|Sample Letter to SF Board of Retirement Trustees back to top|
On December 11, 2000 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution calling on the San Francisco City and County Employees' Retirement System to divest of its holdings of companies engaged in business activities in the country of Burma (Resolution #, enclosed). We urge you, as a trustee of this board, to act according to the will of San Francisco employees and residents and in the interest of 50 million Burmese citizens by ending San Francisco's investment in these corporations, which support the brutal dictatorship in Burma. We write as members of the San Francisco Bay Area Burmese American Democratic Alliance. BADA is an umbrella organization representing Burmese students, refugees, immigrants and Americans working for democracy and human rights in Burma. [personal connection, information, where you live] Burma is ruled by a repressive military dictatorship that seized control of the country nearly 12 years ago and refuses to step aside--despite a democratic election held in 1990 in which an opposition party won by over 80%. The government maintains power with an iron grip, violently crushing all democracy protests, imprisoning students, abusing women and children, and ignoring all international cries for mercy. Torture, rape, and mass killings are the methods used by the military dictatorship to maintain their power.
The United States Department of State, the United Nations and Amnesty International have all issued strong condemnations of the Burmese regime for its violations of internationally-accepted human rights standards. The United States imposed sanctions against Burma in 1997, banning all new U.S. investment in Burma. The International Labor Organization has called on the international community to enact sanctions against the ruling military regime in Burma because of the regime's pervasive and systematic violations of ILO covenants barring the use of forced labor.
There is a significant movement for freedom in Burma, led by 1991 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi is the leader of Burma's democratically elected party, the National League for Democracy, but has been held under house arrest by Burma's military regime for seven out of the last twelve years. Suu Kyi has called for international corporations to leave Burma until the commencement of democracy. She has called for this measure because all foreign companies that do business in Burma must work closely with and subsidize the military regime. Many U.S. corporations have heeded Suu Kyi's call and have discontinued operations in Burma, including: Cisco Systems, Levi Strauss, Reebok, Pepsi, Motorola, Best Western, Hewlett Packard and others. Several corporations have remained in Burma, however, despite the fact that their presence enables the junta to exist. The list includes companies such as [I am currently trying to find this list], which are owned in San Francisco's portfolios. Municipalities can support freedom and democracy in Burma by pressuring these corporations. The best way for the City and County of San Francisco to do this is to carry out the Board of Supervisors' resolution and join cities such as Los Angeles and Minneapolis by divesting stock of corporations in Burma.
In 1996, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a selective purchasing law that barred the city from entering into contracts with companies operating in Burma. This law was nullified last year as the result of a Supreme Court decision. As an alternative, San Francisco can maintain its support for democracy in Burma through divestment. As the trustee of a $10 billion pension fund, you have tremendous power to make a statement and pressure the dictatorship in Burma. A list of corporations with direct investment or employees in Burma prepared by the Investor Responsibility Research Center is attached. Please do your part to support the wishes of San Franciscans and the rights of the people of Burma by moving to divest of companies operating in Burma.