Chicago City Council calls for Iran divestment

Federal, state elected officials urge full divestiture.

Chicago's City Council has called on its largest public employee pension fund, the Municipal Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund, to divest its assets from companies doing business in Iran's energy sector.

The resolution, introduced by 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith, was co-sponsored by nearly half the council members and City Clerk Susana Mendoza, and passed the full Council unanimously on Thursday.  A video of the proceedings is available at the 2:09:51 mark here.

Several aldermen spoke passionately in favor of the measure, including Smith, Joe Moore, James Balcer, and Ed Burke. Ald. Smith proclaimed divestment as long overdue: "Already 23 states, including our own, and 13 metropolitan governments, including New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, have divested from Iran's nuclear sector."

Committee on Finance Chairman Ed Burke also spoke on behalf of the resolution, testifying that Chicago City Council, in financially pressuring unjust regimes and corporate entities throughout its history, including apartheid South Africa and Swiss banks that had misappropriated funds belonging to victims of the Holocaust, would be in "noble company to prohibit any link of our pension funds or employee annuities with the Nation of Iran. This is a policy we've adopted in the past, and one we should adopt today."

Chairman Burke also announced the many letters of support he received from IL State and Federal elected officials, addressed to the Trustees of the City and County pension funds and urging their full divestiture. Letters were submitted by Senators Kirk and Durbin, almost every member of the IL House of Representatives delegation, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, and many State legislators. To view the letters, click here.

The city's action takes place just a month after the Cook County Board  passed a similar resolution, urging its own pension fund to divest. Peter Friedman, the Jewish Federation's Government Affairs Vice-Chair of Metropolitan Government, said "We are proud to say that it is now the official policy of both Cook County and the City of Chicago that the public employee pension investment of even one dollar in Iran's energy sector is a dollar too much."

As both measures are non-binding, the decision to implement divestment lies with the trustees of the pension funds. Federation will continue to advocate for the resolutions' implementation.

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