CFA Passionately, Defiantly Calls on CalPERS to End its Investments in Private Prison Operators…and Evokes a Response

On Monday, more than 40 CFA activists converged on CalPERS’ headquarters, marking the latest action in our union’s months long campaign to compel the pension system to end its investments in private prison operators CoreCivic and GEO Group. However, this meeting played out differently than previous ones.

CalPERS board members Theresa Taylor, Lisa Middleton, David Miller, and Stacie Olivares all acknowledged that they clearly hear our concerns – and even share them – and appreciate our continued advocacy. Taylor, Vice President of the Board, immediately thanked members for sharing their compelling stories and responded that the Board is listening, saying, “We are looking into this, we are working on this. I, myself, through my union, went and did a tour of two CoreCivic facilities…I understand and I hear your concerns and we are looking into this.”

The positive responses from the assembled CalPERS board members came after another round of spirited commentary from CFA members, many of whom traveled long distances, to support this campaign.

Susan Green, CFA Treasurer and History professor at CSU Chico, kicked things off emphatically by remarking, “I simply cannot live with knowing that the money I earn is being used to further the deplorable work of companies like CoreCivic and GEO Group, which have been repeatedly criticized for the dreadful conditions of their facilities and the inhumane treatment of their detainees.” As she relayed her comments, a sea of CFA-red rose behind her, as our members stood with her in solidarity.

Michelle Ramos Pellicia shared with the Board a recent discussion she had with her students at CSU San Marcos, where she is a professor of Spanish Sociolinguistics. “Last week, I spoke with some of my students about my plan to come here today and speak on this issue. After outlining the matter, their disappointment was palpable, with one of them remarking, ‘You’re saying that your pension is invested in camps where people like me are imprisoned, caged like animals?’” 

More than a dozen CFA members also spoke on the record with statements reiterating their support for CFA’s demands in solidarity with the other speakers. View the testimony here.

Although no clear decision about next steps by the Board was announced, this was perhaps the clearest indication that our strategy is making a sustained impression on CalPERS officials.

“We knew from the beginning that this was not going to be an easy fight,” said Margarita Berta-Avila, CFA’s Associate Vice President. “It’s been a long four months, but CFA members have shown up in a big way. I could not be prouder of my union siblings, who month after month have exhibited an unwavering passion and dedication to affecting change on this matter.”

Members also delivered more than 500 signed postcards at the September meeting, underscoring their desire to see CalPERS end these investments. We will continue to keep up the pressure until we see real movement. Contact your chapter to get involved.