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Activists push TIAA-CREF to divest

By Chuck Bennett
Issue: 7/20/05
amNew York

Taking a cue from the anti-apartheid campaigns of the 1980s, activists staged a small rally outside TIAA-CREF Midtown office yesterday to change the pension powerhouse's investment practices.

The protesters — which numbered about 20 and included human rights and environmental advocates — want the $340 billion pension management company to divest from what they called socially irresponsible companies.

Nike, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Philip Morris/Altria and other international companies were cited by the protesters. They accuse the companies as employing practices such as using sweatshop labor.

"They need to divest from corporations involved in human rights violations and in public health, community, and environmental degradation," said Neil Wollman, a psychology professor at Manchester College and critic of TIAA-CREF.

Stephanie Cohen Glass, a TIAA-CREF spokeswoman, told amNew York that her company has had a long-running dialogue with Wollman and other protest groups.

"We have 3.2 million investor participants within TIAA-CREF and we have a fiduciary obligation to make investments in their best interest," she said.

She added that TIAA-CREF has a $7 billion account for people who share the protestors concerns. That account screens out Wal-Mart, Altria and Unocal, she said.

(Editor's Note:) Ms. Glass failed to include Coca-Cola in that list of screened companies since the Social Fund does include Coca-Cola stock in addition to the Coke stock held in their other accounts.

The protest was called by the Make TIAA-CREF Ethical coalition, in which the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke participates.

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