Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Caterpillar and Corporate Accountability

Today, member groups of the US Campaign will gather at Caterpillar's annual shareholder meeting with a simple message: Caterpillar should build the U.S. economy, not destroy Palestinian homes, lands, lives, and livelihoods. Click here to read a media release regarding the shareholder meeting from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. This is the sixth year in a row that concerned shareholders and members or organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace have gathered at the shareholder meeting to tell Cat to stop profiting off of the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Caterpillar equipment, especially weaponized and armored D-9 bulldozers, is used by the Israeli military to violate human rights and international law by demolishing Palestinian houses, building the apartheid Wall and settlements, uprooting olive and fruit trees, and killing civilians, including dozens of Palestinian civilians and U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie. This past February, President Obama visited CAT headquarters in Peoria, Illinois, to promote his stimulus package plan. Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens is a member of President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. In Obama's speech (which you can view here), President Obama tied Caterpillar's economic performance with the status of the U.S. economy, and said: "This isn't about figures on a balance sheet. It's about families...folks who are losing their jobs and their health care and their homes." Exactly. Caterpillar's economic performance--and the economic health of the U.S. economy--should be about people, not numbers. And that means that it can't be based on profiting off of occupation, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid. This year's Caterpillar shareholder meeting comes in the midst of a series of major victories for corporate accountability. Recent corporate accountability news includes suits against companies that aided and abetted the apartheid regime in South Africa, the announcement of Veolia's decision to pull out of the illegal East Jerusalem light rail project after sustained boycott and divestment pressure, suits against Canadian companies involved in settlement construction, and the victory against Shell's complicity in extrajudicial assassinations in Nigeria (a victory that was won with the support of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the same organization that supported the Corrie family in their suit against Caterpillar). All of this is good news for the global movement to hold corporations accountable for their complicity in violations of human rights and international law. If you haven't already, send an email to Caterpillar and join this global movement.