Sisters raise human rights concerns at shareholder meeting

Sisters Rose Marie Stallbaumer and Barbara McCracken attended the Caterpillar stockholder meeting in Wamego, Kan., on June 10. Caterpillar has a work tools plant in the small town, located about two and a half hours from Kansas City. It’s an out-of-the-way location for most shareholders and protestors who attended. 

Sister Rose Marie Stallbaumer and Sister Barbara McCrackenMount St. Scholastica is a member of the Benedictine Coalition for Responsible Investment.

Sister Rose Marie presented a Global Standards resolution which Mount St. Scholastica had co-sponsored with Mercy Investment Services and 11 other filers. The resolution asked that Caterpillar, which does business in 21 countries, extend its policy to protect human rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other internationally recognized human rights standards.  

Sister Rose Marie provided shareholders, board of directors and employees with two reasons why Caterpillar needs to develop a better Human Rights policy: 

  1. Caterpillar has operations in Gaza and the Palestinian territories in violation of international law and UN norms on the responsibilities of transnational corporations with regard to human rights; and
  2. Caterpillar has two major facilities in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico where workers earn less than $10 a day.   

Sister Barbara presented two governance resolutions on behalf of filers who were not able to attend the meeting in Wamego.  One asked that the chair of the Board of Directors be an independent member of the Board. The second resolution asked that stockholders be given the right to act by written consent so that shareholders can raise important matters outside the normal annual meeting.  

Following the 30-minute meeting that allowed no opportunity for questions or dialogue, CEO Douglas Oberhelman invited the 200 employees and shareholders to mingle and visit with board members.  

Sisters Barbara and Rose Marie managed to reach a couple of board members and the CEO to express human rights concerns.  The CEO assured them that Caterpillar is coming out with a new human rights policy in August.   Sister Rose Marie asked him to develop the policy using the Global Corporate Responsibility Bench Marks approved by 22 nations.  Barbara reminded him of the power that he has as CEO of a large corporation and asked him to use his power for the good of others.  Although they received no assurance that he would follow either request, they assured him of their prayers.

All attendees were invited on a tour of the Wamego Work Tools plant following the meeting.  During the tour, Sisters Barbara and Rose Marie couldn’t help wondering how the safety of the two plants in Nuevo Laredo compared to this well managed plant.  The highlight of the tour was an opportunity to see a 3-D printer that makes a number of plastic parts for Caterpillar.  The young employee who helped to adapt the 3-D printer for Caterpillar’s use reported that they hope to be able to make metal parts for Caterpillar before long.