After nearly four hours of presentations, discussion and intense debate, the Carleton (College) Student Assn. voted 12 to 8 to terminate its vending contract with Coca-Cola, which means the removal of 42 Coke machines from this prestigious campus of 2,000. It happened Monday evening, March 8, 2004, before several hundred people — one of the largest audiences for such an event in years on the Northfield Minnesota campus.
The Coca-Cola Co. sent Corporate Media Relations Issues Director Lori Billingsley from its headquarters in Atlanta, along with Rafael Fernandez Quiros, Director of Communications in Latin America from Mexico City, and three representatives of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coke's largest bottler. Representing SINALTRAINAL's position was Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Director Ray Rogers.
Rogers emphasized that student leaders don't often have the opportunity to make decisions that can have a profound impact on stopping murder, kidnapping, torture and other human rights violations. Two weeks earlier, SINALTRAINAL leader Luis Adolfo Cardona, exiled in the United States since 2002, addressed the student association and won the respect and admiration of those who heard him. In January, the student association had decided to renew its multi-year contract with Coke, but had not yet signed it because the student governmant had to choose from two options that Coke offered.
Mike Schorsch (firstname.lastname@example.org), a Carleton senior, heard about the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and took immediate action to initiate a movement to terminate Coke's exclusive contract to sell beverages in vending machines on the campus. Hundreds of students signed a petition. Their efforts and the remarkable tenacity of some student association senators during the discussion and debate led to this tremendous, hard-fought victory. Coca-Cola clearly invested a lot of effort to retain the Carleton contract, but justice prevailed and Coca-Cola was sent another strong message to clean up its act in Colombia.
Student activists on many campuses in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and elsewhere are fighting to rescind, not renew or not consider contracts between their colleges and Coca-Cola. We expect to report on more such victories soon.
According to Mike Schorsch, the next step at Carleton may be a request from the student association that the Worker Rights Consortium, a student-run, anti-sweatshop watchdog group, investigate Coke's abuses in Colombia.
English translation of a March 10th communique from SINALTRAINAL
We denounce before the national and international community that on March 9, 2004, the administration of the plants in Cucuta and Cartagena trapped workers within the bottling plants as a way of pressuring them to renounce their work contracts in exchange for a small economic payment, under the blackmail of the ruling of the Minister of Social Protection, which authorized in the first ruling the firing of the workers for the bottling plants where the company presented its petition and illegally shut its production lines.
Similarly, in the city of Valledupar, the Coca-Cola Co. will call meetings with the workers supposedly to administer a survey about labor conditions, but in reality they will use this opportunity to trap the workers and force them to renounce their work contracts, in the same way that they have done at other bottling plants in other areas of the country.
Coca-Cola has been using this form of aggression against workers since 2000. For that reason, a Colombian judge and the Constitutional Court confirmed a few days ago, that the company committed the crime of illegally constraining workers, and the company is now forced to pay out the salaries and re-hire the workers who were pressured and blackmailed to quit their jobs at the bottling plant in Medellin.
This new occurrence is happening as we are negotiating our contract demands with the bottling plants of Coca-Cola that are owned by Panamco Colombia S.A. (since Feb. 23, 2004). With these acts, the company is looking to ferment terror to force the workers from their jobs if they do not succeed in forcing them to resign. On the contrary, we are demanding that the company respect the ruling by the Judge of the Republic on the lawsuit (tutela) we filed and that it abides by the Collective Bargaining contract we have negotiated, which obligates the company to relocate workers to other posts and retrain them.
This shows once again that the Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia have not stopped their violent actions against workers, and want to destroy SINALTRAINAL, direct hiring and collective bargaining by any means necessary.
We ask that you send letters of protest directed at JUAN MANUEL ARBELAEZ Director de Recursos Humanos de Panamco Colombia S.A. and Coca-Cola Femsa, S.A. by fax 011-571-401-1687, with a copy to SINALTRAINAL 011-571-2455325.
LUIS JAVIER CORREA SUAREZ
Please take a look at our website, www.killercoke.org. We've added a number of News items and will soon have additional Protest Pics online.
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke