Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Update
Many Terrific Reports This Week: March 9, 2005 Newsletter
More at the Colleges! Worldwide Actions! Taco Bell Boycott Ends!
Contents of This Newsletter
- First Action for new Halifax's Chapter of the Campaign at the Royal Bank of Canada
- Iowa State University
- Rutgers University
- New York University
- Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
- University of Michigan
- USAS Campaign at University of California Berkeley
- UK Indymedia: Coca-Cola distribution plant in Bristol is being blockaded
- Taco Bell Campaign Victory/2005 Taco Bell Truth Tour: Feb. 28 – March 14
- Increase in Paramilitary Threats in Barrancabermeja, Colombia
- Progress report from the Campaign's DC Chapter
- ACT for the Earth's Killer Coke web page
- The Killer Coke Campaign at the Educators to Stop the War Conference
- Lawsuit vs. Diet Coke and Pepsi
- More Alternative Beverages
- Take Actions Against Coke!
- Please send photos, reports of events, etc. for the Campaign website
Report from the Halifax Campaign:
KILLER COKE ACTIVISTS TARGET RBC SHAREHOLDERS MEETING
On Friday, February 25, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) held its annual shareholders meeting at the World Trade and Convention Centre (WTCC) in Halifax. More than a dozen activists with the Halifax Chapter of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke greeted RBC staff and investors at this event.
The group protested the presence of J. Pedro Reinhard on the RBC board of directors. In addition to his role as a top RBC policy advisor, Reinhard sits on the boards of Coke and Dow Chemical, two corporations that have refused responsibility for egregious environmental and human rights crimes. The RBC agenda for the meeting included a discussion of instructions and procedures for voting for RBC Board of Directors, the appointment of the company's auditor and shareholder proposals.
The activists, who included several high school and university students, handed out hundreds of leaflets while chatting with shareholders in the registration area of the WTCC. As security and police finally pushed the group out of the room, the activists pulled Killer Coke placards from under their coats and loudly chanted:
"RBC, THIS IS NO JOKE! STEP AWAY FROM KILLER COKE!"
Following this noisy action, the activists covered all the entrances to the building for the rest of the morning and made sure that everyone entering the meetings received information about the crimes committed by Coke and Dow. Several of the shareholders stopped to ask questions about the campaign against Reinhard.
Members of the Halifax Chapter to Stop Killer Coke are committed to escalating this campaign against Killer Coke until the corporation accepts responsibility for its human rights and environmental crimes around the world.
The Halifax Daily News (Nova Scotia), "Profit picture crowns Royal AGM report," Feb. 26, 2005
(The boldfaced part of the article reports on the Campaign's action.)
Iowa State Daily, "Anti-Coke campaign reaches city, asks Ames to boycott popular soda," by Eric Lund, March 1, 2005
Letter to the Editor by a Campaign activist to the Iowa State Daily:
The ACBC (Ames Campaign to Boycott Coke) is calling for the nonconsumption of Coca-Cola products. The die-in demonstrations held on Wednesday, both outside of Parks Library and inside the Memorial Union, were designed to bring attention to a principal concern: the human rights crisis that U.S. military aid is creating in Colombia.
The United States is involved in a "counter-insurgency" campaign being conducted by the Colombian government. U.S. military aid funds paramilitary death squads in Colombia that fight against the leftist insurgency. This is done through 'Plan Colombia' ($1.3 billion aid package, with %80 marked for military use) and was done through the 'Andean Initiative' ($2.1 billion aid package, '91-'94, for economic and military assistance), in the name of drug eradication and interdiction. Corporations, like Coke, are able to hire these paramilitary death squads, specifically the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, to intimidate and murder Colombian trade unionists. The School of the Americas located in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains soldiers to protect the interests of U.S. corporations. The SOA prepares military and police forces to respond to current threats to the achievement of economic development alongside free market principles. These forces are in Colombia and Coke is a U.S. corporation.
In 1996, the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals that were used at the School of the Americas. These SOA manuals advocated targeting those who support union organizing or recruiting, distribute propaganda in favor of the interests of workers, sympathize with demonstrations or strike, and make accusations that the government has failed to meet the needs of the people. SINALTRAINAL, a Colombian Food Industry labor union, has fought for workers for over 50 years. SINALTRAINAL members and leaders have been continuously murdered, kidnapped and tortured. And it has been documented.
The implications come from the connections. Though, you've got to dig, you're not going to be spoonfed.
Coca-Cola has bottling plants in over 200 countries. More than 70 percent of their income comes from outside the U.S. The CEO of Coke, E. Neville Isdell, is a leading member and trustee of the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies), which generates strategic insights, convenes strategic networks, crafts policy solutions and cultivates political and economic leaders. There are 442,210 Coke retailers in Colombia. That's a lot of money to be made. Even more if you can get away with cheap, poor working conditions.
Connect the dots. There are mountains of information out there.
The ACBC recognizes, supports and fights for human rights. Specifically, this is done through a local campaign to boycott Coke, which is a socially irresponsible corporation and human rights violator. We recognize that U.S. foreign policy allows and encourages such business practices in the name of profit and that the relationship between the Colombian government, the U.S. government, paramilitary forces and U.S. corporations is cause for concern and action.
The ACBC is an example of a worldwide struggle; the struggle for human rights. We're calling on you to withdraw your support from all Coca-Cola products because Coke is a corporation that adds to the humanitarian crisis. Buying Coke supports the violations of human rights.
Liberal Arts & Sciences-Open Option
3. Rutgers University
The Campaign at Rutgers University has been going strong. We prepared a special leaflet for Rutgers, which can be found at on our website.
A meeting was held between Coke representatives and members of Rutgers' University administration and food services and members of the American Assn. of University Professors (AAUP), the union at the university that had recently passed a resolution to ban Coke from Rutgers. The chapter also sent a letter to the President of the University.
Below is a report from the meeting:
"I was briefed by Ray Rogers, campaign director for the Stop Killer Coke campaign, prior to this meeting. He went over, in great detail, what the representatives would say and then gave me resources to disprove their responses. Without fail, they followed what I was briefed on to the letter.
- "They stated that Coca-Cola in the USA was dismissed from the lawsuit but the bottlers weren't. The judge in the case is still trying to determine if the case has jurisdiction in this country. Truth be told, the case dismissal wasn't based on the merits of the case but a lack of evidence that Coca-Cola had any control over their bottlers in Colombia. Ray and others feel confident that this decision will be overturned because the judge failed to give any opportunity for discovery nor would he accept evidence from the plaintiffs that Coca-Cola does control their bottlers. The way they control them is to pack the bottlers' boards with their own representatives. For example, the biggest bottler in Colombia, Coca-Cola FEMSA (97% of the market), has three top executives from Coca-Cola and one Board of Directors member who sit on their board. Forbes magazine stated that in this way, they hold significant stock (The Coca-Cola Company owns 39.6% of Femsa's capital stock, representing 46.4% of Femsa's capital stock with full voting rights.), but never more than 50% to avoid liability. The other way they control their bottlers is through their bottling agreements. Coca-Cola in Atlanta requires very specific details as to production and distribution of their products and they actively are involved in making sure those specific details are followed. However, Atlanta doesn't get involved in any worker issues, other than requiring them to wear Coca-Cola uniforms and drive Coca-Cola trucks.
- "The Coke representatives also stated that they've been exonerated from all allegations by the Colombian courts and prosecutors. Well, duh! That's the reason that the plaintiffs took the case to the United States. None of these crimes against workers have seen justice. There has never been an arrest and there has never been a court action in Colombia. There is no justice system because paramilitary forces work with the government. What I found so damning for the Coca-Cola representatives was on one hand, Paublo, the attorney from Colombia, discussed in great detail the political conditions in his country and discussed how corrupt the system there is. Yet, on the other hand, they've been exonerated by the very same system!
- "The representatives discussed that because of the lawsuit, they couldn't comment on the independent investigation that they conducted but that it cleared the company of any wrong doing. But who did the report? Turns out that a law firm by the name of White & Case conducted this "independent investigation." Well, by 2003, White & Case became the law firm representing the Coca-Cola Company in its human rights case filed in Miami. In fact, the executive partner for the firm is on the board of directors of Coca-Cola FEMSA, the largest bottler in Colombia, which is a defendant in the lawsuit. No such report could be considered independent! The representatives claimed that at the time of the investigation, White & Case weren't on the Miami case. Sure they weren't.
- "The representatives talked about the other unions at the other bottling plants and how they had great labor agreements with them — they mentioned 11 unions total. Well, unfortunately, there is evidence that these "unions," aside from SINALTRAINAL, are company unions established by the company to look good on paper but not in practice. SINALTRAINAL represents the majority of unionized workers — more than all the other unions combined. For example, one union that the representatives mentioned and held up as having a great contract is SINALTRAINBEC. This union has only 25 members, 9 of whom want to be in SINALTRAINAL! The other union SICO, which is the union that took over after the paramilitary murdered the leaders and wiped out the union at the Carepa plant, appears to be a company union.
- "When specifically questioned on the NYC fact-finding delegations report by Hiram Monserrate, the representatives said he was not acting in an official capacity as a NYC Council Member and that he only talked to plaintiffs and not any other workers or managers. (Read Report) Well, it's not like Monserrate didn't ask! Coca-Cola refused to participate in the Monserrate delegation investigation. They say this is because the union took the matter to the courts and now they are not allowed to participate in any investigation that might interfere with the lawsuit proceedings.
- "When specifically questioned on the proposal of the NYC Pension Funds for an independent investigation of the allegations made against the company, they didn't really have much to say except to repeat that it's because the union went to the courts. The NYC Retirement System wants Coca-Cola to provide an independent assessment to prove allegations aren't true. Coca-Cola refused to do this. The system owns 5,257,217 shares in Coca-Cola, estimated to be worth some $209,132,092.26. You'd think they'd budge on their position!
- "When presented with a letter from 15 U.S. members of Congress regarding the situation in Colombia, they said they "handled" the situation. Because of restructuring into Coca-Cola FEMSA, some jobs were eliminated. The representatives claimed that "packages" were offered to affected workers. I don't have confirmation that this was an acceptable resolution to the issues raised by the Congresspersons.
- "While the representatives denied all of these allegations as "misinformation," they did discuss how the company plans on making things better, not only in Colombia, but around the world. They framed it as "two buckets" — with the past allegations one bucket and their actions today as the other bucket. The best line of the day came from Paul Panyatotis, who said, "The problem is that both buckets have holes, and we have to make a decision now."
"After our meeting, the Coke representatives went to the Rutgers Club for dinner with the Beverage Contract Committee members. It is my impression that some of these players would like to switch to Pepsi, the only other vendor capable of handling the dining halls. However, it is my strong impression that Charles Sams, Director of Dining Services, wants to remain with Coke, probably because of the work that will be involved in the switch. I believe we have to remain diligent and actively participate in student actions regarding this situation. For example, Tent State University students talked about having a forum on this issue during their week of activities. I'd like to see the AAUP involved with this, and any other student group response."
Coke/Exclusive Beverage Contract Committee Public Hearing - Notes/Ideas," By Rutgers Sustainable
Students who would like to help distribute Campaign materials, contact Tammy at email@example.com or Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org
From: AMOnline.com: News, Information and Solutions for Vending and OCS Professionals:
In the introduction to the first Washington Square News article below, "Senate votes down Coca-Cola ban," AMOnline.com recognized the strength of our Campaign and its danger to Coca-Cola:
"Editor's Insight: The 'Campaign to Stop Killer Coke' is growing on college campuses nationwide. Vending operators who service colleges need to know Coca-Cola Co.'s position in this matter. It is not inconceivable that vending operators that vend Coke products could become targeted by this campaign.
"It is also possible that operators serving unionized industrial accounts could be questioned. The 'Campaign to Stop Killer Coke' has sought support from U.S. labor unions."
Washington Square News, "Senate votes down Coca-Cola ban: Campaigners plan protest for Thursday," by Barbara Leonard, March 7, 2005
("Campaign director Ray Rogers said he questioned NYU's stake in the Coca-Cola Company, citing that … Barry Diller, … sits on NYU's Board of Trustees.
"'Is his money and influence playing any role in the university dragging its feet on this issue?" Rogers said. "It seems that the University Senate seems to be getting tangled in a bureaucratic morass that slows things down to a snail's pace.'")
Washington Square News, "Senate kills killer Coke," by WSN Editorial Board, March 7, 2005
Washington Square News, "Activists: Hold off vote on Coke ban: After Sexton challenge, Killer Coke campaign asks for chance to lobby senate committee," by Barbara Leonard and Kayleigh Kulp, March 3, 2005
Bloomberg.com, "Coca-Cola Faces Student, Campus Boycotts Over Colombia Murders, "by Steve Matthews, March 2, 2005
(There's an audio interview with a shareholder, linked from just after the title of the article, who discusses the company, the protests and the importance of students to Coke. To hear the interview, you'll have to put up with a visual ad.
5. Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
The Chronicle (Hofstra University), "SAI Presents Campaign Against Coke, By Kelsey Ackerman, March 3, 2005
"Students Against Injustice (SAI) presented President Stuart Rabinowitz and University administration with a campaign to end the University's exclusive contract with Coca-Cola."
6. University of Michigan
Michigan Daily, "Investigation of Coke starts," By Jeremy Davidson, March 8, 2005
"The second phase of the University's hearing of the allegations brought against the Coca-Cola Company began yesterday, when the newly formed Dispute Review Board agreed to conduct a formal investigation on the charges."
7. Support the USAS Killer Coke Campaign at Universilty of California Berkeley
"Despite these abuses, many University of California campuses have lucrative contracts with Coca-Cola. Please join us in telling UC's Vice President for Business and Finance that Coca-Cola must either shape up or ship out!"
8. UK Indymedia, Coca-Cola distribution plant in Bristol is being Blockaded
A report from Bristol University (UK):
Just to keep you up to date with what's going on here. Bristol University passed a motion at the Student Union AGM to join the boycott. This now requires a lot of further action though to make it reality as we are tied into contracts with both NUSSL, the NUS buying consortium, and TUCO through the University Catering Services. You may or may not know that we also had a UK Students against Coke conference last weekend, hosted by Leeds University. It was very useful and we hope will add a little more organisation and momentum behind the campaign.
Will keep you posted on future events, but keep an eye out. Thanks for the support that you are giving. I was wondering whether you have such a student network in America? If so it would be great to be in contact with them, exchange ideas and maybe harmonise events.
We are more powerful than they can possibly imagine!
UK Students Against Coke
Students: to Contact Caroline, write to: email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lucas Benitez, CIW/239-503-0133
Julia Perkins, CIW/239-986-0891
Laurie Schalow, Taco Bell Corp.
949-863-3915 or onsite at 949-637-1153
COALITION OF IMMOKALEE WORKERS, TACO BELL® REACH GROUNDBREAKING AGREEMENT
CIW to end Taco Bell boycott; Taco Bell to pay penny-per-pound surcharge demanded by workers, will work with CIW to raise farm labor standards in supply chain, across industry as a whole
March 8, 2005 (IMMOKALEE/LOUISVILLE) – In a precedent-setting move, fast-food industry leader Taco Bell Corp., a division of Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM), has agreed to work with the Florida-based farm worker organization, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), to address the wages and working conditions of farmworkers in the Florida tomato industry.
Taco Bell announced today that it will fund a penny per pound "pass-through" with its suppliers of Florida tomatoes, and will undertake joint efforts with the CIW on several fronts to improve working conditions in Florida's tomato fields. For its part, the CIW has agreed to end its three-year boycott of Taco Bell, saying that the agreement "sets a new standard of social responsibility for the fast-food industry."
The following is an item that we were placing in our newsletter announcing the National Convergence for Farmworker Justice on March 12:
The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke has made contact with Truth Tour. On March 12 there is a National Convergence for Farmworker Justice in Louisville, Kentucky. The makeup of the event will be farmworkers, students, unionists, faith-based activists, and folks from community groups... a little bit of everyone. Join farmworkers and thousands of their allies — including actor and activist Martin Sheen — as they rally outside the global headquarters of Yum Brands (Taco Bell's parent company) for a day of music, speeches, and colorful theater calling for an end to sweatshops in the fields!
Check out the Web site
The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke congratulates the CIW on their hard-won victory!
The threat of paramilitary attacks against human rights activists in the city of Barrancabermeja in Colombia has increased in the past week. On February 26, I received a message from William Mendoza, president of the Coca-Cola workers' union in Barrancabermeja. He wrote, "We're very worried, but we're continuing in the struggle. They've started calling my house again to threaten me, and Luz (William's wife) is very nervous. I tell you that I've never been more concerned, but as they say, 'It's better to die for something, than to die for nothing.'"
The union sent out an action alert on February 26 and I talked to William on February 28. There are reports that members of the Bloque Capital paramilitary group from Bogotá are present in Barrancabermeja. The commander of that group, alias "Botalon," is evidently in charge of carrying out the "Final Operation" to eliminate the leaders of the social justice organizations that still remain in the city. The target list includes Yolanda Becerra, director of the Low-Income Women's Organization (Organización Femenina Popular), that visited Montana in October 2001. William said that the paramilitaries of the Bloque Capital are experts in killing people that have body guards. The concern is that rather than selectively killing one of the social leaders, the paramilitaries will eliminate all of the leaders in one operation.
William and the union are requesting that messages be sent to Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos, who is in charge of the government's human rights program. At the end of this message is the e-mail address and fax number for the vice president, along with a suggested message in Spanish and the English translation of that message.
Please take a moment now to defend the lives of William, Yolanda, and the other social leaders in Barrancabermeja.
Community Action for Justice in the Americas (CAJA)
11. Progress report from the Campaign's DC Chapter:
On Tuesday, February 22, we in the Washington D.C. Chapter of the Stop Killer Coke campaign attended a speech at American University given by Luis Cardona, a member of SINALTRAINAL living in exile in America. Fortunately, we were able to announce our presence at the meeting, distribute literature, and get in contact with dozens of concerned students. We were even invited to dine with Mr. Cardona and his lawyer from the International Labor Rights Fund, along with numerous devoted student activists. The American University Solidarity group, an organization devoted to workers' rights, expressed interest in collaborating with us in an on-campus demonstration and continuing to apply pressure to the administration to break the remaining five years of their contract with Coca-Cola. We plan on doing the same at Georgetown University this coming week by distributing literature on Coca-Cola's abuses and SunTrust's complicity in hopes of spreading the word and adding more people and momentum to the cause.
To contact the DC Chapter, e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to the DC Chapter's Web site
13. The Campaign at the Educators to Stop the War Conference
Members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke set up a table at the successful Educators to Stop the War conference on March 5 at Hunter College High School in New York City. More than 700 educators and students attended. Weeks before the conference, we spoke to the organizers about excluding Coke products, which they did. When the organizers discussed beverages with the caterer, he already knew about Coke's abuses: "I know about Coke," he said. "They are against unions." And he asked for a list of what not to provide.
On the floor behind the auditorium was a Powerade (a Coke product) vending machine. Someone taped a sign over the coin slot that read: "Out of Order due to human rights and environmental abuses," along with one of our campus leaflets. The signs remained on the machine through the entire day.
We set up a Campaign table in the Literature room. We distributed hundreds of leaflets, posters and stickers to the participants, had conversations with many educators and students and collected email addresses for the Campaign's online newsletter.
14. Lawsuit vs. Diet Coke and Pepsi
The Boston Globe, "Suit alleges deceit in fountain diet cola drinks," by Franco Ordoñez, March 3, 2005
- Fentimans, Riding Mill, Northumberland, UK
- Steaz Green Tea Soda, Newton, Pennsylvania, US
- Hank's Beverages, Trevose, Pennsylvania, US
- Izze Beverage Company, Boulder, Colorado, US
- Boylan's Premium Beverages, Williamsville, New York, US
- GuS Grown-Up Soda, New York, NY, US
- Moddraft — Denmark
- One World — Italy
- Muiska — In Spanish
- Diessercale — Italy
- Anphoblacht — Ireland
- Australian Liberal Party
- Quimicos Unidos — Brazil
- Send an e-mail to Coke to protest their abuses in Colombia
- Call Coca-Cola and tell them to stop their worldwide abuses at 1-800-GET-COKE.
- Sign a Petition protesting Coke's abuses
- Join the Boycott at Karmabanque's web site at: www.karmabanque.com
18. Please send photos, reports of events, etc. for the Campaign website
Please send photos, reports of events, and if you are in a school, union or organization that has banned Coke products, please send us the resolution or description of how the decision was made. We would like the Campaign website to be up-to-date and to share the information with all supporters via our newsletter.
Campaign to Stop KILLER COKE
We are seeking your help to stop a gruesome cycle of murders, kidnappings, and torture of union leaders and organizers involved in daily life-and-death struggles at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia, South America.
"If we lose the fight against Coca-Cola, we will first lose our union, next our jobs and then our lives." SINALTRAINAL VIce President Juan Carlos Galvis
Learn the truth about The Coca-Cola Co.
"We believe the evidence shows that Coca-Cola and its corporate network are rife with immorality, corruption and complicity in murder."
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke/Corporate Campaign, Inc. Director Ray Rogers