Dear Mayor Hales and Portland City Council Members:
As leaders in the Portland faith community, we commend the Portland City Council for its socially responsible investment (SRI) policy. Implementing this comprehensive SRI framework and process makes Portland a model city for other municipalities across the country. As Rev. William Sinkford said at the November 30 hearing, “investments are moral decisions.”
The Human Rights Commission and the Socially Responsible Investment Committee invested many hours of study and heard citizen testimony examining corporations whose troublesome practices make Portland’s investments inappropriate and misaligned with the city’s values. Now it is the City Council’s turn to assume leadership in response to the Human Rights Commission and SRI Committee’s thoughtful recommendations and add all 10 recommended companies to the city’s Do Not Buy list.
The multitudes of voices heard in support of full adoption of the SRI Committee’s recommendation at the city council hearing represent a diverse segment of Portland’s population directly impacted by the corporate profiteering of the 10 recommended companies. We heard powerful testimony from immigrant workers, from those facing the impacts of our unjust system of mass incarceration, from Palestinian refugees, from indigenous water protectors recently returned from Standing Rock—all urging the council to fully adopt the recommendation.
Including all 10 companies on the Do Not Buy List would remove Portland investments from two corporations that are of particular concern to us. Those named at the recent three-hour hearing as “the worst of the worst” in violation of established principles and values, Caterpillar and Wells Fargo, were identified repeatedly by dozens of citizens who testified before the council November 30.
In response to the destruction of land and violence against peaceful water protectors in North Dakota, the Portland City Council has joined Mayor Hales in solidarity with indigenous activists protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that crosses the Standing Rock Reservation. It would be consistent with the resolution in support of the Water Protectors that Portland cut its funding to Caterpillar, a company that is hugely involved in the pipeline construction and that has no concerns about the ethics of this project.
Caterpillar’s violation of environmental, labor, and human rights standards is well documented. Caterpillar was ranked in the top 100 toxic air polluters based on EPA records. Because of illegal home and infrastructure demolitions in Palestine and involvement in digging the North Dakota Access Pipeline, Caterpillar has earned widespread denouncement across the country. Caterpillar violates six of the seven standards established by the city council to measure socially responsible corporate ethics.
Additionally, American Christian denominations including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ have divested from Caterpillar, following many years of attempted engagement to urge cessation of its military contracts with Israel.
Wells Fargo is also one of the worst of the worst. This bank is one of the primary financiers of private prison corporations. It is widely known that private prison corporations operate from a profit motive, and have been found to widely violate the human rights of those incarcerated in these institutions.
As local faith leaders, we commend you for entering the unavoidably controversial arena of socially responsible investment practices. We urge you to act out of love and compassion rather than fear. We urge you to listen to those who are suffering directly at the hands of these profiteering companies. As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Inevitably, bold leadership must prove capable of principled decisions in determining how city funds are invested. Please do not undermine the model process you have set in motion—adopt the full recommendations from the SRI subcommittee. This decision may be politically difficult, but it is not particularly complicated. Years of engagement by churches and community groups document these companies’ unwillingness to meet Portland standards for protection of human rights, respect for labor and environmental standards, and enlightened corporate ethics.
We appeal to you: Do the right thing today.
We also pledge to you: We in the faith community will have your back.
The Reverend Diane Dulin, United Church of Christ Central Pacific Conference Wider Church Ministries
The Reverend Canon Richard Toll, Episcopal Priest (Retired)
The Reverend Catherine L. Alder, United Church of Christ
The Reverend Marla McGarry-Lawrence, Episcopal Deacon
The Reverend John Newton Hickox, United Church of Christ
The Reverend Elizabeth Durant, United Church of Christ Central Pacific Conference Justice & Witness Ministries, First Congregational United Church of Christ-Portland
The Reverend Doctor James Moiso, Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Reverend Dan Simmons, National Director for World Vision Jerusalem (retired)
The Reverend Lynne Smouse Lopez, Pastor, Ainsworth United Church Of Christ
The Reverend Lawrence Hansen, Cana House
The Reverend Don Frueh, Parkrose Community United Church of Christ
The Reverend Jill E. James, Lutheran (ELCA) Clergy (Retired Chaplain)
The Reverend Doctor Constance Hammond, Episcopal Church
The Reverend Canon Joseph A. Dubay, Episcopal Priest (Retired)
The Reverend John A. Shuck, Cascades Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Reverend Denise Andersen, Clackamas United Church of Christ
The Reverend Deacon Stephen Denny
The Reverend Forster W. Freeman, Lake Oswego, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ, D.Min. (Retired)
The Reverend Bill Sinkford, Sr. Minister, First Unitarian Church Portland
The Reverend Jessie Smith, Vicar, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church
The Reverend Ron Werner, Jr, Oregon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Reverend Brian E. Brandt, Ph.D., Lutheran (ELCA), Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Beaverton