North / South America
Protesters urge change at Caterpillar
Jun, 14 2012
(Illinois) -- Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc., the heavy equipment maker, held its annual shareholders meeting in San Antonio Wednesday, a gathering that drew a dozen protesters outside the Marriott Riverwalk hotel where it was held.
The protesters said Caterpillar sells its bulldozers to the Israeli army, which has used them to destroy Palestinian homes and agricultural property in the occupied Palestinian territories, actions that stand in violation of international humanitarian law.
“Caterpillar is not living up to its own code of conduct or the United Nations' code of conduct,” said protester Judith Norman, a San Antonio resident and professor of philosophy at Trinity University.
On the sidewalk outside the hotel, protester and San Antonio poet Naomi Shihab Nye said some of her family members still live in the West Bank, where Caterpillar bulldozers “are seen as weaponry. Families are terrified when they see them come into their neighborhood.”
The protesters said they want Caterpillar's board to amend the company's policies so that they “conform to international human rights and humanitarian standards,” according to a proposal offered for shareholders' approval. And protesters want to extend those policies to those who distribute or sell Caterpillar products.
They said Caterpillar's current policy, its Worldwide Code of Conduct, does not refer to existing international human rights codes except for a corporate policy of non-discrimination.
“We believe company policies should reflect more robust, comprehensive understanding of human rights,” according to the proposal.
Caterpillar urged its shareholders to reject the proposal, and it wasn't approved, according to Gabriel Schivone, a shareholder who attended the meeting in support of the resolution. But Schivone said he was encouraged that it was supported by about one-fifth of Caterpillar's stockholders.
Schivone said he spoke on behalf of the largest Jewish-American peace group, Jewish Voice for Peace, and several other religious organizations.
Caterpillar didn't return calls seeking comment and didn't confirm that one-fifth of shareholders voted for the proposal.
In its proxy, Caterpillar said it believes its code of conduct “effectively articulates” its support and commitment to human rights.
There was heavy security at the company's annual meeting, held at 8 a.m. Attendees were required to go through a metal detector before being admitted.
Caterpillar, a major maker of construction and mining equipment, owns a plant in Seguin. Holt Cat in San Antonio is a major distributor of Caterpillar products.
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