Headquartered in New York City, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) is a leading provider of retirement plans for people who work in the academic, medical, cultural, governmental and research fields. It is also a provider of life insurance. The company touts its commitment to social responsibility and "investing for the greater good." But is pouring billions into construction sweatshops, tobacco companies and Killer Coke socially responsible and promoting the greater good?
Construction Sweatshop investments are socially irresponsible and hurt local workers and the local economy:

Historically, sweatshop employees have received low wages and skimpy or no benefits, and are forced to work long hours, usually in dangerous and unhealthy working conditions. They fear being fired or suffering other retaliation if they complain. Sweatshop conditions do not exist only in factories; they can also exist in service industries such as construction.

TIAA-CREF is financing and is an equity partner in a construction sweatshop in Long Island City. The company is partnering with developer O'Connor Capital Partners and its general contractor McGowan Builders. McGowan subcontracts to firms that do not provide their workers with retirement plans or health care benefits and pay far less than the area standard wage. Responsible contractors cannot compete with such exploitative conditions which lead to a race to the bottom.

McGowan Builders

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined McGowan Builders in 2009 and 2011 for multiple serious violations in connection with workers falling from heights at nonunion sites in Manhattan. After being sued for negligence in its role as construction manager at a site in New Jersey where a steel structure collapsed in 2006, McGowan and other parties resolved the case out of court. In 2008, McGowan and other parties also settled out of court after being sued over water damage caused to the French-Japanese Educational Institute in New York during a rooftop project supervised by McGowan.

O'Connor Capital Partners

In 2005, O'Connor Capital Partners and Richard Kalikow purchased the huge Manhattan House apartment complex on Manhattan's Upper East Side with the intention of converting it to condominiums. The new owners were accused of using high-pressure tactics to force out tenants who did not want to purchase their apartments. O'Connor bought out Kalikow in 2007, and in 2009 the company faced more disputes with remaining tenants and buyers after it experienced problems with its financing and fell behind on making extensive renovations. Among the tenants were seniors in rent-stabilized apartments who did not want to be displaced.

In April 2012, three men working on the exterior of Manhattan House had to be rescued when their scaffold collapsed. As of September 2012, according to the New York City Department of Buildings website, Manhattan House had 125 complaints and 197 violations.

In August 2012, New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics announced that O'Connor Capital Partners would pay a fine of $2,500 for failing to file a required lobbying disclosure report.

In addition to TIAA-CREF's support of construction sweatshops, it has a history of support for additional irresponsible companies.

Tobacco investments are socially irresponsible and do not promote the greater good:

Ignoring calls from the American Medical Association and others to stop supporting the tobacco industry, TIAA-CREF and other life insurers continue to finance the spread of deadly cancers. Insurers "put their profits above people's health" according to Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, the lead author of a report issued in 2009 by Harvard physicians. Today, TIAA-CREF is still investing billions in the big tobacco companies, including Philip Morris International, Altria Group (Philip Morris USA), British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Reynolds American, Lorillard, Universal, Swedish Match and Vector Group!

Killer Coke investments are socially irresponsible and do not promote the greater good:

In 2006, TIAA-CREF had to divest tens of millions of dollars of Coca-Cola Company stock from its $10 billion Social Choice Account because the company does not meet TIAA-CREF's criteria as a socially responsible company. During TIAA-CREF's 2012 annual meeting, CEO Roger Ferguson told attendees that Coca-Cola is still banned from the Social Choice Account. Yet other TIAA-CREF accounts still have more than a billion dollars invested in Coca-Cola, dubbed Killer Coke because of allegations of widespread labor and human rights abuses, including racial discrimination against black and Latino workers in New York plants (see KillerCoke.org).

Help us make TIAA-CREF live up to its claim of being "socially responsible" and "investing for the greater good." It should start by ending its investments in construction sweatshops!
Please write or call:
President & CEO
730 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017-3206
(212) 490-9000
TIAA-CREF Roger Ferguson Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops