National 350 Divestment Conference Call

  • Panelist Campaigns
    • Jeff: Their 350 grew out of fossil fuel divestment
      • focuses on fossil fuel divestment for their county
      • Allies: local environmental groups, local democratic/socialist groups
      • Legislation introduced after 3 years
      • CCAN
      • Goal: 5 year time table divestment bill to divest all fossil fuel assets
    • Mark: State level to divest pension funds in NY
      • One individual (Sole trustee) makes those decisions, didn’t support divestment though believed in climate change
      • Need stronger state-wide coalition
    • Larry: 2 people, started divestment campaign in Chicago
      • large operating budget and city pension funds
      • 1 year doing research + recruitment: Happy Hour
      • Started meetings with aldermen (12-15 times)
      • Met with treasurer
      • Met with Sustainability Head Commissioner
      • Got legislature introduced last year
  •  Political Strategies
    • Larry:
      • Engage the aldermen, found the ones who would be most amenable
      • Doing outreach: tabling, pre-printed postcards (1200 cards signed), online petition
    • Mark:
      • Just had to convenience the one trustee
      • Petition, 13000 sig
      • Rally in front of his office
      • Didn’t get to meet with him personally
      • After a year, they realized that wasn’t working
      • Introduced a legislation
        • They didn’t think they could pass it (republican gov and senate)
        • Wanted to get 30/40 legislatures to support it, to convince trustee that there was support for it
        • This hasn’t worked so far
      • Currently are trying to get elected officials to do a sign on letter and media work
        • Trying to give him legitimization to make this decision
        • State wide lobby days
    •  Jeff:
      • Postcard drive
      • Endorsements from allies
        • Allies were key in turning out people
      • Direct lobbying with council members
        • Getting members from all council districts and meeting with all councilors to try and build majority
      • Had folks involved in local government workers union
        • The people who were going to be most effected by the change (pension)
        • Worked really hard to get the union support
      • Power mapping
        • Who has power to make this happen?
        • Who has the power to influence these people?
        • For council people: getting sigs from all districts, who does council person respond to.
        • Targeted one swing individual by collecting sigs from people in his district. Was key vote.
  •  Organizing strategies
    •  Larry:
      • Social media, facebook, website, twitter. Happy Hours. Went from 2 members to 12. After Trump election had 30-50.
    • Mark:
      • Tie better into gas/pipeline people
      • Creative tactics- held a teach-in in Trump tower on divestment
      • Work with unions in NYC
      • Organizations were unwilling to support it until they got pressure from their members (grassroots)
    •  Jeff:
      • Group to do lists, works pretty well
      • Top down- necessary because of specific goals, campaign focus. Has created some tensions from members who want to introduce new ideas.
  •  Achievements/ goals
    •  Jeff:
      • Fossil fuel divestment bill is stalled for the session. Gives time for people to lobby council members to support it.
      • Core group is bonded, acquired great skills,
    •  Mark:
      • City level- Asked NYC to divest from fossil fuel and do a study on effects on pensions.
      • Bill will hopefully be coming out of assembly committee this year.
    •   Larry:
      • Resolution in city council
      • Trying to gain allies from environment justice groups
      • Hold ally-ship meeting:
        • Hear what they are working on, and brainstorm how they can come out and support each other
  •  Key lessons/recommendations
    •  Larry:
      • Doing research beforehand. Finding out what city can and cannot do. Finding out where unions stand. Didn’t get much pushback until resolution was introduced (from unions). Now doing outreach to those unions. Wish they had started doing that earlier. Work with urgency but be patience. Take a break to avoid getting burned out.
    •  Mark:
      • Research, public pension plans- so have fiduciary responsibility, unlike college or faith institution. Having an argument for why divestment is the best option to address climate change.
    • Jeff:
      • Keep coming back to it, calm but obsessive attention to this issue. Local politics is relational. Have had to sit down with union folks and retirees to come up with compromises, do research into their concerns. A complicated ask, takes time to educated people about it.
    • Q &A
      • Can we get copies of your resolutions for precedents? What arguments have you been making to convince people?
        • Jeff: Financial arguments are good, but challenging. You are talking to professionals about economics… credibility gap. Core has been moral arguments- amore to be profiting from these companies.
        • Mark: Got experts to say they would have saved money by divesting, but didn’t do any good. W/ legislatures, moral argument works better, but be well versed in all. Have a measure that says if divestment decreases profits by more than .5% they can stop.
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