Burnaby, Canada – The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) – a major Canadian labour union with an innovative and aggressive capital stewardship strategy – has filed a shareholder proposal raising concerns about human rights impacts at the $8-billion software and media company Thomson Reuters (TSX/NYSE: TRI).
"Like many unions, the BCGEU invests members' dues to grow our union," says Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU since 2014. "Unlike most unions, the BCGEU has a capital stewardship program in place that helps us leverage our power as an investor to demand action from companies on the issues that matter for our members, and all working people. Our proposal to Thomson Reuters raises one of those issues: human rights, including the rights of children."
Thomson Reuters currently holds US$60 million in contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under those contracts, Thomson Reuters' CLEAR® software provides the data that ICE uses in its Immigration Enforcement program to track, arrest, detain, and deport foreign nationals-including children-on a massive scale.
ICE uses CLEAR® to collate information from multiple databases, including utilities, live cell phone records, social media posts, DMV records, property, criminal/arrest and court records, business data, healthcare provider information, and license plate recognition, among others. One of the main benefits to ICE is that CLEAR® is not subject to the same legal restrictions on collection and retention of data as a government-run software would be.
"The point of our shareholder proposal is simple: we are asking Thomson Reuters to address the obvious human rights issues related to how their software is being used and to make sure the company is living up to its obligations as a participant in the United Nations Global Compact. The United Nations considers family separation and detention illegal under international law," said Smith. "We see this as an ethical issue as well as a risk to investors."
Concerns with these contracts, and ICE's Immigrant Enforcement program, are particularly timely in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. ICE continues to conduct immigration raids using Thomson Reuters' software despite shelter-in-place orders, and continues to detain subjects in facilities that present a substantial risk for transmission of the virus due to lack of access to sanitation, testing, and healthcare in addition to inability to practice physical distancing or other public health measures.
Human rights advocates, lawyers and detainees themselves are raising concerns that a massive outbreak inside these facilities is a ticking time bomb waiting to happen.
"While Thomson Reuters has built a brand as a trusted news source, few people realize that the news operation is largely financed by the company's role as a data broker for agencies like ICE," says Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign director at Mijente, a digital and grassroots organizing hub for Latinx and Chicanx people. Mijente has been leading the challenge to hold companies who have contracts with ICE accountable. "There are enormous risks associated with doing business with ICE, and those risks are currently being ignored. Thomson Reuters needs to address the very serious human rights concerns with these contracts."
Thomson Reuters currently holds six distinct contracts with ICE worth nearly US$60 million. The contracts are held with two subsidiary companies, Thomson Reuters Special Services LLC and West Publishing Corporation. BCGEU expects strong support for this proposal given similarities to a TJX Companies proposal in 2019 that was supported by a significant 39 per cent of shareholders.
The Thomson Reuters annual general meeting will take place virtually on June 3, 2020 from Toronto.
Read the proposal and cover letter here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1587136015/20200417_Thomson_Reuters_Shareholder_Proposal_and_cover_letter.pdf?1587136015
Read the excerpt from Thomson Reuters management circular here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1587137216/TR_-_Proposal_and_Response_%282020%29.pdf?1587137216
The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in B.C. with 80,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province. Learn more at www.bcgeu.ca
Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals to companies including Royal Bank of Canada, Brookfield Asset Management and Loblaw on topics like human rights, sexual misconduct, and executive compensation. The union's strategy has succeeded in achieving strong commitments on human rights due diligence, vertical pay analysis, food waste and climate disclosure.
Do you like this post?