Initial reports from TIAA-CREF visits and demos
Here's what we are hearing from people in different cities across the country.
Investors are going today to the office of retirement giant TIAA-CREF to demand divestment from Caterpillar, Inc. because it profits from the illegal destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes. The demonstration is part of a nation-wide effort to get TIAA-CREF, one of the world's largest retirement funds, to divest from Caterpillar, Inc., because Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to illegally demolish over 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967.
For a complete list of cities, go here http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/content/tiaa-cref-day-action.
Follow us on Twitter: @jvplive #tcdivest
Here is what we are starting to hear from people in different cities:
ANN ARBOR, MI:
Participants met with their financial advisor and explained what the occupation was to someone that was largely unaware of the situation in Israel/Palestine.
Three people had a meeting: 1/2 hr presentation to a TIAA-CREF finance person. Good atmosphere and information exchange. Then cops were called as they were leaving.
"I tried to set up an appointment at the main office in Boston a week ago. When I asked for an appointment on the 10th the receptionist explained they were not taking walk-ins. I countered that I would not be a walk-in because I would have an appointment. I was told that on the 10th there were no appointments available. One was scheduled for the Cambridge office at a later date. Two of us went to the main office anyway. We were able to get past the building security and ultimately to meet with a TIAA-CREF representative. He was very cordial, interested and open to the concept of community pressure being a valid tactic to inform TIAA-CREF of participant concerns. We were not rushed out the door but were treated quite well, as all TIAA-CREF clients should be."
Jean Entine, member of Jewish Voice for Peace Board of Directors and TIAA-CREF participant, Social Choice account.
Five people came. Three people went in; two stayed outside. They politely took our info and said they would pass up chain.
"Three weeks ago I made an appointment with TIAA-CREF in Chicago, telling them at the time that I wanted to talk about their divesting in companies that do business with Israel. I had hoped to bring four other TIAA-CREF pensioners in with me, but they would only allow the person who made the appointment to enter the office, so I met alone with two investment counselors. I told them I didn't want my retirement funds invested in companies that kill Palestinians--destroying their home, conducting extreme surveillance, and making it more and more difficult to live under occupation. We had a cordial half hour discussion, and they appeared to have a clear understanding of my request and also to have been briefed ahead of time about the nationwide JVP demonstration. I presented the long list of petitions signed by Chicago area residents and notables who have endorsed the JVP campaign, discussed what Motorola, Veolia, and Caterpillar do to make living difficult for Palestinians, and asked them to present our request to TIAA headquarters in NYC. They told me they'd send the petitions in through their corporate communications arm and that they were aware of our outside protest, held simultaneously at a busy Chicago loop intersection. When I left the building, protesters were soliciting signatures, distributing leaflets, standing at the corner with JVP posters, and talking with passers by. We concluded the demonstration by singing rousing holiday divestment songs."
Dr. Rosalie G. Riegle, Professor Emerita of English, Saginaw Valley State University, and TIAA-CREF participant
Petition with local signatures was dropped off at local office. Office manager was formal but polite.
"I've admired Jewish Voice for Peace, it has been a great sources of information over the years, and so it made sense for me to support this local effort. The petition was handed directly to staff people with a promise by my adviser that it would be sent up to higher management."
John Kane, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Regis University, and TIAA-CREF participant
"We met with friendly, open minded people, but after 15 minutes, they received orders to shut down the meeting. This day of action reveals the surprising absence of any options for participants to divest from the Israeli occupation. This is one of TIAA-CREF challenges ahead."
Barbara Harvey, Attorney, and TIAA-CREF participant
Met with Senior Administrative Assistant at local office and delivered the petition.
15 people outside with banners and signs. Four people went in. They didn't have an appointment, and security was there waiting for them. They explained they had tried to set up an appointment and weren't given the opportunity, but they still wanted to meet and present this petition to TIAA-CREF. At the local office they were offered individual appointments; the group said that didn't make sense considering the number of signatories.
"I was collecting signatures for an hour and a half at SUNY Cortland and was astonished at how easy it was. I thought it would be controversial, but every single person I approached signed. In fact, many thanked me for doing this, and told me how grateful they were that a Jewish organization is finally taking action on this issue. I didn't anticipate that."
Howard Botwinick, Associate Professor of Economics at SUNY-Cortland and TIAA-CREF participant
LAS VEGAS, NV:
"The counselor, Marty Jaspers, covers the entire state and was known to be out of the office for several days. Because of conversations with her in advance of December 10, she had told the receptionist to expect us. We delivered the Nevada petition signers to the office. The few passers-by outside the building were glad to take the informational handouts prepared by Jewish Voice for Peace."
Jim Haber, Jewish Voice for Peace in Las Vegas
Over 15 person demo, they ended up letting 2 tiaa-cref members in the door to drop off petition.
In reference to the signature gathering that took place earlier in the week:
"We went to the University of Louisville, and together with the local Students for Justice in Palestine we collected 260 signatures for the TIAA-CREF petition in about 4 hours. That’s more than one signature a minute.”
Russ Greenleaf, Jewish Voice for Peace, Louisville, KY
LOS ANGELES, CA:
"TIAA-CREF is accountable to its participants for the integrity and prudent use of investment funds. As a 35 year participant in TIAA-CREF I note that there are ethical and human rights concerns that do not reflect my values and my money should not be used wrongly. Supporting the occupation is not a prudent investment nor is it a policy that reflects my values. We are asking that TIAA-CREF divest from such investments in Israel-Palestine."
Rabbi Haim Beliak, Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Counsel, and TIAA-CREF participant
NEW YORK, NY:
About 40 people sang Cat-themed carols outside in the cold.
"TIAA-CREF only allowed one person into the meeting. Many of us made individual appointments for next week. I will be back on Wednesday."
Kallyn Krash, retired School Librarian, Manhattan County Schools, and TIAA-CREF participant
PALO ALTO, CA:
Reluctant TIAA-CREF office in Palo Alto, CA accepted delivery of JVP divestment campaign signatures.
Philly TIAA-CREF participants and 2 supporters dropped off sigs at local office in center city; held vigil in the bitter cold.
About 12 -15 people showed up, despite finals. They rallied for 2 hours at a major intersection with lots of different signs and banners. They delivered the petition with over 300 signatures, and spoke with manager at the office. They emphasized that they were representing a diverse cross section of students (and faculty) in the biggest university in the US, and that Arizona State University (ASU) is one of TIAA-CREF's biggest customers.
Their December 10 TIAA-CREF meeting, follows a rally for human rights the day before, when over sixty students and community members from all over the state gathered at the University of Arizona for the Arizona Board of Regents meeting. At the Regents meeting, Danielle Back spoke about ASU’s commitment to socially responsible investing, John Washington spoke out against SB1070–calling upon ABOR to take a stance on the legislation--and Edith Garwood, the Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian Authority, spoke about the Caterpillar Corporation role in destroying property, infrastructure, and lives in Palestine.
"We are sending a message to the University of Arizona and to TIAA-CREF that investing in the demolition of Palestinian homes is not only immoral, it is also in stark violation of university policy and TIAA-CREF's stated mission.”
Gabe Schivone, Jewish Voice for Peace activist in Arizona
A scheduled meeting between investors at local TIAA-CREF office was canceled. TIAA-CREF participants were showed the door. TIAA-CREF called first building management and then the police. Nine people waited for two hours, but were not allowed in. Is this how TIAA-CREF should be listening to its own clients?
"We told them that we were not having a demo. We just wanted to talk about our investments. After all, all our money is in TIAA-CREF. The youngest person in our group was 63 years old. What were they afraid of? I myself have 50 years worth of pension in TIAA-CREF and was not even allowed in. I am appalled. We were not even allowed to deliver our signatures."
Marion Munk, Retired Associate Professor of Art and TIAA-CREF participant
SAN FRANCISCO, CA:
There was a spirited action outside the local offices, with banners and singing.
"I do not want to be invested in companies that profit from the occupation of Palestinian lands. This campaign gives me a voice."
Joel Frangquist, Jewish Voice for Peace activist in the Bay Area and TIAA-CREF participant
ST LOUIS, MO:
A copy of the divestment petition with local signatures was hand-delivered to the TIAA-CREF office.
About 18 people held lively protest action outside the DC TIAA-CREF office on Pennsylvania Ave., including live music with lyrics written especially for the action, as well as large printed signs and the JVP banner. Rob Mosrie, Anna Baltzer and Josh Hough of US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation were there as well. Two TIAA-CREF participants went inside for personal investment meetings and hand-delivered our petition signups for the DC metro area, which numbered over 500.