SEIU 1021

SFERS moves toward fossil fuel divestment


At the urging of SEIU 1021 members, local environmentalists and the Board of Supervisors, the trustees of the San Francisco city workers’ pension fund moved a step closer towards divesting it of money in climate-changing fossil fuel industries. It also moved the city unions closer to investing their retirement savings with social responsibility, to use their collective money for the good of workers and the world.

This latest action by the San Francisco Employees Retirement System (SFERS) Board of Trustees, who oversee the pension fund for San Francisco city and county workers, is part of long road to change the world from fossil fuel dependency to sustainable energy practices. Spurred by the climate activists of Fossil Free San Francisco and 350, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in April 2013 urging the SFERS board to move toward divesting its pension fund from fossil fuels. In February 2014 the SFERS board voted to move to what is known as Level 1 of divestment, using SFERS shareholder voting rights to reflect its position against fossil fuels.

Not surprisingly, little came from this timid action. So climate and SEIU 1021 activists pushed for the board to move onto Level 2 of divestment, actively promoting its anti-fossil fuel position individually or in concert with other shareholders to influence corporate actions and policies.

At the public comment of the SFERS board meeting March 11 Supervisor John Avalos, who has been leading the fossil fuel divestment issue on the Board of Supervisors, urged the SFERS board to vote unanimously to move to Level 2. He noted the two years the issue has been being discussed and how little movement there has been to stop the global warming trend.

“There is some urgency here,” Avalos said.

Retired SEIU 1021 public nurse Martha Hawthorne presented a resolution passed by SEIU 1021’s San Francisco COPE committee calling on the SFERS board to:
1) immediately cease any new investments in fossil fuel
companies or in commingled assets that include holdings in fossil fuel companies
2) invest in fossil fuel free assets such as renewable energy, clean technology, and sustainable communities
3) adopt Level II immediately and make a determination whether such engagement has the prospect of success at the end of 18 months
4) ensure that within three to five years none of its directly held or commingled assets include holdings in fossil fuel public equities and/or corporate bonds.

Herb Mieberger, a former SEIU 1021 member and the city workers’ representative on the SFERS board for 23 years, moved that the board adopt Level 2. The board voted 6-1 in favor of the motion.