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.

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

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