Prominent faith-based institutional investors are pressuring several of the Chamber of Commerce's biggest members -- including Merck, Walmart, McDonald's, AT&T, IBM and General Electric -- to state publicly if they agree with the chamber's campaign to defeat health care reform.
All of the 36 companies have agreed to "embrace health care principles that are now inconsistent with the anti-reform stance of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on health care legislation," reads the press release from the 275-member Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).
The three dozen targeted companies are (in alphabetical order): Aetna; American Express; AT&T; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Cardinal Health; Cisco Systems; Duke Energy; DuPont; Eli Lilly; Exxon Mobil; General Electric; General Mills; Goldman Sachs; Home Depot; IBM; Kellogg; Kohl's; Manpower; Marriott; McDonald's; Medco; Merck; Peabody; Pepsi; Pfizer; Safeway; Staples; Starbucks; Target; 3 M; UnitedHealth Group; United Technologies; Verizon; Walmart; Wellpoint; and Xerox.
The letter to the companies reads:
"Does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce speak for [your corporation] when it opposes healthcare reform? As members of the faith community and concerned investors we have been troubled by the efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to undermine efforts to curb global warming. We are equally concerned that the same tactics seem evident in the Chamber's attempts to undermine efforts to bring about a just health care system available to all citizens. Given the position that the Company has taken in endorsing core precepts for healthcare reform, we are asking you in this letter to communicate in a clear public voice whether or not the Chamber has your 'proxy' when it comes to healthcare reform policy...
As shareholders in major companies threatened by a broken health care system, we are united in our view that that the status quo in health care is unsustainable. It has runaway cost increases, presents great risk for employers as well as employees and leaves millions uninsured ... Given the current campaign of the Chamber of Commerce, we ask you to provide answers to these questions: (1) Does the Company agree with the Chamber's campaign in opposition to health care reform? (2) Will the Company publicly distance itself from the Chamber's position in opposition to health care reform? (3) What are the Company's plans to contribute in a constructive way to the health care debate going forward?"
Last month, the Huffington Post asked readers to send along names of members of the Chamber of Commerce.