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Faith-Based Investors Press Dozens of Top Companies to Say If U.S. Chamber of Commerce Speaks for Them in Opposing Health Care Reform
Date:11/10/2009

Targeted Companies All Previously Adopted Health Care Principles Now at Odds With Chamber Lobbying Efforts; ICCR Organizes Campaign Echoing Corporate Split With Chamber Over Climate Legislation.

NEW YORK, Nov. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the health care reform debate in Congress shifts to the U.S. Senate, leading faith-based institutional investors are pressuring 36 major companies -- including Merck, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, AT&T, IBM and General Electric -- to state publicly if the U.S. Chamber speaks for them in its aggressive campaign to kill efforts to overhaul the U.S. health care system. Significantly, all of the companies had previously agreed at the urging of shareholders to embrace health care principles that are now inconsistent with the anti-reform stance of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on health care legislation.

The 275-member Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) reported today that 60 of its faith-based institutional investor members have contacted a total of 36 companies by letter or direct outreach asking the major publicly traded firms to clarify whether or not the Chamber speaks for them on health care reform and, if not, to make a public statement to that effect. The full text of the letter from the ICCR is available online at http://www.iccr.org.

The three dozen targeted companies are (in alphabetical order): Aetna; American Express; AT&T; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Cardinal Health; Cisco Systems; Duke Energy; DuPont; Eli Lilly; Exxon Mobil; General Electric; General Mills; Goldman Sachs; Home Depot; IBM; Kellogg; Kohl's; Manpower; Marriott; McDonald's; Medco; Merck; Peabody; Pepsi; Pfizer; Safeway; Staples; Starbucks; Target; 3 M; UnitedHealth Group; United Technologies; Verizon; Walmart; Wellpoint; and Xerox.

Laura Berry, executive director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, said: "Faith-based investors already concerned about the 'disconnect' between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its leading members on climate legislation are now troubled to see the same dynamic at work on the health care reform bill. We want to be very clear that every single one of these companies had previously agreed to adopt health care reform principles that are directly at odds with the extremist position that has been taken up by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Faith-based investors see the passage of healthcare reform as an historic opportunity that calls for all stakeholders, including companies, to step up and be counted. These companies should make it abundantly clear that they stand by their principles on health care and that, as such, the U.S. Chamber does not speak for them."

Edward Gerardo, director, Community and Social Investments, Bon Secours Health System, Inc., said: "It so happens that many of the very corporations who recognize the need for comprehensive health reform, and who have expressed to not only us but to Congressional members, their support for the majority of policy positions proposed in either the Senate or House legislation, are also members of the Chamber of Commerce. And, many have expressed privately their disagreement and dissatisfaction with both the position and tactics of the national office of the Chamber. Well, it's time for accountability. If we are going to have meaningful and effective health reform; if our health system is to be affordable and serve all; then we believe our friends in board rooms and executive offices who underwrite the very work of the Chamber, must take responsible action, and call on the Chamber leadership to adopt a more constructive tone."

Donna Meyer, Ph.D., former Senior System Director-Community Health, CHRISTUS Health, said: "Some of these companies are reassuring us that they stand by their principles on health care. Some even point out that they directly support pro-reform groups. But at the same time they support the Chamber through paying membership fees and serving in leadership positions with the Chamber. This is a contradiction. So we are asking the businesses with whom we are in contact to distance themselves from the Chamber's position on this issue. We would hope that these members will steer the Chamber toward playing a more helpful role on this issue which is so critical to our country and its future economy. We need to move our country away from a disjointed, expensive health care system and toward a sustainable, fair, and efficient system that serves everyone."

The letter to the leading U.S. companies reads, in part, as follows:

"Does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce speak for [your corporation] when it opposes healthcare reform? As members of the faith community and concerned investors we have been troubled by the efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to undermine efforts to curb global warming. We are equally concerned that the same tactics seem evident in the Chamber's attempts to undermine efforts to bring about a just health care system available to all citizens. Given the position that the Company has taken in endorsing core precepts for healthcare reform, we are asking you in this letter to communicate in a clear public voice whether or not the Chamber has your 'proxy' when it comes to healthcare reform policy."

The letter to the companies continues:

"As shareholders in major companies threatened by a broken health care system, we are united in our view that that the status quo in health care is unsustainable. It has runaway cost increases, presents great risk for employers as well as employees and leaves millions uninsured ... Given the current campaign of the Chamber of Commerce, we ask you to provide answers to these questions: (1) Does the Company agree with the Chamber's campaign in opposition to health care reform? (2) Will the Company publicly distance itself from the Chamber's position in opposition to health care reform? (3) What are the Company's plans to contribute in a constructive way to the health care debate going forward?"

The list of faith-based investors communicating with the companies consists of (in alphabetical order): Adrian Dominican Sisters; Aquinas Associates; Basilian Fathers of Toronto; Benedictine Sisters of Ridgely, Maryland; Bon Secours Health System, Inc.; Brethren Foundation, Inc./Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust, Inc.; California Province of the Society of Jesus; Capuchin Province of St. Joseph; Catholic Health East; Catholic Healthcare West; Catholic Healthcare Partners; Conference on Corporate Responsibility of IN-MI (CCRIM) and the Congregation of St. Joseph; CHRISTUS Health; Community of Detroit Charitable Trust; Congregation of Divine Providence, Inc.; Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes; Daughters of Wisdom; Dominican Sisters of Hope; Dominican Sisters of Houston; Episcopal Diocese of Olympia; Friends Fiduciary Corporation; Justice Organizers, Leadership & Treasurers Coalition (JOLT); Coalition for Responsible Investments; Loyola University Chicago; Marianist Province of the U.S.; Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers; Maryknoll Sisters; Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA); Mercy Investment Program, Inc.; Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment; Mission Hospital, Mission Viejo, CA; Mount St. Scholastica, Inc.; N.A Passionist Justice, Peace & the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Office; Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment; Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen SD; School Sisters of Notre Dame - Milwaukee Province; School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund; Servants of Mary (Servite Sisters); Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati; Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of New York; Sisters of Charity, BVM; Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Sisters of Mercy Regional; Sisters of St. Dominic of Tacoma; Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia; Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, MA; Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon; Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament; Sisters of the Good Shepherd; Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary, U.S. Ontario Province; Socially Responsible Investment Coalition; Socially Responsible Investment Committee of the Racine Dominicans; St. Joseph Health System; The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, TX; Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment; Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC); Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, Inc.; Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province; and Wisconsin-Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment.

Additionally, the letters also are signed by: AFL-CIO Office of Investment; James Donovan, CPA; Progressive Asset Management Inc.; Trillium Asset Management; and Walden Asset Management.

The full text of the health care principles previously adopted by the major companies is available online at http://www.iccr.org.

ABOUT ICCR

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (http://www.iccr.org) is a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors, representing well over $100 billion in invested capital. ICCR members bridge the divide between morality and markets by envisioning a civic economy that integrates ethical, environmental and social values. Inspired by faith, committed to action, ICCR members work to build a just and sustainable global community.

CONTACT: Ailis Aaron Wolf, 703-276-3265, aaaron@hastingsgroup.com

EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of today's news event will be available on the Web at http://www.iccr.org as of 6 p.m. EST on November 10, 2009.

SOURCE Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), New York City and Washington, D.C.


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SOURCE Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), New York City and Washington, D.C.
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