FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 16, 2013, Boston, MA
CONTACT: Liza Behrendt, liza@jvp-boston.org
Video, audio and high-resolution photos available upon request.

Muzzled Shareholders Shut Out of TIAA-CREF Office as Community Members Protest Pension Fund’s Investments in Human Rights Abuses •  Rallies in Cambridge & 16 cities nationwide as TIAA-CREF holds annual shareholder meeting 

Cambridge, MA – Muzzled shareholders and community members marched today from Harvard Square to the Cambridge office of TIAA-CREF, the premiere retirement fund of educators, health professionals, and non-profit workers, to protest the investment of their own retirement funds in Israeli military occupation. TIAA-CREF officials have, for the second time, refused to allow investors to vote on a resolution submitted by over 200 CREF shareholders calling on the pension giant to divest from occupation. Over 90 people attended the march, which was one of 16 held nationwide on the day of TIAA-CREF’s annual shareholder meeting, sponsored by the We Divest Coalition, which includes Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, and Grassroots International.

A shareholder had scheduled a meeting with TIAA-CREF that day, only to find out that it was cancelled due to the protest. Two shareholders, Professor Gordon Fellman of Brandeis University and Professor David Rohrlich of Boston University, were not even allowed in the building to deliver a letter.

“I’ve invested my retirement in TIAA-CREF for 49 years, and I don’t want that money funding human rights violations,” said Professor Fellman (617-354-5864fellman@brandeis.edu). “Yet TIAA-CREF has, appallingly, denied me the opportunity to speak out in a shareholder resolution.  Why is TIAA-CREF so afraid of my voice?”

At the same time, protesters celebrated a recent victory: the We Divest campaign announced yesterday that TIAA-CREF has dropped their investment in SodaStream (NASD: SODA), which produces home carbonation machines in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim. As of March 2013, financial data posted on TIAA-CREF’s website valued shares in SodaStream at $9,444,292. According to data available today, it is zero.

Protesters regard this move as progress in their campaign, but still condemn TIAA-CREF’s investments in Caterpillar (which bulldozes Palestinian homes), Veolia (which operates segregated transportation services), Northrop Grumman, and Elbit (which produce weapons that destroy Palestinian civilian infrastructure).

“When my grandmother earned her Bachelor’s Degree at 55, when my father climbed his way up from the working class to invest in his education and my own, they did so to create opportunity in the United States, not deny it overseas,” said Joel Wool, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace Boston. “Our education system, and the pension funds tied up with it, should be building pathways for all people. TIAA-CREF’s investments are a blow to social equity and a corporate liability.”

“Students are the future clients of TIAA-CREF, and we won’t accept a pension that funds human rights violations in Palestine,” said Tori Porell of Northeastern University Student for Justice in Palestine (602-999-7312toriporell@gmail.com). “From UC Berkeley to Oberlin to UMass Boston, student governments are voting to divest from Israeli occupation. Why can’t TIAA-CREF allow its shareholders to do the same?”

“TIAA-CREF’s divestment from SodaStream is just one of many victories for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and shows that this nonviolent activism is powerful,” said Sofia Wolman, fellow at the AFSC (774-249-9382swolman@afsc.org). “The movement is growing, and we will continue working in solidarity until Israel recognizes human rights and equality for all people.”

 

Jewish Voice for Peace-Boston is a local chapter of the largest US-based grassroots organization dedicated to promoting full equality, democracy, and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians. We Divest is a national, coalition-led initiative by Adalah-NY, the American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots International, Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and the US Palestinian Community Network.