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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

report from caterpillar shareholder meeting

this came over a listserve.

>
> Dear Supporter:
>
> All of us at JVP, especially the members of the
> Caterpillar committee, are just catching our breath
> after the build-up to the Caterpillar annual meeting
> in Chicago on April 13. Still, we couldn't wait to
> let you know what happened. We're simply ecstatic
> about the work of diverse groups that came together
> to call on CAT to end the sale of weaponized
> bulldozers to the Israeli military, including Stop
> Caterpillar-Chicago, US Campaign to End the
> Occupation, the Sisters of Loretto, Mercy Investment
> Group, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
>
> On the global front, protests were held in over 30
> cities around the world, bringing massive attention
> to CAT's role in profiting from violating human
> rights and perpetuating the occupation.
>
> Shareholder resolutions are non-binding, so the goal
> is not to win all the votes but rather to shine a
> spotlight on the issue -- a spotlight that cannot be
> ignored by CAT board of directors. In that,we were
> successful beyond our wildest dreams.
>
> The issue of home demolitions of Palestinian homes
> dominated the entire meeting, ensuring that the
> staff and board of directors of CAT will be dealing
> with this issue for a long time to come. CAT CEO Jim
> Owens spent the majority of the meeting asking,
> "Does anyone have anything else to talk about,
> anything related to business?" Of course the only
> business that most people attending wanted to talk
> about was home demolitions and sales to the Israeli
> military.
>
> Three people from the American Jewish Congress and
> Stand With Us also attended the meeting. JVP
> Co-Director Liat Weingart spoke to Rosz Rothstein,
> the representative from Stand With Us, who
> shockingly told Weingart that Palestinians do not
> own their land. "What do they expect will happen if
> they build a house in Yosemite? If you build on land
> that isn't yours, how can you expect that it won't
> be demolished?" We took heart in the knowledge that
> AJCongress and Stand With Us are out of touch with
> both the US administration's understanding of the
> conflict and with mainstream American Jewish
> opinion, which is much more peace-minded and
> respectful of human rights.
>
> JVP board member Sara Norman gave a stunning speech
> to introduce our shareholder resolution, saying that
> investigating CAT bulldozers' role in destroying
> civilian homes is "responsible corporate
> decision-making." Our resolution got 3% of the vote,
> meaning we won the support of investors holding
> close to 3/4 billion dollars of CAT stock, including
> CalPERS, the largest pension fund in the world.
> Finally, we achieved feature coverage in dozens of
> media outlets throughout the world including the LA
> Times, the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, the
> Associated Press, and Reuters. One of America's most
> respected business programs, NPR's Marketplace, also
> featured the campaign as the second story on their
> evening program on April 13. As the Chicago Tribune
> reported, CAT suffered a "punishing public relations
> campaign" this past year.
>
> The campaign is starting to have a clear financial
> impact on the company. Whereas in 2001, only 3
> stories ran in major media connecting CAT bulldozers
> with human rights abuses, already in the first
> quarter of 2005, 275 similar stories have run in
> major English language publications. One commentator
> documented that CAT stock went down by 8.5% on the
> week of the shareholder vote, as compared to a 6%
> decrease for competitor John Deere. On the week of
> an annual meeting, it's very unusual that a
> company's stock decrease, rather than increase,
> given that the focus of an annual meeting is to
> highlight the strengths and accomplishments of the
> company.
>
> Now, with partners all over the world taking action
> to stop CAT sales to the Israeli military and to
> divest from corporations that irresponsibility
> profit from the occupation, the tide is starting to
> turn.
>
> Cecilie Surasky
> Jewish Voice for Peace

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