Investors "recognize that constructive and positive labor relations are critical to a company’s long-term success"
New York, NY – An international coalition of major institutional investors, managing $757 billion across the global economy, sent a letter to all S&P 100 companies recently asking for information on how they protect and enhance labor rights for their U.S. employees, and how they view the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (S. 560 and H.R. 1409).
The signers of the letter are signatories to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and believe that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have a significant impact on long-term financial returns. Company responses to the letter will be shared with all participating PRI signatories.
The letter has been sent to companies such as Bank of America, McDonald's and Lowe's. In it, the investor group informs S&P 100 companies that "The freedom to form or join a union of one’s choice or not, and to bargain collectively for the terms of one’s employment, are fundamental human rights that we as global investors recognize and respect."
Steven Heim from Boston Common Asset Management, LLC explained, "The current debate about the Employee Free Choice Act has highlighted the need to better understand a company’s position, workplace policies, and responses regarding unions and collective bargaining, and determine how companies are positioned in light of the Act and the issues it raises. This initiative seeks to gather information to identify best practices and gaps of the largest US corporations in order to generate insights which will feed into our investment decisions."
"We believe it is in each company's long-term best interests to reassess their policies and procedures to ensure their employees' rights are fully protected," said Adam Kanzer, Managing Director and General Counsel at Domini Social Investments LLC. "We encourage companies to look to the standards set by the International Labor Organization when they establish a higher standard than U.S. law, particularly in the areas of freedom of association and collective bargaining."
"There is information from a number of sources, including internationally respected human rights organizations, that raises concerns about gaps between U.S. law and the ILO conventions, particularly freedom of association. There is a gap that could create risks for both employees and employers," said Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President of Sustainability Research and Policy at Calvert Asset Management Company Inc.
"As long-term investors, we want companies to create value in a sustainable way," said Ian Greenwood, Chair of the U.K.-based Local Authority Pension Fund Forum. "Constructive labor relations can be a positive influence on productivity, foster trust and loyalty, and help attract and retain skilled staff, therefore this is an area shareholders need to be informed about. We hope this process will give us a better understanding of how US companies are addressing these challenges."
Although individual investors within the Group may have taken a view on the Employee Free Choice Act legislation, the group as a whole has itself not formulated an official position.
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List of Signatories
Daniel F. Pedrotty, Director, AFL-CIO Office of Investment, AFL-CIO Employees Staff Retirement Fund
Conrad McKerron, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility Program, As You Sow Foundation
Michael O’Sullivan, President, Australian Council of Superannuation Investors
Steven Heim, Senior Vice President, Director of Social Research and Advocacy, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC
Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Asset Management Company Ltd.
Michael D. Underhill, Chief Investment Officer, Capital Innovations, LLC
Michael Quicke, Chief Executive, CCLA Investment Management Ltd.
Francois Meloche, Extra Financial Risk Manager, Comite Syndical National de Retraite Batirente
Adam Kanzer, Managing Director & General Counsel, Domini Social Investments LLC
Dominique Biedermann, Executive Director, Ethos Foundation
Linda E. Scott, Consultant, Corporate Governance, Governance for Owners LLP / GO USA Inc.
Stephen R. Brennan, Principal, Hamilton Lane
My-Linh Ngo, Associate Director SRI Research, Henderson Global Investors
Colin Melvin, Chief Executive, Hermes Equity Ownership Services
Jeanett Bergan, Head of Responsible Investments, Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP) A/S
Ian Greenwood, Chair, Local Authority Pension Fund Forum
Mike Taylor, CEO, London Pensions Fund Authority
Greg Sword, CEO, LUCRF Super
Gary A. Hawton, Chief Executive Officer, Meritas Mutual Funds
Jay Youngdahl, Co-Chair, Board of Trustees, Middletown Works VEBA
Luan Steinhilber, Director of Social Research, Miller/Howard Investments
Michael Kramer, AIF ®, Managing Partner & Director of Social Research, Natural Investments, LLC
Campbell Watterson, Deputy Chief Investment Officer, Newton Investment Management Limited
Julie Fox Gorte, Senior Vice President, Sustainable Investing, Pax World Management Corporation
Peter Damgaard Jensen, Chief Executive Officer, Pensionskassernes Administration (PKA) A/S
Richard W. Torgerson, President & Director of Research, Progressive Asset Management
Hans Aasnæs, Chief Executive Officer, Storebrand Investments
Stephen Viederman, Finance Committee, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation
Ian Jones, Head of Responsible Investment, The Co-operative Asset Management
Victor De Luca, President, The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
Lance E. Lindblom, President & CEO, The Nathan Cummings Foundation
Amy Domini, Private Trustee, The Sustainability Group at Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge
Kathryn O’Neill, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, The United Church Foundation
Therese Niklasson, Head of Governance and SRI, Threadneedle Asset Management
Shelley Alpern, Vice President, Trillium Asset Management Corporation
Timothy Smith, Senior Vice President, Environmental, Social and Governance Group, Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust and Investment Management Corp.