Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Update
Coke Losses, PR Scams, New Lawsuit, Shareholders Meeting Protest
May 9, 2006 NewsletterContents of This Newsletter
- Coca-Cola is being booted from the CUNY School of Law
- Report on protests at Coca-Cola's 2006 Shareholders' Meeting
- New Colombian lawsuit vs. Coke to be filed by ILRF
- The Nation: May 1 cover story, May 15 ad and response to Letters to Editor
- IUF Cautions Coca-Cola - Don't Misread UK Students Vote Against a Campus Coke Boycott!
- Two Anthropologists' Groups Pass Resolutions to Ban Coke
- College Roundup
- Business Today Princeton controversy
- Soda Out of the schools: Raises Questions of Credibility
- Coke's Scam "Poll" from Polling Point
- The Latin American Assn. gives award to Coke — Yet Another PR Scam!
- The Responsible Shopper, a great resource
- Coke sells more than drinks in those bottles
- Statement by Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union
- Anti-Coke Multimedia
- Do you need a customized Campaign leaflet?
- Campaign's 'Campus Activism' Section
- Take Actions Against Coke!
- Please send photos, reports of events, etc. for the Campaign website
City University of New York (CUNY) Law School students Dan Monahan and John Howard, who were involved in researching and building the case against Coke at their school, informed the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke that the school would be banning Coke from its campus.
"The stance that the law school has taken with regard to human rights violations in Colombia Coke bottling plants is vital to ensuring that the Coca-Cola Company recognizes that people aren't going to stand for this," said CUNY Law School Labor Coalition President Ashley Grant.
An article by Deborah Kolben in the May 5 weekend edition of The New York Sun stated: "The loss of a law school with fewer than 500 students is unlikely to cause a financial hardship for the beverage giant, but it does raise the question of how it will influence the other 18 colleges in the city's massive public university system, which includes more than 400,000 students."
"Citing unfair labor practices at a company bottling plant in Colombia, the law school in Queens voted this week to ban its beverages in all campus vending machines. Student groups are prohibited from using school money to buy any Coca-Cola products for meetings or other events.
"We are a public interest law school and this was just such a glaring inconsistency with the reason that most people are at CUNY Law School," said Ashley Grant in the Sun article.
Organizing the Victory at CUNY Law
Over the last couple weeks, the CUNY Law School Labor Coalition collected a large number of signatures from students and faculty on a petition to kick Coke off campus.
On April 26, the Labor Coalition was successful in passing a resolution in the CUNY Law School Student Government condemning Coke's practices and resolving that the Student Government take measures to remove Coke from campus. This resolution passed the Student Government unanimously. (The same resolution was submitted to the Law School Association.)
Then, the students went in front of the Law School Association (LSA) which is the student group financing board made up of elected student representatives and faculty members. This board controls, among other things, funding to student groups and the contracts with the vending machines vendor. Since this board controls the vending machine contracts and student funding, the board's support was needed to kick Coke off campus. On April 27, the Board voted 5-1 in favor of kicking Coke off campus.
The New York Sun, "CUNY Law Bans Coca-Cola, Citing Unfair Labor Practices," By Deborah Kolben, May 5-7, 2006
Outside the annual meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, demonstrators protesting Coke's labor, human rights, water and environmental abuses included students from Baruch College and Hunter College, City University of New York; Bryn Mawr; Carleton University/Canada, Fordham University; Harvard University; Haverford College; Indiana University; Ottawa University/Canada, Queens University/Canada, Rutgers University; Sarah Lawrence College; Smith College; Swarthmore College, and University of Delaware and representatives from numerous organizations including the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, Corporate Accountability International, India Resource Center, International Labor Rights Fund, Polaris Institute, United Students Against Sweatshops and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and several of its locals. Thanks to shareholders from across the country, dozens of campaigners were able to obtain proxies and enter the annual meeting in an effort to voice their concerns.
Protest outside Coca Cola Co.'s annual shareholders meeting.
(Photo by Pat Crowe II/AP)
Coca-Cola CEO E. Neville Isdell showed at the very outset that Coca-Cola planned to orchestrate a meeting that would undermine any attempt at dialogue and dissenting points of view. The meeting started at 10:30 am and Isdell made it clear that it would end at 12:30; speakers from the floor would get only two minutes and only four speakers could speak on any item. Coke and Isdell looked foolish with their responses and in the way they tried to manipulate the meeting.
You can watch and hear the entire annual meeting online. The speakers from the floor begin at about 25 minutes into the webcast:
Watch the Webcast of the Meeting
The first speaker from our side to take the floor was Campaign Director Ray Rogers. He said:
"I want to know if and when board members like yourself, Mr. Isdell, will accept responsibility for the terrible human rights and environmental abuses committed by this company worldwide rather than continue to try to cover up and bury them with more ill-conceived public relations scams.
"First it was the bogus White & Case and Cal-Safety reports. Now Coca-Cola is lying to reporters and campus administrators with a new scam involving the United Nations International Labor Organization.
"Donald Knauss, president of Coca-Cola North America recently stated in a letter that the ILO agreed to investigate 'past and present labor relations and workers rights practices of the Coca-Cola bottling operations in Colombia.' He suggested that if you have any questions concerning the ILO investigation, they should be directed to Sally Paxton of the ILO.
"So I called Ms. Paxton. She completely contradicted Mr. Knauss's claims. She is adamant that the ILO in not conducting an investigation and there will be no evaluation of past labor relations and workers rights practices.
"The greatest asset this company has to help it grow and prosper is its image or brand name that it has spent decades and billions of dollars to create. Because of the poor decisions and inaction of this board, Coca-Cola's brand name is being seriously tarnished and the damage is only going to worsen.
"Throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe, Coca-Cola is becoming known as 'Killer Coke," not so much because of the harm done by your aggressive marketing of nutritionally worthless and damaging soft drinks to children, but because of Coke's widespread human rights and environmental abuses.
"Furthermore, stop misleading the public with statements that 'more than 30% of our employees in Colombia belong to unions.' You don't even consider 75% of the 8,000 Coke workers in Colombia as employees. They are considered flexible, subcontracted workers. Most receive low pay, meager if any benefits, have not job security and many are mired in poverty.
"Lastly, until this board changes course and does what's right, the World of Coca-Cola will remain a world full of lies, deception, immorality, corruption and widespread labor, human rights and environmental abuses."
To this statement, Mr. Isdell responded with the following, whereby he completely contradicts and even denies knowing who Sally Paxton of the ILO is:
"I said at the outset that this company took all of its corporate social responsibility requirements very, very seriously. I think to misconstrue what we're doing with the ILO because we have a document from the ILO, signed by the ILO, committing themselves to do exactly what you said. I don't know who Ms Paxton is, but what she said is not correct. We have a document. We have an agreement, and they are going to investigate past and prior practices. You are quoted as saying that it's a publicity stunt. I can't think that engaging the ILO is a publicity stunt "
Ed Potter (left), global labor relations director for Coke, talks to Ray Rogers of Corporate Campaign Inc. about Coke labor issues in Colombia. (Photo by Pat Crowe II/AP)
When the last item, the shareholders' resolution on an independent investigation of human rights abuses in Colombia reached the floor, it was clear that the four speakers were all planted and pre-selected to praise Coke. None commented on the Colombia resolution. The manipulation was so overt that Campaign Director Ray Rogers stood unrecognized and commented: "Mr. Isdell! Hold on! You didn't allow anybody to speak on that resolution. It doesn't have to be me. You had four planted ads — four planted ads! When are you going to give people here an opportunity to speak on the resolution? It's a disgrace! It's a disgrace!"
Many students and representatives of organizations spoke eloquently on water issues and environmental and human rights abuses in India, Colombia and elsewhere. William C. Wardlaw, III, holder of 33,564 shares of Coca-Cola common stock, introduced his resolution, which in part said:
"WHEREAS, there have been numerous public protests of The Coca-Cola Company's operations throughout India, involving thousands of Indian citizens and several non-governmental organizations in several states of the country.
"WHEREAS, on October 25, 2005, an article in The Hindu entitled "Coke Plant Will Not Be Allowed to Function" referred to the town of Plachimada, India, as "where the local people have been waging an agitation for the last three years demanding the closure of the company for allegedly exploiting the groundwater, leading to shortage of water for drinking and irrigation purposes.
"WHEREAS, for nearly two years the Plachimada plant has been the subject of rulings unfavorable to the company's ongoing operations by local government and Indian courts — including a rejection of Coca-Cola's license application by the council of village leaders, an order by the Pollution Control Board to stop operations, and an appeal by the Kerala state government to the Indian Supreme Court challenging Coca-Cola's right to draw groundwater. Other Coca-Cola plants, including Mehdiganj, are facing similar pressure."
"RESOLVED, shareholders request 'a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, on the potential environmental and public health damage of each of its plants, affiliates and proposed ventures extracting water from areas of water scarcity in India'."
The Company, of course, opposed this resolution just as they did the resolution filed by the New York City Employees' Retirement Sysatem and the New York City Teachers' Retirement System along with the Presbyterian Church USA calling for an independent delegation of inquiry to Colombia.
For more information on the India situation, listen to Amit Srivastava's statement in the webcast of the meeting and go to the site of the India Resource Center. To learn more about serious water issues, go to the sites of the Polaris Institute and Corporate Accountability International and listen to their testimony on the webcast.
Trina Tocco of the ILRF was prepared to speak about Colombia, but was not recognized. Her statement is presented below.
Shareholder Meeting Reportback from International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) April 19, 2006
Trina Tocco, ILRF Program Assistant and Eryn Schornick, ILRF Legal Assistant made their way into the meeting in Wilmington, Delaware on April 19th around 10:30 am just as the meeting began. All around there was strong evidence of support for the Killer Coke Campaign. The Teamsters and students showing their proxies and IDs, getting past the two security checkpoints, and finding their seats all eager to confront the Coke CEO Neville Isdell concerning Coke's policies in relation to organized labor's concerns in the US, Colombia, Turkey and Indonesia.
The meeting began with short comments from Mr. Isdell. The format of the meeting was so that there were various proposals presented with time for questions after each proposal was introduced. Many stood up and expressed their concerns and demanded Coke develop a plan for a true independent investigation. ILRF waited patiently with their yellow proxy card waving in the air hoping to be chosen. Unfortunately ILRF was not given the opportunity to present their statement and so here is the statement prepared by Trina Tocco that would have been directed to Mr. Isdell if only Ms. Tocco had been selected to speak.
"Thank you Mr. Isdell for providing me the opportunity to speak to you this morning. I am Trina Tocco and I represent the Coca-Cola shares held by the International Labor Rights Fund. I am a representative of the campaign effort to grant justice to those in Colombia and Turkey that have suffered from the actions of Coke. At the ILRF we have voiced to Coke many times a need to develop a human rights policy that includes the bottlers. Ed Potter has continued to falsely imply that ILRF and others are in support of the current draft though this document currently does NOT apply to bottlers. Until Coke commits to a human rights policy that includes bottlers, ILRF and others will continue to support the efforts of students and others to terminate Coke contracts at universities, school districts, and other public entities. In addition because of Coke's constant delays to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy, ILRF has set up a scholarship fund for the slain Colombian trade unionist Isidro Gil's two daughters so that they will have the ability to continue their education without fear of violence towards them. These young girls are waiting for Coke to do the right thing and I hope that you and your company will move quickly to develop a human rights policy. Furthermore, the ILRF and others continue to wait for Coke to make a public statement denouncing trade union violence in Colombia and Turkey. My question to you, Mr. Isdell, is how will Coca-Cola proceed to develop a human rights policy that includes bottlers? How will Coke fix the wrongs that the young Gil daughters are forced to live with for the rest of their lives? Thank you for your time, Mr. Isdell."
The News Journal, "Dozens protest at Coca-Cola meeting," By Gary Haber, April 20, 2006
CBS News, "Coke Has Shareholder Meeting Amid Protest," Harry R. Weber, AP, April 19, 200
"Teamster member Peter Rovetto, 52, of Jonas, Pa., who says he worked as a merchandiser for Coke in New Jersey, said the company needs to treat its employees better. 'Workers are underpaid and overworked and often pressured into working overtime,' he said."
Counsel for the plaintiffs will be filing two additional claims on behalf of victims of Killer Coke in Colombia. The first will be on behalf of Adolfo de Jesus Munera, who was murdered on August 31, 2002 by paramilitaries acting on behalf of Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Barranquilla, Colombia. This plant is still today known as a place that has been heavily infiltrated by paramilitaries. In addition, counsel will file a claim for torture on behalf of Oscar Alberto Cinaldo Arango, who was a witness to the murder of his friend Isidro Gil at Coke's Carepa plant, and then he himself was kidnapped and tortured by the paramilitaries that murdered Isidro. He has been living in hiding since the December 1996 anti-union violence at the Carepa bottling plant. For more information, contact Terry Collingsworth at the International Labor Rights Fund. phone: 202 347-4100 ext. 104, email: email@example.com.
In the May 1, 2006 issue of The Nation, Michael Blanding wrote the cover story on the Campaign, "The Case Against Coca-Cola: It's the Real Thing — The Drink that Represses."
Two weeks later, on May 15, the Campaign placed a full-page ad on the back cover of The Nation highlighting the issues and asked for contributions for the Campaign. We would appreciate it if organizations would reprint the ad for their members.
Excerpt from "The Case Against Coca-Cola:"
"In the past two years the Coke campaign has grown into the largest anticorporate movement since the campaign against Nike for sweatshop abuses. Around the world, dozens of unions and more than twenty universities have banned Coke from their facilities, while activists have dogged the company from World Cup events in London to the Winter Olympics in Torino. More than just the re-emergence of the corporate boycott, however, the fight against Coke is a leap forward in international cooperation. Coke, with its red-and-white swoosh recognizable everywhere from Beijing to Baghdad, is perhaps the quintessential symbol of the US-dominated global economy. The fight to hold it accountable has, in turn, broadly connected issues across continents to become a truly globalized grassroots movement."
Letters to the Editor of The Nation
The Nation, "Letters: The World According to Coke," Potter, Talbot, Littleford & Blanding, May 22, 2006
Read Letters to The Nation
Read Michael Blanding's response to Coke Director of Global Labor Relations Ed Potter's letter
The Campaign has been disappointed by the actions of Ron Oswald and the IUF over the past few years. We hope that the statement posted on the IUF website is an indication that Ron Osawald and the IUF are ready to stand up and join the fight for all Coca-Cola workers in Colombia. We are hesitant to accept Mr. Oswald's statement as a call to real action because of his role in Coca-Cola's latest PR scam involving the United Nations International Labor Organization's so-called "investigation" into labor abuses in Colombia (See our release: "University of Michigan Falls Prey to Another Coca-Cola PR Scam".)
An excerpt from the IUF statement:
" 'If Coca-Cola does not deliver something that union members, students and customers will accept, then those who have claimed that the only thing the Company understands is the damage to market and reputation that a successful boycott might bring will be proved right,' commented [Ron] Oswald. 'Coca-Cola will then face a much bigger problem as support for direct action will grow and will be joined by the majority who to date have argued for maintaining ongoing engagement with the company to achieve our common objective — a fair and credible mechanism to guarantee rights throughout the Coca-Cola system'."
On April 21, The Society of Anthropology of North America (SANA), held a conference at Baruch College/CUNY at which USAS organizer Camilo Romero, United Steelworkers Assistant General Counsel Dan Kovalik and Ray Rogers spoke about the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. Lesley Gill, a professor at American University in Washington, DC, is a key coordinator of this effort. A resolution was passed at that conference and at the American Ethnological Society (AES) in New York that same day. Both are sections of the American Anthropological Association. The AES has a membership of 4,000 anthropologists and SANA 500 on campuses throughout the United States and Canada.
[Since the release of this newsletter on May 9, a resolution, linked below, was passed by the Society for Cultural Anthropology.]
Society for Cultural Anthropology endorses boycott actions against Coca Cola Company, May 4, 2006
"Anthropologists have created a scholarly record of the operations and impact of the Coca Cola Company through interviews with eyewitnesses; union organizers and other stakeholders; field observations; and archival research. Their findings indicate that the Coca Cola Company has not been sufficiently proactive in protecting workers and their families from intimidation and violence, that internationally recognized rights to organize unions have not been respected, and that information disclosure has been inadequate and insufficiently verified by independent sources."
The Student Life, "Claremont Chapter of Amnesty International Calls for Coke Boycott," By Lana Coryell, April 20, 2006
"Over the last year, the Claremont Colleges chapter of Amnesty International, an organization devoted to the protection of human rights, has campaigned to remove Coca-Cola products from all five campuses. Recently, the student group has focused their efforts on Scripps College. They are now asking students to join them in a boycott of Coke products at the Scripps dining hall.
"Amnesty members began the boycott in response to increasing evidence that the Coca-Cola Company has committed several human rights and environmental violations around the globe. Coca-Cola has been accused of exploiting workers in Colombia, Turkey, Indonesia, and El Salvador and of wreaking environmental havoc in India."
This is from the campaign at the Claremont Colleges in California. We participated in the 5th Annual Scripps College Wearable Art Show on April 30, 2006. The announcer read out a statement about Coca-Cola's labor abuses as our model walked down the runway. No Coca-Cola refreshments were served.
College of Charleston
We received the following description of Coke's visit to the College of Charleston in mid-April:
"This week representatives from Coca-Cola were flown up from Atlanta to "argue" their case to the student body, block our resolution in the Faculty Senate, and overturn our resolution in the Student Government Association.
"Unfortunately for them, informed students drilled them with so many questions they had to rush through the final part of their presentation.
"Last night our Faculty Senate passed the resolution that calls for our president to write a letter to Ed Potter, warning him that we will not renew our contract in 2008 unless they change their practices. Coca-Cola's presentation to the faculty was pretty easy to tear apart. It was pretty empowering watching them storm off!
"The Coke reps looked particularly bad last night when they informed us that the University of Michigan decided to reinstate their contract. They attempted to make it appear as though the University changed their decision upon further thought, but we were able to demonstrate how backhanded this whole process at the University of Michigan was. Good luck to all of you at U of M I hope it helps the tiniest bit to know that this move at University of Michigan really does demonstrate to others how corrupt Coca-Cola is!!!"
Students at Fordham University in New York City are laying a strong foundation of support aimed at removing and banning Coke products from this Jesuit institution. Students have organized several events on campus including a visit by SINALTRAINAL president Javier Correa, who faces constant death threats in Colombia. Correa has been described as "one of the most courageous labor leaders in the world." Students have also shown videos and held discussions, supported national days of action and most recently held a forum which included New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate and USAS national organizer Camilo Romero.
Fordham University students were featured in a special news segment on German national public television station ZDF which aired last week. The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and student campaigns at Fordham University and New York University were featured in this news segment.
Campaign Director Ray Rogers spoke at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York where students have been actively working on the Killer Coke campaign and spent much of this semester educating other members of the community and getting signatures requesting the administration to remove and ban Coke products from campus. They hope to make Manhattanville College Coke-Free by next semester.
Coke withdrew from the forum because of Rogers' presence. However, Ray suggested Coke's film be shown since he hadn't seen it and would be happy to respond to all of the misinformation and lies presented in the film. The film provides a good organizing tool for anti-Coke activists who are familiar with the issues.
Pipe Dream (Binghamton University, New York), "Killer Coke sets sights on SUNY," By Alana Casanova-Burgess, May 5, 2006
Daily Bruin (UCLA), "Students protest Coca-Cola: AS UCLA board of directors hears both sides of dispute over alleged human rights violations," By Roberta Wolfson, April 24, 2006
University of Michigan
The Michigan Daily, "Students protest Coke reinstatement: Coalition members claim 'U' left students out of decision-making process when bringing Coke back to campus," By Kelly Fraser, April 14, 2006
Yale Daily News, "Coke spat may touch campus: Campus activists plan to urge University not to renew company's contract in 2007," By Ross Goldberg, April 14, 2006
UK Students Against Coke (UKSAC)
Hot off their success at the National Union of Students (NUS) conference where more than 46 percent of student leaders representing more than 200 campuses, 750 student unions and 5 million students, voted to kick Coke off their campuses, the UK Students Against Coke are moving forward at a fast pace. On May 27, a national meeting is being held at Sussex University sponsored by UKSAC and Education Not For Sale.
Coca-Cola CEO E. Neville Isdell made a point at Coca-Cola's annual shareholders' meeting of claiming victory because of the NUS vote not to boycott Coke products. Campaign Director Ray Rogers again stood up unrecognized and stated that 46% of the student leaders representing hundreds of campuses throughout the UK voted to kick Coke off their campuses, clearly not a victory or a vote of confidence for Coke (see IUF statement).Sussex University will be removing all Coke products from their student union facilities in June. The UKSAC are organizing campus-by-campus to get Coke products removed and banned. They are mobilizing for next year's NUS conference to again make Coca-Cola's widespread labor, human rights and environmental abuses a major issue.
For more information regarding the May 27 national meeting, contact President-elect of Sussex University Student Union, Dan Glass, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Student-Labor Week of Action
The New Standard, "Students Turn Up Pressure Over Labor Rights," by Jessica Azulay, April 13, 2006
Editor-in-Chief Michael Kratsios of Business Today, "published at Princeton University by Students for Students," contacted the Campaign to do an op-ed article to run opposite an article by Coke's Director of Global Labor Relations Ed Potter for an issue highlighting "Coke's College Crisis."
We were somewhat suspicious since we knew that Coke is the largest sponsor of the magazine. When Campaign Director Ray Rogers asked Kratsios if Coke's sponsorship could prevent the article from appearing, Kratsios responded that the issue was too important for that to happen. We feel that Kratsios wanted to do the right thing, but it seems that he learned a lesson about corporate money, free speech and American journalism.
Ray prepared the piece and it was accepted by Kratsios, who said it was just what he needed — well-documented with good sources. Kratsios asked us to eliminate the last two bullet points in our list of Coke's abuses — "History of racial discrimination" and "Fraudulent business practices." We agreed to do so, even though Coke's history of racial discrimination and fraudulent business practices have been extensively reported on in the mass media, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
However, after the magazine was published minus Ray's article, we were shocked to read a statement attributed to Kratsios in an April 10 article in the Harvard Crimson. Benjamin Weintraub reported that Kratsios said our article was rejected because "the information presented in it could not be substantiated whatsoever." Kratsios further contradicted himself, stating: "There were no sources, there were endless claims, which could have been seen as slander." However, since the Crimson article was published, Mr. Kratsios told Mr. Rogers that his article "had all the sources there" and that his criticism was directed only at a submission from a college.
Weintraub further stated: "But while Coke gets a full page [by Ed Potter] in the magazine to rebut allegations, the company's opponents don't get a similar space to make their case."
What could be the real reason the article was rejected? We did a bit of research into Princeton's Board of Trustees and found a strong connection between Coke and Princeton University. On Princeton's board is Nancy B. Peretsman, Executive VP and Managing Director of Allen & Company. Allen & Company has many strong connections to Coke. A Wall Street Journal article on May 5 announced that Herbert A. Allen, president and chief executive of Allen & Co. and a Coca-Cola Co. director "spent about $18.7 million this week to acquire 443,898 shares of the beverage giant's stock, the largest purchase by a board member since 1994..." Allen was already the beneficial owner of 8,652,151 shares of Coca-Cola stock, as described in Coca-Cola's March 10 proxy statement. In addition, Coca-Cola Co. director Donald R. Keough who is Chairman of the Board of Allen & Co. is the beneficial owner of 5,140,521 shares of Coca-Cola stock, according to Coca-Cola's March 10 proxy statement and Herbert Allen III, son of Herbert A. Allen, is on the board of Coca-Cola Femsa, the Coke bottler in Colombia that is the target of the Alien Tort Claims lawsuit, charging human rights abuses by Coke bottlers in Colombia. Finally, it is interesting to note that Allen & Co. is headquartered in Coca-Cola's building in New York City. It is clearly in the interest of Ms. Peretsman, Allen & Company and The Coca-Cola Co. to suppress Ray's article and the Campaign's point of view, which would have exposed Ed Potter's misleading statements and lies and Coca-Cola's abuses worldwide.
Below is our article responding to Ed Potter's usual misleading and false statements that Business Today refused to print. We welcome anyone to reprint our op-ed piece:
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke ( http://www.KillerCoke.org) seeks to hold The Coca-Cola Co. accountable for human rights abuses at its bottling plants in Colombia. At the same time, we are educating the public about Coke's widespread crimes and unethical behavior worldwide.
The International Labor Rights Fund ( http://www.laborrights.org) and the United Steelworkers filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola on behalf of SINALTRAINAL ( http://www.sinaltrainal.org), a Colombian union representing Coca-Cola bottling plant workers; several of its members and survivors of Isidro Gil, one of its murdered officers. The lawsuit charges that Coca-Cola bottlers "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders."
American University Prof. Lesley Gill stated in a Nov. 2004 report: "Murdered unionists are not the product of indiscriminate, chaotic violence, nor are they the 'collateral damage' of civilians caught between warring groups. They are the victims of a calculated and selective strategy carried out by sectors of the state, allied paramilitaries, and some employers to weaken and eliminate trade unions. It is a strategy that emerges from, and is facilitated by, pervasive impunity."
In January 2004, New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate led a delegation on a 10-day, fact-finding tour to Colombia to investigate the allegations of human rights violations by Coca-Cola. As one member said upon returning, "We heard one story after another of torture and injustice. The sheer number of these testimonials was overwhelming." The delegation issued a scathing report in April concluding that "Coca-Cola is complicit in human rights abuses of its workers in Colombia" — and its "complicity is deepened by its repeated pattern of bringing criminal charges against union activists who have spoken out about the company's collusion with paramilitaries." ( http://www.killercoke.org/reports_monserrate.php)
Coca-Cola claims that is has extensive relations with 12 separate unions in Colombia and that more than 30 percent of the 8,000 workers in the Coca-Cola system are unionized. This simply is not true. More than 90 percent of Colombian Coke workers are considered "flexible" workers with no union representation. They are employed through various subcontracting schemes. These workers receive low pay, meager benefits, if any, have no job security or future with the Company and many are mired in poverty.
Coke's assertion that it has extensive relations with a dozen other unions is a far stretch of the imagination. Many of those unions really exist only on paper and all the unions combined represent a tiny number of Coke workers, far less than SINALTRAINAL.
Coke's claim that the Company was exonerated of human rights abuse allegations by two judicial inquiries in Colombia and two "independent" investigations in the U.S. by their law firm, White & Case, and by the discredited Cal-Safety Compliance Corporation which Coke hired, has no credibility whatsoever.
Coke's other crimes and abuses against the global public interest include:
- Overexploitation and pollution of water sources in India ( http://www.indiaresource.org), Mexico ( http://www.ciepac.org), Ghana and elsewhere ( http://www.polarisinstitute.org)
- Benefiting from hazardous child labor in sugar cane Fields in El Salvador; documented by Human Rights Watch ( http://www.hrw.org)
- Aggressive marketing to children of nutritionally worthless and damaging products ( http://www.commercialexploitation.org and http://www.schoolpouringrights.com/)
- Anti-worker policies in Turkey and Indonesia ( http://www.studentsagainstsweatshops.org)
- Labor abuses in the U.S., including harassment, intimidation, discrimination and retaliation
- Giving executives hundreds of millions of dollars in stock options and bonuses while laying off thousands of employees
- History of racial discrimination
- Fraudulent business practices
The Coca-Cola Co. spends $2.6 billion a year to create a false image that has nothing to do with the ugly reality that is the Company. The reality is that the World of Coca-Cola is a world full of lies, deception, immorality, corruption and widespread labor, human rights and environmental abuses. When consumers think of The Coca-Cola Co., one should think of a company that has brought great hardship and despair to many people and communities throughout the world.
That's why 24 campuses have removed and banned the sale of Coca-Cola products, including small colleges such as Union Theological Seminary and Carleton College, and large universities such as Rutgers University, New York University and the University of Michigan. When students think of Coca-Cola beverages, they should think of them as "Unthinkable" and "Undrinkable" until the company cleans up its act.
Additional links to reports:
Gill, Lesley: "LABOR AND HUMAN RIGHTS: The Real Thing' in Colombia" ( http://www.aaanet.org/committees/cfhr/gill.pdf)
Monserrate, Hiram: "NYC fact-finding delegation's report on human rights violations by Coke" http://www.killercoke.org/reports_monserrate.php
The Harvard Crimson, "Cola Controversy Riles Up Princeton," By Benjamin L. Weintraub, April 10, 2006
The major beverage companies and the William J. Clinton Foundation announced on May 3 that the companies "would stop selling non-diet sodas to most public schools." This deal followed a wave of regulation by schools and state legislatures to curtail student soda consumption. In fact, last year a total of 38 school nutrition bills aiming to get junk food out of schools were introduced, while the governor of Connecticut last week backed proposals to ban sugary soft drinks from all state schools there.
The Campaign views this decision with hope, but understanding Coke's history of public relations scams, we are looking at this decision with some suspicion.
According to Beverage Daily, "Soft drinks firms have bowed to pressure from lawyers by pledging to pull more fizzy drinks out of US schools, but faced continued uncertainty last night as some legal experts involved pointed to loopholes in the deal."
In addition, Professor and lawyer Richard Daynard, who was involved in the negotiations, said "the omission of sports drinks in the agreement could be a big loophole. 'We might have to re-hone litigation if this becomes a problem,' he said, adding that sports drinks essentially amounted to sugared water, and should not be marketed at children sitting in class most of the day.
"There were also concerns that regular fizzy drinks may simply be replaced by diet varieties by 2010, according to the lawyer Ross Getman, who has campaigned against soft drinks in schools and who's independent testing re-alerted the Food and Drug Administration to the presence of cancer-causing chemical benzene in drinks last autumn."
As we have described in the past, the beverage companies have fought any regulation and this agreement is a case of avoiding class action lawsuits and legislation that were coming their way. In a New York Sun op-ed column, Andrew Wolf wrote on May 5: "This settlement had to be a difficult pill for the soft drink industry to swallow. By agreeing not to sell sodas and sports drinks in schools, there is an implication that somehow these products may represent a real danger to students. This is clearly being done for pragmatic reasons — the soda companies are attempting to inoculate themselves from possible litigation."
In fact, The New York Times reported in an article, "To Some in Hartford, Coke is a Real Evil Thing", "Mr. Williams (Connecticut Senate president pro tem) said Coca-Cola was paying lobbyists 'hundreds of thousands of dollars' to dissuade legislators from supporting a bill banning the sale of carbonated beverages, including diet sodas; sugary drinks and junk food, in the state's public schools" and "that Coca-Cola has threatened to rescind scholarships and academic and athletic enrichment programs if the proposal becomes law."
Coca-Cola, Bill Clinton and the UN
What does Bill Clinton have to do with all this? We did a bit of research and followed the money trail and found out more about how Coca-Cola uses its money to buy favors, influence and respectability:
In April, E. Neville Isdell presented the Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, to former President William Clinton for his advocacy of "free trade and international cooperation." These policies have encouraged corporations to move their jobs and exploit workers in the lowest wage areas of the world. The Prize includes a sculpture entitled "Tribute" created by a retired Coca-Cola executive and $50,000 "made possible by The Coca-Cola Foundation." Thus, it is clear that Coke is in control of this award.
Furthermore, the President of the board of the Fulbright Alumni Community is R. Fenton-May, who was previously director of operations development at The Coca-Cola Company, where he also served as president of Coca-Cola China Ltd., Hong Kong, and vice president and technical manager of Coca-Cola Central Pacific Ltd., Hong Kong.
A number of those receiving Coca-Cola's prize money hold or have held major positions in the United Nations. These include present Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson, Sadako Ogata and Martti Ahtisaari. Why do we raise this issue? Coke is claiming that the United Nations International Labor Organization will do an "investigation" of the Company's past and present labor practices in Colombia. However, Sally Paxton, the person in charge of the "investigation," contradicted at least two crucial points trumpeted in public statements by Coca-Cola's CEO E. Neville Isdell and Coca-Cola North America President Donald Knauss. She emphasized that the ILO would only do an "assessment of current working conditions," not of past labor relations practices. Second, she insisted that the ILO was not going to conduct "an investigation," adding that there won't even be an assessment of the parent company Coca-Cola, only an "assessment of the enterprises in Colombia." (See our release: "University of Michigan Falls Prey to Another Coca-Cola PR Scam".)
This is more of Coca-Cola using its huge financial resources to buy influence, maintain its presence in the schools and further scam the public.
Beverage Daily, "Lawsuit pressure brings school soft drinks deal," By Chris Mercer, May 43, 2006
Yahoo News, "Nearly All Sodas Sales to Schools to End," By Samantha Gross, Associated Press Writer, May 3, 2006
New York Times, "To Some in Hartford, Coke Is a Real Evil Thing," April 6, 2006
We recently received an email from one of our supporters who had received a "survey" from an outfit called Polling Point. The email notes that "PollingPoint is a non-partisan poll operated by Polimetrix." This emailed "poll" begins with a few objective questions, giving the reader the belief that the "poll" is non-partisan and is looking for data in a study. However, when one reaches the halfway point, it becomes evident that The Coca-Cola Co. is behind this "poll" since the arguments posed are all from Coke's perspective and is meant to influence people's attitudes, not acquire data for a study. This "poll" is mainly propaganda.
It begins with the following questions asking the readers' impressions:
"Overall, do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable impression of the following people, groups, or organizations? If you haven't heard of the person, group or organization, or if you don't know enough about that person, group or organization to have an impression, just say so.
The Coca-Cola Company ___________________________
Ray Rogers ___________________________
Pepsi Cola ___________________________
The United Nations ___________________________
Local soft drink bottlers ___________________________
The International Labor Organization ___________________________
How much, if anything, have you heard about activist campaigns on college campuses involving Coca-Cola — have you heard a great deal about the campus campaigns involving Coca-Cola, some, not too much, or nothing at all about the activist campaigns on college campuses involving Coca-Cola?
_____ Great deal
_____ Not too much
_____ Nothing at all
_____ Don't know
Then, the "poll" turns to propaganda. For example:
"In Colombia violence against union members has resulted in only 4 percent of workers nationwide joining unions. But 31 percent of Coca-Cola bottler employees belong to unions. Coca-Cola bottlers enjoy extensive, normal relations with 12 unions in Colombia and currently have collective bargaining agreements in place covering wages, benefits and working conditions. (To see our response to this lie, go to 7. Business Today op-ed piece above)
"Coca-Cola is proud of the global labor and workers' rights practices in the Coca-Cola system. In fact, the practices at the Colombian bottler's facilities have been independently audited already — confirming that workers in Coca-Cola plants enjoy freedom of association, collective bargaining rights, and a work atmosphere free of anti-union intimidation. Now an investigation is being conducted by the International Labor Organization — a UN organization with an unimpeachable record. Once this investigation is completed, Coca-Cola hopes to put these questions behind them so they can focus on working constructively to ensure the rights and safety of their workers worldwide." (See our release: "University of Michigan Falls Prey to Another Coca-Cola PR Scam".)
Sound familiar? Those of us who have heard Coke's CEO E. Neville Isdell, Coke's Director of Global Labor Relations Ed Potter or Coke spokesman Pablo Lagarcha speak have heard these lies and misleading statements before.
If one goes to Polling Point's website, one may see a list of more objective surveys that have been made public. The Campaign contacted Polling Point and they said that this was a private survey and the results would not be made public. It was only done for the client who paid them. Who could that be? And wouldn't Polling Point lose their reputation as "non-partisan" if this was made public?
In a May 2 Press Release, the Latin American Association (LAA) announced "The Coca-Cola Company is being recognized for its Exemplary Corporate Leadership" at its May 18 awards luncheon/annual meeting.
But guess what? The Coca-Cola Company is a sponsor of this luncheon. Not only that, but on further study, we found that the chair of LAA's board of directors is Frank Ross, Asst. Vice President of Latin Affairs of The Coca-Cola Co. A bit more study found that among the organization's sponsors in 2003 and 2004 was The Coca-Cola Co. (donated more than $250,000), the Goizetta Foundation (Goizetta was CEO of Coke through 1997 and the foundation donated more than $250,000) and Coca-Cola North America (donated between $10,000 and $24,999)
This intimate, incestuous relationships between organizations and Coke is repeated time and time again. This is also what we found when studying the relationships between Coke and the International Labor Organization (ILO) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
In a letter to "Friends and Allies," Coop America said: "Coop America is proud to announce the launch of our new Responsible Shopper website, providing a snapshot of the global impact of major corporations on human rights, the environment, trade inequity and more. First launched in 2000, Responsible Shopper has become recognized as an important online resource in the corporate responsibility movement. The program is a comprehensive consumer resource for corporate information, campaign action and lifestyle alternatives, all focused on reaching the tipping point that will transform the most egregious companies in key industries."
The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke has long recognized the value of this website and we have linked to it from almost the beginning of our Campaign. When we are asked about the alternatives to Coke, we suggest that people take a look at the Coop America site to compare the three major beverage companies — Coke, Pepsi and Cadbury Schweppes.
The New York Post on April 26 did a story on www.responsibleshopper.com. It reported:
"With accusations of unethical behavior against Corporate America piling up...
"Under the heading for Coca-Cola, for instance, is a brief description of the company followed by contact information and a section cataloging 'complaints, abuses, and scandals.'
"One such complaint — the 'Campaign to Stop Killer Coke' — calls on the company to investigate the murder of labor unionists at Coke bottling plants in Colombia."
Coke has had recent difficulties in India and Japan because of tobacco pouches, dirt, fungus, iron filings and insects found in their soft drinks. The Company has been reported for paying hush money to vendors to keep quiet about foreign substances in their drinks. In Japan the Company had to recall almost 1 million bottles of drinks due to iron powder in their drinks. And the company was fined because insects were found in Sprite.
At the beginning of our campaign, we reported that on June 19, 2001, Eric Meissner, a 30-year employee at the Auburndale, Florida plant that produces Coke's Minute Maid and Hi-C products, was fired after alerting a U.S. Agriculture Dept. inspector about a dead rat found under an orange juice capping machine. The president of Meissner's Teamsters local commented, "(Coke) would rather fire a worker with 30 years experience than address serious product safety concerns."
Bloomberg Markets (July 2004) reported: "In March 2004, Coca-Cola recalled 500,000 bottles of its Dasani water in the U.K., following a lab analysis that found as much as 2.5 times the allowable level of bromate, a carcinogen. Coke shelved plans to sell Dasani in France and Germany..."
The Times of India, "It's often Coke with bad elements," Dinesh Narayanan, May 2, 2006
"MUMBAI: MNC soft drinks maker Coca-Cola regularly pays off its vendors to keep quiet when substances such as tobacco pouches, dirt and fungus show up in its beverages, classified documents of the company's marketing arm reveal."
TMCNet, "CORRECTED: Coca-Cola group to recall 570,000 bottles of soft drinks," Japan Economic Newswire, May 1, 2006 Read Article
The Telegraph (India), "Coke fined for insects in Sprite," PTI, April 29, 2006
Read Article v
Statement from Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union supporting the campaign," April 18, 2006
Change Makes Change, "Mr. Coke Goes to Washington"
A campaign supporter donned a Coke can outfit and went out into the streets to education people about Coke's abuses.
Anto, Don't Drink Coke Presentation
Watch Video Watch this multimedia presentation of issues regarding Coke's abuses worldwide
Bund, "Sweatshops (Sinal-Waves) Killing Vers.". Berlin, 11.04.2006.
Listen to Song
"I send you here the download-URLs of an audio track made by the band "Bund" dedicated to the female and male workers and their children of SINALTRAINAL"
16. Do you need a customized Campaign leaflet?
When we invited supporters to contact us to "customize a leaflet for your campus, union or group," the response was terrific! We immediately began getting emails asking us to produce customized leaflets for numerous colleges, universities, high schools and middle schools. We put them up as soon as we could. We have leaflets for Australia, Canada, Colombia (in Spanish), India, Ireland, the UK and the US.
Because the demand for flyers was so strong, it took up too much server space. We decided to leave the list online with the schools listed for which we have customized flyers. If you need a copy of your flyer, please contact us and we'll email it to you as soon as possible.
If your school, union or group is not listed and you would like a customized leaflet, please contact us at info@KillerCoke.org. Please state the name of your school and the name of the sponsoring group and a local email address, if you want us to put them into the flyer. If you want the flyer for a group, please state the name of the group and an email address. Also, whenever you email the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, please include a phone number, if possible, in case we have a need to talk with you.
17. Campaign's 'Campus Activism' Section
Students have been writing us from schools interested in beginning a Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. We recommend that students begin by checking out the two organizing packets in our "Campus Activism" section:
- "Unthinkable! Undrinkable! A Campus Campaign Overview," a USAS Campus Guide
- Campus Activism Packet — Campaign for a Coca-Cola Free Campus
- Schools Active in the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
In addition, there are numerous reports, resolutions and articles in the "Campus Activism" section that can be useful to students.
- 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
19. 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.
In addition, we would still appreciate an e-mail toinfo@KillerCoke.orgwith your name and description of where you live and/or work for our database.
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