Movement to Push the Unitarian Universalist Church to Divest from Line 3
The Unitarian Universalist Young Adults group is organizing after seeing the Unitarian Universalist Common Endowment Fund (UUCEF) invested in several corporations not only backing the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, but also financially facilitating multiple human rights violations as Water Protectors' activism to protect the sacred Ancestral Land continues. One of the investments UUCEF has is Enbridge, the corporation creating Line 3. Being the profit-driven corporation Enbridge is, it has hired a private security team to suppress Indigenous Water Protectors and their allies in Treaty Lands of Sovereign Tribal Nations. In the UUA’s June 2021 holdings report, the UUCEF currently has 130 shares in Enbridge at a market value of $9,127.30.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has seven principles which they “hold as strong values and moral guides.” The issue is that these guides are not being upheld when it comes to returns on investment through the UUCEF. Below is how the UUCEF describes their work in relation to UUA.
The UUCEF is an alternative for Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations that currently manage or direct the investment of their own assets. The Fund is more than a single investment option; it is an investment program, which implements a range of key tasks that may be challenging (and costly) for any single congregation to perform on its own. Under oversight of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees, the Investment Committee selects professional outside advisors and investment managers utilizing criteria set forth in the UUA investment policies (PDF).
I requested a comment from the UUA on their investments on Monday, November 22, 2021. They replied to my email and acknowledged that they would provide a comment, but I haven’t received anything to date.
UUA’s Young Adults Push for Divestment
The UU Young Adults for Divestment followed procedures and submitted a Responsive Resolution titled “Creating a More Just Future Through Divesting from Pipelines and Investing in Young People.” 80% of delegates at General Assembly voted in favor of the resolution and it did pass, but the process was met with undemocratic tactics.
“The issue that we face with the Responsive Resolution is that it’s not actually binding, and the way it works they don’t actually have to change it,” Maddie Smith, member of the UU Young Adults for Divestment, said.
According to the Young Adults, the UUA claims the Responsive Resolutions are not binding on the board without citing the specific by-law and language. In 2017, there was a similar event where the Responsive Resolution was not binding according to the legal counsel, without citation. However at the same time, a binding memorandum was voted on by the board to fulfill their promise to the Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. The board did not act on the Responsive Resolution, but rather voted on a binding memorandum to hold themselves accountable. This is classic neoliberal bureaucracy where those in power vote only on items that suit them rather than on items that would hold accountability. With this example, it seems the board would need to vote on a binding memorandum in order to divest from the stocks the Young Adults are requesting.
“I think the issue is that not a lot of people know about our investments or how terrible they are. Even though there are a ton of things we want UUA to divest from, we are starting from the banks since they are the ones that fund the pipelines,” Smith continued.
Executive members of the board including Lucia Santini, chief financial advisor for UUA — also a Managing Director of Boston Trust Walden, a financial institute of trust funds valued at over nine billion dollars — reportedly worked to prevent the resolution from going on the floor for vote unless the divestment language was removed. As chief financial advisor to the UUA, Santini has been allowed in meetings to define the work they do as ethical. To be clear: A multi-billion dollar trust fund director is defining ethics surrounding the UUA’s investments.
The Young Adults report that leading up to the passing of the resolution, a series of undemocratic tactics were used to suppress this action including limiting chat features in Zoom, using the webinar format of Zoom so members cannot unmute and speak, and isolating members of the group to have discussions with the executives discouraging the movement to divest. Most recently, the Young Adults report that the next meeting around this issue has been moved to the middle of the work day when Young Adults are either working or at school. Side note: I report across multiple areas of activism, and these undemocratic tactics are incredibly common — from City Halls to the Democratic Party to stopping freeway expansions, stopping residential displacement, and everything in between, the neoliberal establishment is skilled in using methods to undermine democracy.
“What feels most present right now is the UU Endowment Fund holds most of its meetings during the day, around 1 or 2 pm, when people are at work or school. It feels like an intentional strategy to hold the meetings for people who are not constrained by work or school hours,” Zoe Johnston, member of the UU Divestment Caucus said.
The UUA also has group called UU Mass Action where Indigenous UU members and allies work to action against oppression. Individually, Indigenous UUs have reportedly been left out and largely ignored during board calls making them feel as though they are UUs holding a lesser status within the faith.
Any UU can get involved in helping this divestment movement; you can join the investor calls.
What is Happening with Line 3?
Enbridge Line 3 tar sands divides the Anishinaabe Territory in Minnesota, violating Treaty Rights of the Anishinaabe Peoples and Nations in its path, damaging sacred wild rice beds, and threatening the health of Indigenous Communities, who have already experienced generations of oppression and trauma due to exploitation of their land and their people.
Even before the ongoing Flint water crisis, Indigenous Communities haven’t had access to clean drinking for decades. This project presents more of the same colonial violence Indigenous Communities face from the time that settler colonial domination and genocide campaigns began on Turtle Island and continue to present day.
It is hypocritical that the UUA touts “diverse in faith, ethnicity, history and spirituality, but aligned in our desire to make a difference for the good” with “a track record of standing on the side of love, justice, and peace” then have investments in Enbridge.
“We didn’t stand witness, we took action, and we were arrested. We have PTSD from the whole thing and an underlying component of the PTSD is that our faith put us out there and then left us. Multiple UU organizations rallied UUs to go, once it went down and we were arrested and injured — rubber bullets, concussions, tear gas — there has not been a statement in support of us from the UUA from any part of the faith beyond donating to a fund for a legal fees. This lack of support contributes to our PTSD.” Kia Bordner, Tigua of Ysleta del Sur & Yaqui, Indigenous UU activist, said.
“When I knew they would be calling for Young Adults for a second wave of action, I originally thought it was great and then in the planning of this…I kept saying to folks, if you don’t debrief with us who were on the frontlines and arrested, you are being reckless with people’s lives who are going for the second wave of action. The debrief we did have was focused on the jail support team, and we on the frontlines did not speak but for a few minutes.”
What are the UUA’s Holdings & Community Investments?
As it relates to the violence of Line 3, here are just a few of the companies that UUA has chosen to make investments. Everything listed below is from their June 2021 report. You can review the full list on their holdings page.
The very first in the line up of UUA holdings is Enbridge, the very pipeline responsible for Line 3 and violating the Treaty Rights of the Anishinaabe Peoples and Nations in its path.
- Number of Shares: 130
- Market Value: 9,127.30
- “The UUA will hold Enbridge stock in the shareholder advocacy account (which is explicitly permitted under both the Fossil Fuel Divestment and Human Rights Business Resolutions) as we explore whether other faith- and values-based investors, including the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, are interested in pursuing shareholder resolutions with Enbridge.” — Read more here.
- The Enbridge Line 3 pipeline is violating human rights by currently being built without the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Nations; and several UU justice organizations and UU individuals recently took direct action to stop Line 3.
Bank of America
- Number of Shares: 16,632
- Market Value: $685,737.36
- Historically has financed private prisons and immigrant detention centers. $380 million loan to Caliburn, making $750 per child detainee, per day in the Homestead, Florida detention center. (source) NOTE: 70% of immigrant detainees are now held in privately-owned facilities, meaning 70% of immigrant detainees are held in facilities with a clear-as-day financial incentive to lock up as many people as possible
JP Morgan: see Chase below
- Number of Shares: 100,000
- Market Value: $111,045.00
Chase: Chase Bank is the world’s largest financier of fossil fuels. By supporting the companies behind tar sands pipelines — including Line 3 and Keystone XL– and the Coastal GasLink pipeline in Canada, Chase is responsible for Indigenous Rights abuses, environmental destruction, deforestation, and a major contributor to expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.
- Number of Shares: 361
- Market Value: 98,537.53
- Number of Shares: 5,226
- Market Value: 369,739.50
- Citi Bank is 2nd worst funder of fossil fuels
- Number of shares: 100,000
- Market Value: 108,740.00
- Top 15th funder of fossil fuels
- Number of Shares: 2,392
- Market Value: 219,322.48
- Morgan Stanley is the 12th top funder of fossil fuels
- Number of Shares: 115
- Market Value: 5,208.35
- Wells Fargo is 3rd top funder of fossil fuels
- Number of Shares: 215
- Market Value: 22,529.85
- Chevron Corporation is an American multinational energy corporation. It was founded in 1984 and is the third largest oil company in America. One of the successor companies of Standard Oil, it is headquartered in San Ramon, California, and active in more than 180 countries.
- Number of Shares: 340
- Market Value: 6,198.20
- Kinder Morgan, Inc. is one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America. The company specializes in owning and controlling oil and gas pipelines and terminals. Kinder Morgan owns an interest in or operates approximately 85,000 miles of pipelines and 152 terminals
- Number of Shares: 100,000
- Market Value: $108,000
- Number of Shares: 1,105
- Value: 86,278.40