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Turkish Coke bottler under fire

By CAROLINE WILBERT
Issue: 11/3/05
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

United Students against Sweatshops, the student organization that has been trying to get Coca-Cola banned from college campuses for alleged human rights violations in Colombia, is adding Turkey to its list of concerns.

The group held a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, alleging that within the last several months, employees of a Coke bottler in Turkey were fired for joining a union. These workers protested and were beaten by police at the behest of Coke, the student group alleges.
In a related move, the International Labor Rights Fund plans to file a lawsuit next week against Coke on behalf of the Turkish workers, said the ILRF's attorney, Terry Collingsworth.

Coke says the labor dispute in Turkey has been resolved.

"The Coca-Cola Co. and its bottling partners comply with all applicable labor and employment laws in the countries in which we do business," said Coke spokeswoman Kari Bjorhus in a statement. "We recognize international labor standards and are committed to respecting the workplace human rights of our employees and the parties with whom we do business. We respect our employees' right to join or not join labor unions, and ensure that those rights are exercised without fear of retaliation, repression or any other form of discrimination."

The action Wednesday is part of a much broader campaign that the United Students against Sweatshops, the International Labor Rights Fund and other labor activists have been waging against Coca-Cola in recent years.

The majority of protest activity has centered on accusations the company has been complicit in violence against union members in Colombia. Coke has vigorously denied the charges.

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