The largest education union in the country, United University Professions (UUP), passed a resolution on Jan. 23, to push the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA) to divest from fossil fuel and deforestation investments, making a huge development for the TIAA Divest Campaign.
TIAA is a private financial company hired by SUNY and other U.S. colleges to manage the retirement funds of college faculty and professional staff. TIAA has invested $8 billion in industries promoting fossil fuel production, distribution and consumption, $508 million in agribusiness companies associated with deforestation, indigenous rights violations. Additionally, TIAA has financed the construction of a fracked-gas powered electric generating station known as Cricket Valley Energy in Dover.
UUP’s resolution calls on the SUNY Board of Trustees to advocate for TIAA to divest from fossil fuel investments and to end the company’s landholdings associated with deforestation and human rights violations.
A Brazillian agency is also challenging TIAA’s illegal land grabs in Brazil, according to UUP’s press release.
“I am so proud that UUP has taken a strong stance in favor of fossil fuel divestment,” said Brian Obach, a sociology professor, according to the press release. “As a SUNY faculty member with retirement funds managed by TIAA, I am disgusted by the fact that my money is advancing climate change, deforestation, and human rights abuses.”
Obach was quoted in the release as an individual and was not speaking on the behalf of SUNY New Paltz.
The TIAA Divest Campaign was established in January of last year and is comprised of 10 people, while also connecting with students and faculty throughout the U.S.
The campaign has speculated multiple reasons as to why TIAA would invest in fossil fuels.
The divest campaign said that TIAA has always invested in fossil fuels and they are a slow-moving organization, they initially made their investments when fossil fuels were more profitable and they’re hoping for the stocks to come back and they simply don’t make informed investment decisions when their clients send them money for their retirement funds every month.
The TIAA Divest Campaign has pointed out that investing in renewable energy is a better alternative for TIAA.
“I think that a lot of climate activists have recognized the future of renewable energy, and how green investments are not only good for the environment but also for communities,” said fourth-year political science major and TIAA Divest Campaign intern, Alexandra Crawford. “The whole process of extracting fossil fuels and trying to invest in fossil fuels is very expensive. We need to recognize that the most beneficial move is for financial companies to set an example to divest from fossil fuels.”
Crawford said that the issue with TIAA is not only an environmental one, but it is also a pursuit of justice.
TIAA’s agribusiness in Brazil has kicked people off their lands and is causing human rights violations in addition to deforestation.
“We recognize the harm that fossil fuels have had on certain communities, particularly communities in the global south, also low wealth communities and people of color but also the climate as well,” Crawford said. “We’ve recognized that these decisions that they have made as a financial institution are really damaging the environment and somebody who’s an advocate I recognize that this is completely unacceptable.”
To sign the TIAA Divest Campaign’s petition, visit their website at tiaa-divest.org. You can also visit the campaign’s Facebook page, TIAA-Divest for more information.