Free Website Translator

Coca-Cola debate stirs McMaster
Human rights at center of vote
Exclusive deal worth $6 million

Issue: 10/19/05
Toronto Star

Questions about freedom of choice and alleged human rights abuses in Colombia are fuelling a referendum this week as students at McMaster University decide if they want Coca-Cola to be the only soft drink sold on campus.

The vote is on the Hamilton schools' exclusive contract with Coke, a company critics allege is linked to violent paramilitary security forces in Colombia.

"This isn't just about taste: The real problem is for people making ethical decisions not to drink Coca-Cola," said Adam Tracey, a 22-year-old referendum organizer.

More than 17,000 full-time students will be eligible to cast ballots tomorrow and Thursday on McMaster University's 10-year, $6 million deal with the company, inked in 1998.

Ray Rogers, a U.S. activist involved with the campaign, cited an ongoing lawsuit filed in the U.S. in 2001 alleging paramilitary groups murdered seven union leaders and a plant manager at Coke plants in Colombia.

The Atlanta-based company blasted the allegations as "false," saying in a statement the company had been "an exemplary member" of Colombia's business community.

The referendum asks whether the student union should oppose the contract, and whether it should urge the university not to renew the agreement.

Roger Trull, a McMaster vice-president, said while the current agreement won't be changed, the vote could influence any future exclusive beverage deals.

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of corporate accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.