Source: Common Dreams
The divestment campaign provides an excellent example of how dedicated organizing, clear demands and strategies, creative tactics, strong coalitions, and good luck can come together for a win
After five years of tireless organizing, the movement to divest NYC public worker pension funds from fossil fuels scored a win. On Jan. 10, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City will divest the $5 billion of its pension funds presently invested in fossil fuel stocks. It will also sue the top five fossil fuel corporations—ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips—charging that because they hid the evidence that burning fossil fuels causes climate change, they are responsible for the billions of dollars the city has spent on climate remediation.
The divestment campaign provides an excellent example of how dedicated organizing, clear demands and strategies, creative tactics, strong coalitions, and good luck can come together for a win.
The U.S. divestment movement was popularized in 2012 through the national “Do The Math” tour, led by 350.org’s Bill McKibben and author Naomi Klein. Borrowing a page from the successful anti-apartheid divestment campaign directed at South Africa in the 1980’s, 350’s focus was fossil fuel divestment in colleges, universities, foundations, and non-profits. While pension funds were on the list, little attention was initially paid to them.
In New York City and New York State, Divest NY became the campaign’s lead coalition, headed by local 350NYC from the beginning and supported by national 350.orgthroughout. It was joined by DivestInvest Network, NY Communities for Change, Peoples Climate Movement-NY, NYC-Democratic Socialists of American Climate Justice Working Group, Professional Staff Congress-CUNY (AFT), NY State Nurses Association, NY State Green Party, and many individuals.
In 2012, Divest NY started lobbying, building alliances, and creating the groundwork for a broader movement. Public pension member unions began to support: United Federation of Teachers (UFT) passed a resolution calling for a feasibility study on divestment from fossil fuels and for total divestment from coal; PSC-CUNY passed resolutions supporting immediate fossil fuel divestment on city and state levels, as did the NY State Nurses Association; and AFSCME D.C. 37 rallied members and leaders to consider divestment.