Friday, 31 August 2007

Teamsters call for Iran disinvestment

Not sure what I think about this. The Teamsters president has written to "pension fund managers" (not sure if they mean fund managers or the pension funds themselves) calling on them to disinvest from companies doing business with Iran. The reasons given are the shocking treatment of Iranian trade unionists and the country's involvement with terrorist groups in Iraq. I'm in complete agreement one the former, I don't really know enough about the latter but from eveything I have read it does seem that Iran is involved in some murky activity in Iraq.

However, is disinvestment really the right way to go? It can be a dangerous stance for unions to take as they can appear to not care about financial returns. I accept that in this case it is different, not least because the US Government has taken a stance on companies doing business with so-called rogue states. In addition the SEC launched, and then pulled, a list of companies with links to the US target list. But might it not make more sense to try a bit of investor engagement first?

Anyway, here's the statement:

Official Statement of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa

Leslie Miller
(202) 624-6911
August 22, 2007

I have written to Teamster pension fund managers asking them to consider divesting shares in companies that do business with Iran.

Government authorities in Tehran abducted Mansour Osanloo, president of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs (Vahed) Bus Company, on July 10. He was severely beaten. For more than a month he’s been imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison. Mahmoud Salehi, founder of the Saghez Bakery Workers Association, was condemned to a year in prison for his courage in mobilizing workers. He is incarcerated in Kurdistan, far from his family and in danger of dying.

Peace and democracy to the Middle East will require its citizens to come together to exercise their rights and choose their own leaders. There is no better way to foster democracy than to empower its unions.

Further, no Teamster should have to worry that his or her money is supporting a government that helps militant groups attack our troops in Iraq. That is exactly what the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is doing, according to the U.S. State Department.

Because Ahmadinejad seeks to endanger Americans, Teamster money should not be invested in any company that profits from its relationship with his government.

Iran has declared its enmity to the United States of America. It has admitted to enriching uranium and developing missiles. It has continued to funnel millions of dollars to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

I believe that divestiture of investments in companies that do business with Iran can help bring peaceful change to that nation. Shareholder democracy brought about change in South Africa and in Latin America, and it can work again in the Middle East.

I also believe that divestiture of investments in companies linked to Iran is the patriotic thing to do as well as a wise investment strategy. The Securities and Exchange Commission has said that share prices can be harmed by business ties with countries that pose a global security risk.

The State of Missouri has a terror-free investment fund. A number of states, including my home state of Michigan, are passing legislation forbidding public pension funds from investing in companies that do business with sponsors of terrorism.

Just last month, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that protects private and public funds that divest shares in companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector.

Teamster money should never be used to support terrorism in any way, nor should it be used to support companies that do business with states that sponsor terror.

We Teamsters are proud patriots. I am confident that our pension fund managers will make sure that Teamsters’ investments will not be used to support companies that do business with Iran.

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