Rick Ufford Chase is leading a bold charge that is long overdue. As co-founder of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Chase is demanding that corporations stand up and behave ethically – or face the consequences of massive shareholder divestment. And his is scarcely a voice crying in the wilderness. Last year, American Christian Churches alone invested $97.4 billion, not to mention the personal portfolios of their faithful, along with the investments of other religious faiths.
You may or may not believe that “corporations are people too,” but one cannot deny Chase’s call that organizations and individuals are responsible for the results of what they make and sell. If Catepillar, Inc. sells specially armored bulldozers specifically designed for the Israeli army to plow down civilian houses in Palestine – and they keep on feeding that destruction, then they are involved in that onslaught on human rights. And you, Mr./Ms. Shareholder, you are the owners of that company. Do you want a share of that blood? After Chase’s Peace Fellowship laid out the connection, The Presbyterian Church USA, along with the Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups said no. They addressed Catepillar’s leadership with their grievance and when it was rebuked, the sold off their shares in that firm. A simple mandate of conscience.
Formerly, Chase served an unprecedented two terms as the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly, where he helped wake that church to the responsibility and power they possessed as shareholder/owners in hundreds of companies. Now his Peace Fellowship is galvanizing not just Presbyterians, but all Christian churches as well as other religious groups and peace power institutions. When Taco Bell denied crop harvesters another one cent per hour to gain a living wage, Chase and the Peace Fellowship met with the fast food firm’s leadership. Initially, Chase reported, Taco Bell executives insisted that such an egregious raise would be ruinous. Then, after an examination of the shareholder power and the PR shockwave, Taco Bell announced that out of deep concern for its workers, they were granting the penny wage hike.
While Mr. Chase is nudging corporate entities toward behavior that respects human rights, promotes a living wage, and acts as proper stewards of our environment, we cannot deny the personal query: What’s in your portfolio?
As the old Tom Lehrer song wryly noted:
Once the rockets are go up,
Who cares where they come down
That’s not my department……
“The hell it’s not,” Rick Ufford Chase is stating. “They are all your sons”