Drive)

By | 2018-04-26T22:00:57+00:00 April 24th, 2018|Actions, Call to Action|0 Comments

Letter to San Jose City Council Regarding Christopher Columbus Statue

To the leaders of the City of San José:

We the undersigned are members of Together We Will – San José, an intersectional feminist community dedicated to progressive political action. We are writing to support the call for the statue of Christopher Columbus to be moved out of City Hall and into a historical museum (the airport is no more appropriate than City Hall).

Recently, the nation’s attention was captivated by struggles to remove Confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia; Annapolis, Maryland; Durham, North Carolina; and Los Angeles, California. Many citizens of varying political persuasions agree that the leaders of oppressive regimes should not be glorified in public places. Unfortunately, we have our own representative of murder, oppression, rape, and misogyny glorified right here in San José. Despite repeated community efforts, a petition with thousands of signatories, a well attended community vigil, and pressure from groups representing a diverse cross-section of San José’s population, a statue of Christopher Columbus still stands in City Hall.

This statue, which represents rape and genocide, is a disgrace to San José and glorifying Columbus is particularly insulting to those of Native/Indigenous ancestry within our community. Few today would agree that Columbus’s legacy is something to be proud of. Yet repeated efforts by community organizations to speak to the issue have met with road blocks and silencing. We are grateful for the contributions of Italians and Italian Americans to the United States and our own community of San José. However, we can honor our region’s Italian American heritage in better ways than by continuing to display prominently a statue that represents violence and genocide to many.

A progressive city in a progressive state should not trail the nation in dispatching this most representative emblem of our nation’s shameful history of genocide into the ignominy to which he belongs. This statue should not be in the airport, in City Hall, or in any area where its placement could condone approval or veneration. Rather, it should be moved to a historical location such as History Park and preserved as a warning to not repeat the mistakes of past times.

Sincerely,

70 signatory members of TWWSJ


Additional comments from members:

“How we represent our city really matters, and this statue does not represent inclusivity or justice. It really needs to be in a museum or history park where it can be contextualized more appropriately.”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“Let us celebrate our positive San Jose and California history and heroes. We can do much better than Columbus.”

–TWWSJ member, Mountain View

“Commissioning a new art piece for city hall to honor our Italian American heritage would be a great way to replace the Columbus statue. This would support a local artist and help spread awareness about how the Italian American history of our city.”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“Christopher Columbus is obviously a relevant historical figure, but he is not integral to the history or image of San Jose. One of the things I love about San Jose is our diversity. Can we be a model of getting along? Can we be respectful of people who were negatively affected by Columbus and the cascade of events he created?”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“Please take action! Colonialism belongs in history not in our public buildings. Thank you!”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“It is time to put up statues of strong role models.”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“Please be sensitive to the hurtful symbolism that the Columbus statue represents to our indigenous fellow citizens. Remove the statue from City Hall!”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“Please make City Hall welcoming for all and a place we can be proud of. It can’t be that way with a statue of a murderer in it. Thank you.”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“I support finding better representation for our Italian and Italian American citizens. Christopher Columbus is not the man to showcase their contributions, nor represent them.”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“It is clear from historical evidence that this is not a symbol that in any way, shape, or form promotes inclusiveness in our community.”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“It is important that a public place, that should represent our city’s welcome and justice for all our residents, should not display symbols of oppression that signify a lack of welcome or justice for some of our residents. City Hall and our public airport need to feel like places of fairness and justice for all the members of our public.
“I think if we try, we should be able to find other ways to honor the long-standing contributions to our city by the Italian-American residents; ways that do not feel oppressive to other groups in our city.
“I do not want the statue destroyed. I want us to still be able to remember and honor the contribution that was made by Italian-American residents of San José, while considering the newer understanding of what Columbus’s legacy really is. I think the best location for the statue would be in a museum, such as History Park.
“I request that you hear the voices of the Brown Berets in their statement of the hurt this statue is causing, and I am here to help amplify their voice so you listen and respond to the pain of these fellow San Joséans.”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

“Not only should we remove the statue, but change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in our city.”

–TWWSJ member, San Jose

By | 2018-01-29T15:26:22+00:00 January 29th, 2018|Actions|0 Comments
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