Broad Coalition Celebrates an end to City Profit from Suffering and Exploitation
April 6 – Portland City Council voted yesterday to end investing in all corporate securities, after broad community pressure to end investments in corporations complicit in prison expansion, the occupation of Palestine, the building of Trump’s “wall,” construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and climate change.
This vote supersedes Portland’s Socially Responsible Investments Committee (SRIC) process, which engaged a citizen committee to make recommendations on corporate investments based on human rights and other criteria.
The vote came at the end of an over 3-hour hearing attended by over 100 Portlanders, who unanimously spoke out against investing in corporations proven to violate human rights standards.
“In this age of Trump, we see our movements coming together internationally to push back against a corporate agenda that seeks profit over investment in people and the planet,” said Amanda Aguilar Shank, Interim Director of Enlace, convener of the National Prison Divestment Campaign. “In Portland and nationally, our communities are demanding that our cities become Freedom Cities, sites of resistance and also sites of visionary advances, like what we have seen in Portland today.”
Currently, the City of Portland has investments in Wells Fargo, Caterp
illar, the Bank of NY Mellon, and other corporations that the City’s SRI Committee found complicit in human rights abuses across the globe. The city’s 3-2 decision today, with Commissioners Eudaly, Fish, and Saltzman voting in favor, will modify the City’s investment policy to exclude corporate investments as an option for the city’s wealth stewardship. Portland will allow its bonds to mature, and will not replace those investments in its $1.7 billion portfolio. This is a critical moment in our nation’s history. As communities organize nationally against the Trump administration and for Freedom Cities, Portland’s action today is representative of bold local leadership to stand firmly in speaking out against practices that trample human rights and desecration of the environment.
“This is a historic vote that makes Portland a national leader in recognizing the interconnectedness of the harm that is done to our communities by corporations in the name of the bottom line,” said Maxine Fookson, Jewish Voice for Peace.
"This is one of the rare instances where we need decisions from the top down," said Commissioner Chloe Eudaly while casting her vote in favor of ending corporate securities investments. "I can’t dismiss the symbolism and meaning of Portland taking a stand on these issues."
“Yesterday Portland took a crucial step toward becoming a Freedom City showing that it values human rights and economic and environmental justice over investments that devastate Black, brown, immigrant, and other marginalized communities,” said Carl Lipscombe, Deputy Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, a racial justice and migrants’ rights organization, and co-convenor of the Freedom Cities Movement.
"Portland had a victory for human rights and climate justice yesterday after many public hearings over socially responsible investment policy. City council rejected a proposal from our treasurer that claimed to meet social responsibility concerns but was nontransparent, undemocratic and ineffective. They heard overwhelmingly from thousands of Portlanders by phone, email, petition and direct testimony that we can’t invest in the worst of the worst corporations, especially Wells Fargo, Caterpillar, Walmart, Nestle, Amazon, Chevron, ExxonMobil, etc," said Hyung Nam, former member of the Socially Responsible Investments Committee, and Portland public school teacher.
Read more about our organizing strategy that led to this historic victory here.
SRI committee member Hyung Nam testifies. Photo credit: Doug Yarrow.
Packed council chambers wave in favor of testimony. Photo credit: Doug Yarrow.
In response to Mayor’s statement that divestment doesn’t work, a testifier unfurled all the ways BDS campaigns have pushed companies to end some or all of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Photo credit: Kathryn Kendall.
“Portland is proud to be a leader in socially responsible investing. And I am proud to serve on a Council that has decided to stop investing in corporate securities that do not reflect our values,” said Commissioner Nick Fish.