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United Students Against Sweatshops

1150 17th St. NW Suite 300 Washington DC 20036; tel: 202-NOSWEAT; fax: 202-293-5308

Ed Potter
Direct of Global Labor Relations, Coca-Cola Company
PO Box 1734
Atlanta, GA 30301

July 28, 2005

Dear Mr. Potter,

We write to you with urgency regarding incidents of labor and human rights abuse at Coca-Cola facilities in Turkey and in Indonesia that have recently come to our attention. The information we have received indicates that in both countries Coca-Cola and its partners have violated internationally-recognized and fundamental labor standards that protect the rights of workers to join a union.

Coca-Cola representatives have repeatedly asserted in the university commission and elsewhere that your company does not consider itself above the law. You have repeatedly said that you are implementing a human rights policy for all workers who make and distribute your products. These cases offer you an opportunity to prove it.

We ask that you provide a clear accounting to us of what actions you are taking to solve the brazen abuses described below by next Thursday, August 4, 2005. In order to avoid irreparable abuse of worker rights, immediate action will be necessary. These actions are spelled out below.

Violations of Worker Rights in Turkey

Within the past several months, workers engaged in the distribution of Coca-Cola products have been fired en masse in what appears to be a transparent effort to end a unionization effort. Workers and family members were then subjected to violence by riot police acting at the behest of the company and placed under arrest. The violations of worker rights concern workers who perform distribution operations for Coca-Cola in Turkey with the contractor Trakya Nakliyat ve Ticaret Ltd. Sti.. They are members of the union DISK/Nakliyat-Is. The following timeline provides background on these incidents:

Mass termination of union members at Dudullu plant

  • Earlier this year, Trakya Nakliyat terminated 5 workers who have been leaders in a unionization effort at Coca-Cola's Dudullu facility. The workers are Fahrettin Takici, Erol Tueredi, Hasan Sirinyurt, Fatih Dilbaz and Mustafa Akin. While management claimed the lay-offs were due to poor work performance, management provided no evidence of this claim; the workers have long, positive records of employment ranging from five to nine years.
  • On May 19, 2005, shortly after the terminations were carried out, a group of workers visited management at Coca-Cola's Dudullu plant to inquire about the reasons for the termination of their colleagues. A meeting ensued among the managers of Coca-Cola's Marmara operations, its Asia distribution program, and the concerned workers. During this meeting, the Coca-Cola representatives told the workers that they should resign from the union, stating that "the Coca-Cola Company shall let no members of the union work with us".
  • On the following day, May 20, 2005, facility management announced the termination of 50 additional workers who were members of the union. The workers were dismissed without severance pay. Since the terminations occurred, the 55 terminated workers have been campaigning to return to work, protesting day-to-night in a cardboard hut in front of the facility.

Mass termination of workers at Yenibosna plant

  • On May 25, 2005, one day after the president of the DISK union federation met with the chairman of Anadolu Enduestri Holding A.S — Coca-Cola's Turkish partner — and received an assurance that problems with labor violations would be resolved, Trakya Nakliyat ve Ticaret Ltd. Sti. announced the termination of more than 50 workers from the its Yenibosna plant, who are members of the DISK union. The terminations were effective July 2, 2005. Trakya Nakliyat claimed that the firings were made necessary by a decision by Coca-Cola Turkey to cancel business with Trakya Nakliyat.
  • During and prior to this period, employees of the Yenibosna plant were pressured to resign from the union by both the authorities of Coca-Cola and Trakya Nakliyat. The union has asserted that the individuals who pressured workers to resign were representatives of Coca-Cola, Oguz Aldemir and Sinan Oktay, and the manager of Trakya Nakliyat ve Ticaret Ltd. Sti,Yasar Erdogan.
  • Since June 17, 2005, the workers who were to be dismissed on July 2, 2005, and who are on collective leave, have erected a tent in front of the Yenibosna plant and have protested to be reinstated.
  • The business relations of Coca-Cola with Trakya Nakliyat ve Ticaret Ltd. Sti, as well as with the plants in Cerkezkoey-Corlu and Bursa, which are not organized, are still in force.

It is clear based upon the information available — the timing of the firings, the individuals fired, and the fact that only workers at unionized plants have been dismissed in such numbers — that workers at both the Dudullu plant and the Yenibosna plant were singled out and terminated because of their membership in the union. This is a clear violation of Turkish law, internationally recognized labor standards, and Coca-Cola's own stated commitment to respecting basic worker rights.

Violence against workers' family members at Yenibosna plant

Following the events described above, workers were subjected to violence during a protest regarding their dismissals.

  • On July 20, 2005, sixty two days since their terminations were announced, the workers from Dudullu organized a demonstration with their families in front of the factory. The workers were protesting what they believed were illegal firings and demanded that they be reinstated. They were subjected to brutal violence by riot police acting at the behest of Coca-Cola.
  • At 10:00 am on this day, workers and their family members, totaling roughly 150 people, entered the facility. Late in the afternoon, the head of the DISK and several other union officials had come to the factory and believed they were in the final process of negotiating a settlement with management when the police violently attacked the workers and family members. Police used tear gas and physically assaulted those present, causing serious injury to a number of workers' children and spouses.
  • Following this incident, 92 people — including the president, an executive committee member of DISK/Nakliyat-Is union, and the union's lawyer — were placed under arrest. 85 of these individuals were subsequently released, but seven people — including the president of Nakliyat-Is, Ali Riza Kuecuekosmanoglu and the executive committee member of Nakliyat-is Recep Vurmus — were still under arrest by the Security Administration of Istanbul as of July 22, 2005.

Given that the workers and their families were physically present in the Coca-Cola factory when they were attacked, it is clear that the police could not have carried out the violent actions described above without the authorization of Coca-Cola officials. Coca-Cola is therefore responsible for the violence against workers and for the arrest of union members and officials.

In light of these abuses, Coca-Cola and its partners should immediately take the following steps with respect to the situation in Turkey:

  1. Offer immediate reinstatement with back-pay for each of the workers terminated at the Dudullu and Yenibosna plants.
  2. Drop any criminal charges against workers or union officials arising from the protest by workers to win reinstatement.
  3. Cease all acts of anti-union intimidation in the workplace, and issue a written statement to workers guaranteeing that workers will not be the subject of retaliation in any way for choosing to exercise their legal right to join a trade union.

Violations of Worker Rights in Indonesia

We have also been recently made aware of abuses of worker rights at a Coca-Cola producing facility in Indonesia. This case concerns the United Can Company, which is among Asia's largest manufacturers of rigid packaging product. Its primary customer in Indonesia is Coca-Cola.

  • In October 2004, 48 workers of the PT United Can Company announced their intention to form an independent union. The union is called Gabungan Serikat Buruh Indepedent PT (the Federation of Independent Trade Unions at United Can Company), which is affiliated with the national federation GSBI.
  • Since the union announced its formation, factory management has engaged in a campaign of intimidation and bribery against union members and leaders. On repeated and persistent occasions since October 2004, factory managers have pressured workers to resign from the union by interrogating not only the workers concerned, but their children, spouses, and other family members. In these conversations, managers have made frequent threats that the workers and their families would suffer economically from membership in the union, and that the company will never accept a GSBI associated union in the facility. At the end of each conversation, management has typically given workers a form to resign from the union. Members of management have also offered substantial bribes to workers who are willing to resign; for example, the first president of the union was reportedly paid some $11,000 in exchange for resigning as president and a member of the union.
  • In response, GSBI officials have sent letters and personally asked management to stop interrogating and intimidating its members. Factory management has ignored these communications and instead has continued to interrogate workers and promises financial rewards to workers who resign from the union.
  • On and around June 21, 2005, the United Can Company announced the termination of 12 workers who are leaders in the unionization effort. In its dismissal letter, factory management explicitly states that the workers are being fired for their union activity, specifically for circulating a newsletter among workers in the facility saying that the factory has "lost trust and cannot tolerate" the workers, and they would be terminated immediately and barred from entering the company area without permission.

These actions represent clear illegal intimidation and retaliation against workers who have chosen to form a union. To correct these abuses, Coca-Cola should require United Can Company to:

  1. Offer immediate reinstatement with back pay to each of the 12 union officials who have been terminated.
  2. Cease all acts of anti-union intimidation in the workplace, and issue a written statement to workers guaranteeing that that workers will not be the subject of retaliation in any way for choosing to exercise their legal right to join a trade union.
  3. Begin negotiations toward a collective bargaining agreement with the workers' newly formed union.

We would like to emphasize that it will not be acceptable for Coca-Cola to deflect responsibility for these abuses by claiming that it does not formally employ some of the workers involved. Coca-Cola has already sought to do this in the initial legal proceedings regarding the termination of workers at the Dudullu plant in Turkey in late June. These workers make and distribute your products and you are responsible to ensure their rights are respected. As the primary business partner of each of the contractors in the cases described here, Coca-Cola has all the power it needs to correct these abuses.

We look forward to hearing how you will proceed. You can contact Jessica Rutter at the USAS office, 202-667-9328, to further discuss these matters.


United Students Against Sweatshops

Neville Isdell, CEO Coca-Cola Company
Sueleyman Celebi, General Secretary, DISK Confederation, Turkey
Central Secretariate, GSBI, Indonesia
Glen Fichman, University of California
Larry Mann, University of Illinois
Tom Drexler, Depaul University
Dennis Poszywak, University of Michigan
Rick Van Brimmer, Ohio State University
Lon Moeller, University of Iowa
Jim Wilkerson, Duke University
Jeff Hermanson, Solidarity Center
Terry Collingsworth, International Labor Rights Fund
Dan Kovalik, United Steelworkers
Javier Correa Suarez, SINALTRAINAL, Colombia
Ray Rogers, Corporate Campaigns, Inc.
Scott Nova, Worker Rights Consortium
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center

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