October 21, 2002
Teamsters Union Joins Boycott of World Bank Bonds
by William Baue
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters joins six other international unions in refusing to
invest in World Bank bonds.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters,
one of the largest labor unions in the world with 1.4 million members, resolved on October 3 to
join the World Bank Bonds Boycott. The
Teamsters' resolution characterizes the World Bank as a "principal architect and enforcer" of
corporate globalization. The resolution also claims that World Bank policy has wreaked havoc on
workers and the environment worldwide.
The resolution states that the World Bank
requires developing countries to deregulate and eliminate barriers to foreign investment. This
policy effectively pits "poor countries and workers against each other in competition to attract
multinational corporations leads in a race to the bottom in wages, working conditions,
environmental standards." The resolution says that this leads to the loss of approximately one
million U.S. jobs annually.
The Teamsters control hundreds of millions of dollars in
pension and benefits funds, some of which used to hold World Bank bonds. The resolution also
serves as an advisory to the union's 521 branches worldwide, many of which handle pension and
benefits funds autonomously. Boycott proponents within the Teamsters and elsewhere have been
campaigning for a year and a half to get the Teamsters International Executive Board to endorse the
World Bank bonds generate 80 percent of the resources controlled by the
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), an institution that is part of the
World Bank Group.
"The attraction of IBRD (World Bank) bonds to taxable investors is
that they offer international exposure with minimal credit risk," said Charles Sandmel, a Certified
Financial Planner® (CFP®) with the First Affirmative Financial Network. "The bonds are rated
triple-A by Moody's and Standard & Poor's, basically because the Bank is supported by 184 sovereign
nations, because it limits debt issuance relative to the capital supplied by those countries, and
because it does not forgive or reschedule delinquent loans."
The Center for Economic Justice cites this last policy as one of
the primary reasons it and other grassroots organizations decided to launch the World Bank Bonds
Boycott in April 2000. The Center is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to strengthen
international movements that counter corporate-driven globalization and promote more just policy
The goal of the boycott is to compel the World Bank to cancel its debt
claims against poor countries. A number of experts believe that World Bank debt claims contribute
significantly to keeping poor countries poor. The campaign also promotes the cessation of World
Bank funding for projects that have negative environmental implications, such as dams and oil, gas,
and mineral extraction.
The World Bank does not consider its practices and policies to
"The World Bank's website touts the bonds as socially
responsible investments," said Mr. Sandmel. "That, of course, is in the eye of the beholder."
Six other international unions, such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and
the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), have joined the World Bank Bonds Boycott.
Several socially responsible investment (SRI) firms, including the Calvert Group, Parnassus
Investments, Pax World Funds, Trillium Asset Management, and Citizens Funds, support the boycott
and do not invest in World Bank bonds.