Support the Massachusetts Free Burma Bill
Background and Update
Sponsored by state rep. Byron Rushing, the new Massachusetts Free Burma Bill (H.2252) would effectively bar the Massachusetts state pension funds from investing in companies that do business in Burma. The bill is modeled after similar South Africa divestment laws that were enacted during the anti-apartheid campaign. It is believed that this kind of divestment bill would withstand constitutional challenge in federal court.
The Free Burma Bill (H.2252) has been referred to the Committee on Public Service, whose co-chairs are Rep. Brian Dempsey of Haverhill and Sen. Brian Joyce of Milton. (For the bill history click here.) This committee held hearings on the bill on June 12th but put the bill on hold by placing it “in study.”
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien has written constituents regarding the Free Burma Bill (H.252). In her letters, she has expressed reservations about stock divestment by the state pension funds. However, she has stated her interest in a new initiative by the funds to use their voting power to support shareholder resolutions that address issues of human rights and the environment.
The strategy to enact this bill is two-fold.
First, urge your state legislators to write the co-chairs of the Public Service Committee to request that they take the bill out of study and send it to the floor of the House.
(Already, state reps. Liz Malia and Alice Wolf have written the House Co-chair, Rep. Brian Dempsey. But we need more state legislators to do this.)
Second, write the State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien to urge her not only to support the bill but also to urge its implementation by the state pension fund board (PRIM). Since she is running for Governor, she is particularly attentive to letters from residents of Massachusetts.
Not Sure Who Are Your Massachusetts State Legislators?
If you enter your address on this webpage, you can find out who is your state representative and state senator.
Or you can call the House Clerk at (617) 727-2356 and the Senate Clerk at (617) 727-1276.
How Should You Contact Your State Legislators
The more time you spend to lobby an elected official, the more impact it will have. That’s why visiting your state legislator in Boston and leaving a letter is the best method. A personal one-page letter followed up with a phone call is better than an email or a postcard. For the best impact, do the most that you can.
So that we can gauge the effectiveness of this action alert, email Shelley Alpern, when you send your letters and when you receive a reply.
|Sample Letter to Your State Representative or State Senator
The Honorable (full name)
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Representative/Senator (last name):
Sample Letter to State Treasurer Shannon O’BrienTreasurer Shannon O’Brien One Ashburton Place, 12th Floor Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Dear Treasurer O’Brien:
I am writing to in regard to H. 2252, the Free Burma Bill. I am specifically asking that you support the goals of the bill. Moreover, I request that you help ensure that the state pension funds use their power as investors to end corporate support for the Burmese military junta.
[Include a paragraph describing yourself and your roots in the local community. Describe your interest in Burma. Please write as much as you can.]
The bill (H.2252), sponsored by Rep. Byron Rushing, would effectively bar the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from investing state pension funds in companies that do business with the military junta of Burma. It is modeled on similar South Africa divestment laws that were enacted during the anti-apartheid campaign.
Although the pressure of sanctions has helped recently to bring the military junta to the negotiating table, the situation remains grave. The International Labor Organization has, for the first time in its history, called for sanctions on a member country because of the Burmese military regime’s pervasive use of forced labor. The U.S. State Department has chronicled the junta’s complicity in the drug trade that brings heroin to the streets of Massachusetts.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the international community to put greater pressure on Burma’s ruling junta. As leader of the National League for Democracy, which won 82% of the seats in the 1990 Burmese elections that were annulled by the military, she has specifically called for economic sanctions on the junta.
As State Treasurer, you can use your powers to help ensure that the state pension funds divest from companies that do business in Burma. Alternatively, you could help ensure that the funds vote in favor of shareholder resolutions that put pressure on companies that support Burma’s ruling junta. Either option would be an effective and appropriate way to support the Burmese democracy movement.
In recent letters, you have stated that the PRIM Board is clarifying a proxy voting policy addressing such issues as support for democracy and human rights in Burma. You have also stated that you plan to work with Representative Byron Rushing to this end.
Please write and tell me exactly what action by the PRIM Board would you will support as Treasurer to help promote a free Burma.