On June 23rd an enthusiastic group of PERS members who want to ensure their retirement doesn’t come at the expense of a livable future met for the first time as the new (tentatively named) Divest PERS Team at the Friends Meeting House.
Sandy Polishuk and David Kennedy reported on the history of divestment legislation in Oregon – only two times has the legislature passed bills requiring divestment of PERS investments: Oregon Anti-Apartheid Act of 1987 (divesting from South Africa and Namibia) and Oregon Human Rights and Anti-Genocide Act of 2005 (divesting from Sudan). Neither is in force any longer.
Bryan Brumley, a member of the 350PDX Divestment Team and a certified financial advisor specializing in sustainable, responsible and impact investing, shared his research on the PERS portfolio: it’s different types of investments, the opacity of the actual holdings, and the obstacles to and benefits of divesting. There was discussion of stranded assets and other reasons that fossil fuel companies are becoming worse and worse investments.
Ideas and tasks coming out of smaller group discussion included:
- using and strengthening our union relationships
- asking public unions to divest their investments so they will be more credible advocates for PERS divestment
- pushing the Oregon Investment Council (who manage the PERS portfolio) for more transparency of their holdings
- reaching out to deferred compensation financial companies
- creating an elevator pitch and forming a speakers bureau which would include developing a divestment powerpoint presentation
- distributing sign-up petitions to increase PERS members in our database
- seeking advice from other groups that have led successful divestment campaigns around the country.