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Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Action Alert

Mobilize for Coca-Cola's April 19th Annual Shareholders' Meeting

We are calling on all our supporters to mobilize for Coca-Cola's annual shareholders' meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, April 19th, starting at 10:30 a.m. The meeting is being held at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, the site of last year's annual meeting.

The annual meeting is the only place one can challenge face-to-face the chief policy-makers of the company — the top executives and board of directors. By having a strong presence inside and outside the meeting, we also serve a warning to the stockholders, creditors and other potential investors that they will be held accountable for the irresponsible actions of this company. Finally, the annual meeting can provide a platform to get our message to the media.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke is working with individuals and other organizations, including the India Resource Center, Corporate Accountability International and the Polaris Institute to hold Coke accountable for its serious human rights, health and environmental abuses. If you or your organization would like to participate in or help mobilize for the annual meeting demonstration, contact us at (718) 852-2808 or e-mail us at info@KillerCoke.org.

These abuses include:

  • Complicity in the kidnapping, torture and murder of unionists representing workers in Coca-Cola's Colombian bottling plants;
  • Overexploitation and pollution of water sources in India, Mexico, Ghana and elsewhere;
  • Benefiting from hazardous child labor in sugar cane fields in El Salvador;
  • Aggressive marketing to children of nutritionally worthless and damaging products;
  • Anti-worker policies;
  • Firing of whistleblowers;
  • History of racial discrimination extending today to Coca-Cola Enterprises;
  • Opposition to environmentally-sound bottle deposit bills;
  • Fraudulent business practices.

Seeking stock proxies from concerned stockholders

Stockholders will soon be receiving their notice of the annual meeting and proxy card from The Coca-Cola Co. If you are not able to attend the annual meeting and would like to help the Campaign, we would like your proxy assigned to us so that others can attend. You can contact us at (718) 852-2808 or info@KillerCoke.org and we will explain how to transfer your proxy.

For this year's meeting, there is a resolution sponsored by the New York City Retirement System and the New York City Teachers' Retirement System entitled: Shareowner Proposal Regarding an Independent Delegation of Inquiry to Colombia (Page 51 of Coke's proxy statement).

Coke's policymakers are opposing the resolution because they say they have a better solution. The Campaign is highly suspicious of Coke's solution. NYCERS is requesting an "independent delegation of inquiry&...;that includes representatives from U.S. and Colombian human rights organizations." Coke's response is to oppose the resolution and to send "an independent third party," Cal Safety Compliance Corp. a Los Angeles-based corporate social compliance monitor, to assess workplace conditions "around the world, including Colombia." Can CSCC be independent when Coke is paying the bills? CSCC's web site states: "CSCC has operations in over 110 countries providing services to more than 600 manufacturers and retailers." An investigation by a Coke-chosen company is tantamount to the fox guarding the hen house.

Cal Safety Compliance Corp is known as an independent monitor, accredited by the Fair Labor Association. However, it has a spotty record. A Business Week article in Oct. 2000 stated: "Price Waterhouse Coopers LLP (PWC) and Safety Compliance Corp., had inspected Chun Si (a Chinese sweatshop) five times in 1999 and found that the factory didn't pay the legal overtime rate and had required excessive work hours."

"Still," according to Denise Fenton, Wal-Mart Director of Corporate Compliance, "the auditors (Cal Safety and Price Waterhouse Coopers) failed to uncover many of the egregious conditions in the factory despite interviews with dozens of workers."

We would expect Cal Safety to find Coke guilty of some wrongdoing, but overlook the most reprehensible human rights violations, such as intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder? With Coke's money behind the investigation, we would expect, at best, a report that would slap Coca-Cola's wrist, but in the end, exonerate the company and its bottlers of its worst abuses.

Let us not forget what happened in Guatemala in the 1970s and 1980s. What happened was not a figment of anyone's imagination, but "The Real Thing." The following is a quote from the back cover of a booklet published in 1987 by the Latin America Bureau in England:

"For nine years the 450 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City fought a battle with their employers for their jobs, their trade union and their lives. Three times they occupied the plant — on the last occasion for thirteen months. Three General Secretaries of their union were murdered and five other workers killed. Four more were kidnapped and have disappeared.

"Against all the odds they survived, thanks to their own extraordinary courage and help from fellow trade unionists in Guatemala and around the world. A huge international campaign of protests and boycotts was central to their struggle. As a result, the Coca-Cola workers forced concessions from one of the world's largest multinational food giants and kept the Guatemalan trade union movement alive through a dark age of government repression."

What happened at Coca-Cola bottling plants in the 70s and early 80s in Guatemala is happening in Colombia today. The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke is a movement of "we's," that is, a movement of individuals, organizations and institutions around the world. We plan to put an end to history repeating itself once and for all. We hope that you will be a part of this effort. Coke is guilty of many serious crimes in Colombia, India and elsewhere and none of their public relations efforts will enable them to escape responsibility.

This is a call to people concerned about human rights, health, and environmental abuses. Please join us in a demonstration at the site of the annual meeting. We will arrange a permit for this protest and will have signs and literature.

Excerpts from Coca-Cola's 2004 Annual Meeting Transcript
Regarding Coke's Human Rights and Environmental Abuses

Below is a transcript of last year's annual meeting where a very ugly incident took place. Security guards, representing themselves as Wilmington police, assaulted Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Director Ray Rogers as he was addressing the meeting. You can learn more from a Democracy Now segment about the event, as well as a Washington Post article


Excerpts Taken from Coca-Cola's Videocast of its Shareholders' Meeting

Wilmington, Delaware

April 21, 2004

Douglas Daft: Now secondly, some in organized labor have been working overtime in college campuses to keep allegations about Colombia alive through misinformation and a twisting of the facts. There may even be some folks here as you came in the meeting today. The charges linking our company to atrocities in Colombia are false and they are outrageous. Now what is happening in Colombia today is a tragedy. And during the past 40 years, 60,000 people have died as victims of terrorism and civil war there. We all know employees, colleagues, and friends, have been victims of that violence, which we absolutely abhor. But the Coca-Cola Company has nothing to do with it. It is a fact collaborated with numerous third parties, including the Colombian attorney-general. The company has been dismissed from the federal lawsuit in which the allegations were formally made. Our bottling partners have been good employees in Colombia for more than 70 years and have good relationships with a number of unions there. We contribute to an improved standard of living for Colombians, and that is why we continue to operate in that country.

Daft: Any discussion on this matter? Go ahead, sir.

Ray Rogers: Yes, my name is Ray Rogers, I'm a proxy for Karen Schneider for 3000 shares. Like the California Public Employees Retirement system and institutional shareholders that have withheld their votes for over nine of the directors because of conflicts of interest on the board, I also have to withhold my votes until a number of terrible wrongs are righted by this board and I want to know what they are going to do.

After months of investigation into Coca-Cola, all evidence shows that the Coca-Cola System is rife with immorality, corruption, and complicity in gross human rights violations including murder and torture. Mr. Daft, at Brandeis University you lied like you lied earlier today about the situation in Colombia. You said that at no time was any SINALTRAINAL union leader ever harmed by paramilitary security forces at any of your plants. Yet Isidro Gil was assassinated — murdered — in one of your bottling plants in Colombia. The next day, those same paramilitary security forces went into the plant and rounded up the workers. Managers, Coca-Cola managers in the plant had prepared resignation forms. Those workers were told that if they did not resign by 4 pm that day, they, too, would be murdered like their union officer, Isidro Gil. They all resigned en masse and the wages in that plant went from $380 a month down to $130 a month.

Council member Hiram Monserrate in New York City went on a 10-day fact-finding tour in January. He has put out a report in April which is on the website, killercoke.org, versus the Coca-Cola website, killercoke.com. That report by Council member Monserrate and the delegation that went to Colombia in January, came up with one conclusion — that Coca-Cola, the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, is complicit in gross human rights violations in Colombia.

In fact, for those who do not know, you also said that the Coca-Cola Company was dismissed from the Alien Tort Claims lawsuit. Well, as of yesterday, the Coca-Cola Company was reinstated in the lawsuit, as was Coca-Cola FEMSA was put into the lawsuit. And for those stockholders who do not know the basic charge of the lawsuit, let me just quote one statement in the lawsuit. The lawsuit charges that: "Coca-Cola bottlers in Colombia contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilize extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced, trade union leaders."

You know, I wish to say that this is the only horrible thing that the Coca-Cola Company is involved in. But they are also involved in and guilty of the overexploitation and pollution of water supplies of entire villages and neighborhoods in India, in Ghana, and Mexico.

Daft: Mr. Rogers, could you please finish?

Rogers: I'm not done. I will finish very shortly.

Daft: Thank you.

Rogers: Okay? This is also a company that remains under fire for racial discrimination, for fraudulent business practices both here and abroad. This is also a company that has been criticized by pediatricians and other health professionals for the aggressive marketing of nutritionally worthless and damaging soft drinks that have been proven to fuel obesity and diabetes in children.

I also want to state — under these board of directors that I and all the other shareholders are being asked to vote for — this is a company under its present leadership, that operates with unrestrained greed. And let me tell you why I say that. Last year, and it's in your proxy statement, the top six officers of this company were given $8.4 million in bonuses. Mr. Daft, you received the lion's share of $4 million. That same year, you laid off 3700 employees. Well, heck, with that $8.4 million in bonuses, you could have given every laid off employee $2300. I see now within the group appearing outside, Teamsters are picketing because you're trying to take away their wages, benefits, and their pensions. But you treat yourselves damn well. Mr. Daft, in 2001 your compensation was $105 million. Your restricted stock awards right now are worth $86 million. Every board member here gets $125,000 just to sit on the board plus a bunch of other perks. And it's disgusting, the kind of behavior of this company worldwide.

Daft: Mr. Rogers, in the interests of everybody else here...

Rogers: I'm almost done. Please do not interrupt me, Mr. Daft, these issues are important.

Daft: Mr. Rogers...

Rogers: For these reasons, Coca-Cola is viewed as an utter pariah around this country. And if I have stockholders here, I hope you are listening. I hope that when you hear about all the money you are making, that you're making it on the backs of a lot of workers and the destruction of a lot of communities. That's where so many of your profits are coming from. And when you talk about the colleges, universities, and the unions, and some of the towns and cities...I'm almost done Mr. Daft, Mr. Daft, I'm almost done...Right now, there are five colleges and universities...

(mic shut off) ...five colleges and universities that have terminated Coca-Cola contracts — the largest university in Ireland, over the Colombia issue, terminated, banned Coca-Cola products from all student-owned and operated facilities. Do stockholders know that? That was University College Dublin. Trinity College soon followed, did the same thing. In the United States, Carleton College, Lake Forest College and Bard College...

Daft: Mr. Rogers, you said you were almost finished...

Rogers: In March...in March, Carleton College chose to terminate their vending contract and removed 42 Coke machines, and that was after you sent five representatives to Carleton College...

Someone: Mr. Rogers...security, please...

{Note: The transcript does not note that at this point Mr. Rogers was attacked from behind by security. One of the guards attempted to place him in a chokehold and he was thrown to the floor, as guards continued to attack him.]

Daft: Uh, we shouldn't have done that...

Daft: Excu-...Just, just, just be gentle please, just please, please...if the security people would please stand down. Stand down, security, please, please, please, please, please.

[Note: At this point, Mr. Rogers was removed from the room without being permitted to finish what he had come to say. The transcript continues...]

Daft: Ladies and gentlemen, democracy is giving everybody who wants the right to say it, a right to say it. Ladies and gentlemen, I love this company, I'm proud of it, and I'm proud of everything we do.

B. Wardlaw: ... So, we know a lot about responsibility. Let's, let's act on that. I think, for instance, regarding this issue of Colombia that is so volatile right now, Colombia and South America. For a long time, we've had a habit, not just at Coke but in corporate America, of hiding behind certain relationships that distance us from responsibility, our contracts with our bottlers for instance. Coke can get out of a lawsuit, as they have in Florida, but that doesn't really mean much to consumers. I don't think consumers pay much attention to the difference between the Coca-Cola Company or the Coca-Cola bottler, it's all Coca-Cola as far as consumers are concerned. So there are very specific things that we can do to address that issue in Colombia. The primary of which, for me, would be the creation of a panel of independent people from the human rights community to look at that, and report back to us, not a internal Coca-Cola investigation but one that we would su pport by reputable human rights leaders. This could go a long way, though there are many other things we can do to make this a situation that is better for the people in Colombia and for our company.

As far as my proposal on China business principles which I am bringing to you for the third time, I introduced this proposal because I, along with many other socially conscious shareholders, are concerned about Coke, its reputation and its share price. As I've said here the last two years, we seem to be heading toward possible public relations calamity in China. So just looking at it from the viewpoint of the company, it makes sense for us to spend more time thinking about, before we go in, we're spending over a $1 billion, what over the last 20 years in China, developing products there. The Olympics are coming to China in 2008 in Beijing. This is a moment where Coca-Cola is going to be highlighted because of our close involvement with the Olympics and the, as someone has said, as a recognized product in the world. I think what is happening, is that we are still not, as a company, paying enough attention to what could happen in China. Every human rights abuse possible has been com mitted in China. We are doing business there. There are companies that are getting together to talk about this with human rights leaders. Reebok, Target, these companies are gathering to talk on a regular basis about how corporations can do business in a place like China. I am simply suggesting that we join those people in their discussions which for some reason we have not yet been willing to do. I would like to just conclude by saying that when the history of the 21st century is written, Coca-Cola can either be a footnote to that history as a company that made a lot of money and was very successful, or it can be a major story. And I think we can become that major story simply by turning more of our attention to the kind of things that we have the opportunity to do. It's what I continue to ask this company to do and other corporations to do but Coke is uniquely placed to do the kinds of things that everyone in the world would appreciate. Thank you.

Daft: Is there a representative from the Teamsters here to speak to the proposal? Thank you.

Carin Zelenko: Good morning.

Daft: Good morning

Zelenko: My name is Carin Zelenko, I'm here from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. And before I get started let me just say that shareholders have one day a year where they have an opportunity to have an audience with the top executives of Coca-Cola and the board of directors. And I am ashamed that our company would forcibly remove a shareholder from raising concerns at this meeting. I have seen some low moments at Coca-Cola shareholder meetings but never, never, as uncomfortable as it may be to hear some of those issues, I have never seen somebody forcibly removed...

Jesse Jackson: Mr. Daft and members of the board, let me say at the outset that while many disagreed with the first person making a comment, the violent removal was beneath the dignity of this company, it was by the security forces an overreaction and if he had been hurt and if he is hurt, that would be another lawsuit. It was an excessive use of power...

Crystal Yakacki: Hi, my name is Crystal Yakacki and I am a student at New York University and I am serving as a proxy today. As a student at New York University, I am here to represent the concern that my community at that school has as far as Coca-Cola's complicity in human rights abuses in Colombia. I am sure most of you are not aware, yesterday morning in Colombia, paramilitary groups entered the home of the family of a union leader who is currently negotiating with Coca-Cola. And inside of that home, they found three children and their parents and they murdered the two parents with the children in the home and injured the children who are now orphaned. This is just one example of the human rights abuses that are happening in Colombia, in which people have not only been assassinated, but have been kidnapped and pressured to leave the union. Clearly, unions are not good for business. Mr. Daft, could you please pay attention to what I am saying?

Daft: I am, I'm looking, I can listen without...

Yakacki: I am not...I am a part of an international community that is joined in a boycott of Coca-Cola, and I am not doing this because of speculation. I should be in class right now, and I'm here, not because of speculation but because of fact. Because delegation after delegation have gone down to Colombia and all concluded that Coca-Cola is complicit in these egregious human rights abuses and Coca-Cola has failed to respond to these, to these allegations by SINALTRAINAL. So what I am here to ask of you, as a person, and what I am appealing to all of you as shareholders as is as people that at the very least, what this company can do, is to obtain an objective investigation into what is happening there. And I want from you an answer, as to how, knowing that these allegations have been proven time and time again, that this is a reality, how you are going to ensure that the violence against your workers, who make this company run, is going to be stopped in Colombia . And furthermore, how you are going to deal with those who have already lost their loved ones and those children who have already been orphaned.

Daft: Young lady, I've, I've already think that I've already said enough. I think that the facts have got to speak for themselves in this issue.

Yakacki: I think that the facts have spoken though, sir. I understand that you reject that it has happened, but it is happening. And it is hard for me to realize that and I am sure it's very hard for you, but at the very least, you can go down there and investigate yourself and have an objective investigation rather than ignore the issue entirely.

Daft: I, I'm sorry, but if I could have my minute as well. The facts are not true, and what I was about to say, if you are interested in the facts, and if anybody is interested in the facts, there are two gentlemen today that represent it and they know them all, one is a gentleman called Clyde Tuggle, he is willing to talk to you and another gentleman who will be with him, Pablo, I think you're somewhere in the audience, is from Colombia. Thank you. And I think at the end of this session, they will be only too pleased to talk to you about the facts, and that is what governs everything that we do, facts, not innuendo. Young lady, could you please allow the next person to speak...

Yakacki: Can I just ask you straight out, if you maintain that these allegations are not true, then why will you not at least allow an objective investigation to get those facts? That's all that I am asking.

Daft: Again, I'll make, I'll make one last comment. There have been objective evaluations and investigations in which case, in every case, when the company was cleared and any allegation was dismissed. The independent investigation has taken place, and please, to get all of those facts, at the end of the meeting find these two gentlemen and they will find you and they will give you those facts. Thanks.

Nuelita John: Hi, my name is Nuelita John and I am also serving as a proxy. I am representing Rutgers University. I'm not going to babble on because I feel everything was said by this young lady and everyone else. But just to update you on what's going on. My campus is also organizing and we're working hard to get Coca-Cola contract to not be renewed. If you cannot answer our questions or if you do not show that you're going to show any immediate response to what is going on in Colombia, you will be out of Rutgers as a contract, that's all I have to say, thank you.

Daft: Again, I think, I think I can repeat the same thing. The facts, the facts we are sharing on campus, I've done it myself, the gentlemen here today will help you share those facts.

Don Kuespert: My name is Don Kuespert, I represent the Presbyterian Church USA, we hold 475,000 shares of Coca-Cola. We are deeply concerned by the continued human relations issues in Colombia and China. With the turnover in management of our company, we hope that you will take a fresh look. And although you have categorically refused an independent commission in the past, we hope you will recommend a, a look again to voter's rights along the lines of Jimmy Carter's commissions in Central America and South America so we can really have this issue put to rest.

The Honorable Monserrate of New York City delegation raised too many questions to be ignored. The murders, lock-ins, and hunger strikes are too numerous. There is an old expression in management school that says "when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." We sense the indignation spreading. We expect our company to be a leader in human relations, not an ostrich.

Daft: Thank you, sir, I really do believe I've responded in every way I have and I could only repeat myself so in the interest of the next person questioning, I won't repeat myself.

Kuespert: Have you responded to Monserrate?

Daft: Uh, I, I have no, um, memory of that name or...

Kuespert: Not of allowing him to go into the plants and talk to the employees?

Daft: I really have no recollection of what you're talking to, talking about, I'm sorry.

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