Campaign to Stop Killer Coke | News Release August 24, 2006
Patrick's Lawyering, Not My Leaflet Should Be Questioned, Says Ray Rogers
From: Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
For more information, contact Pat Clark or Ray Rogers at (718) 852-2808
For Immediate Release, August 24, 2006
Patrick's Lawyering, Not My Leaflet Should Be Questioned, Says Ray Rogers
"I am acting as a private citizen, born and raised in Massachusetts. I haven't violated any laws, and I am only informing the public that high-powered corporate lawyers like Deval Patrick are often scofflaws when they work for disreputable companies like Coca-Cola, Texaco and Ameriquest."
So says labor and human rights advocate Ray Rogers, director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, whom gubernatorial hopeful Deval Patrick recently denounced as "a paid public relations consultant from New York" who is now "under investigation by state campaign finance authorities."
"Deval's definition of an investigation is a lot looser than most people's," Rogers said. "The State Office of Campaign and Political Finance simply provided me with its standard form dealing with independent expenditures.
"I am responding today with a detailed explanation of the circumstances that caused me to publish the leaflet, 'Deval the Fee Hugger,' " Rogers added. "People can question me as much as they like, but I'm not running for governor. It's really Mr. Patrick who needs to be scrutinized."
The complete text of Rogers' response to the campaign finance office can be found below and at http://www.killercoke.org/DevalPatrickExposed.htm.
Statement by Ray Rogers
Attachment in Response to Item 3 of Form CPF 18A
My reasons for producing and distributing the leaflet entitled "Deval the Fee Hugger" are to educate the public about Coca-Cola's worldwide labor, human rights and environmental abuses and to hold Deval Patrick accountable for his role in perpetuating those abuses while serving as a top Coca-Cola executive. As the company's general counsel, executive vice-president and secretary, Mr. Patrick was one its five highest ranking and compensated officials and was deeply involved in making the irresponsible decisions that have brought great hardship and despair to many people and communities. Deval Patrick "not only managed Coca-Cola's global legal practice, but most of its other corporate functions, as well," according to former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
Mr. Patrick has pocketed millions from Coke to cover up the company's crimes and immoral behavior and to keep his mouth shut. Although he has said, "I have never left my conscience at the door," nothing could be further from the truth.
Mr. Patrick joined The Coca-Cola Company in April 2001. According to a company proxy statement, his compensation for eight months' work in 2001 was more than $10.7 million. He was given 10 years' pension credit with the company to add to the years he actually worked for the company. Company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission suggest that Mr. Patrick stands to make many more millions in future Coke-related payouts. In addition, he was paid handsomely as a board member of Coke's largest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, from 2001 to 2004. He has also made millions more representing the interests of companies like Texaco and Ameriquest, which pursued policies at odds with the public interest.
In October 2003, I was one of 15 protestors who handed out literature to hundreds of lawyers attending a Washington, D.C. banquet at which Deval Patrick was to receive an award from the organization Equal Justice Works. We handed out a brochure entitled "The SunTrust/Coca-Cola $ix-Pack: Getting away with Murder" and a leaflet bearing the headline, "No Sympathy for Deval: The Killer Coke Counsel." Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman were among hundreds of people who took the handouts. The leaflet reproduced a letter dated October 2, 2003 from Terry Collingsworth, executive director of the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), stating in part:
"(Mr. Patrick's) activities in his current position at Coca-Cola nullify any basis for Equal Justice Works honoring him as an 'advocate for civil rights, equality, and fairness in the workplace.'
"Coca-Cola and other multinational companies in Colombia are literally getting away with murder by partnering with Colombia's notorious armed forces and paramilitary troops, including the most brutal organization in Colombia, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)...
"Coca-Cola bottlers Pan American Beverages (Panamco) and Bebidas y Alimentos are two of the companies that provide support to the AUC. In turn, the AUC murders and tortures trade union leaders seeking to represent workers at these companies. In response, SINALTRAINAL, a Colombian trade union representing workers at Coca-Cola bottlers in Colombia, filed a lawsuit in Miami's U.S. District Court, along with victims of AUC violence, against Panamco, Coca-Cola, and Bebidas y Alimentos. There is no dispute that several SINALTRAINAL leaders who represent workers at Coca-Cola's Colombian bottling plants have been murdered by the AUC, and five individuals represented in the lawsuit have been tortured, and/or unlawfully detained.
"Led by Deval Patrick, the Coca-Cola legal team has reached new lows in the so-called corporate responsibility movement. Unable to dispute the facts, Coca-Cola is pursuing a corporate shell game defense. The company claims that the people who were murdered and tortured under the Coca-Cola signs in the Coca-Cola bottling plants that send profits back to Coca-Cola in Atlanta have no recourse against Coca-Cola and should instead subject themselves to further risk of violence by seeking justice in Colombia. Mr. Patrick's team seeks to maintain an incredibly unjust, uncivil and unfair system that allows companies to enjoy the best of both worlds in their overseas operations, by profiting from human rights violations while limiting liability to a local entity that is a mere facilitator for the parent company's operations.
"This represents a grave threat to innocent workers worldwide..."
The initial lawsuit was filed by the ILRF and the United Steelworkers Union in July 2001, just three months after Deval Patrick became general counsel of The Coca-Cola Co. Under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1789, foreigners can sue in U.S. courts for violations of fundamental human rights that are clearly defined under international law. It applies to "the law of nations," which federal courts have interpreted to cover genocide, war crimes, extrajudicial killings, torture, unlawful detention and crimes against humanity.
The Bush Justice Dept. and the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, representing thousands of corporations, both want to nullify the ATCA. As a New York Times editorial (6/2/03) said: "To stop lawsuits under this act would be to put abusive individuals and companies above the law."
It is noteworthy that Deval Patrick, while general counsel and vice-president at Texaco (1999 to 2001), devoted a good deal of time and effort to opposing the attempt to use the ATCA as part of the legal basis for a claim on behalf of 30,000 impoverished Indians and settlers in Ecuador who sought compensation for massive environmental damage caused by Texaco. As the Boston Herald (8/28/99) reported, "Deval Patrick...contends the plaintiffs shouldn't have access to U.S. courts, only those in Ecuador..." In so doing, Patrick set the pattern for his legal assault on Colombian Coca-Cola workers.
The July 2001 lawsuit charges that Coke bottlers "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders." Since 1990, seven union leaders have been murdered and many others and family members have been kidnapped, tortured, illegally detained or otherwise victimized.
A chilling description of SINALTRAINAL leader Isidro Gil's assassination, based on eyewitness accounts, is the centerpiece of the lawsuit filed in Miami in July 2001. It tells how the thugs showed up at the Carepa Coca-Cola bottling plant gate and fired 10 shots at Gil, a member of the union executive board, mortally wounding him. It describes how a heavily armed group returned to the plant the next day, called the workers together and told them if they didn't quit the union by 4 p.m., they, too, would be killed. Resignation forms were prepared in advance by Coca-Cola's plant manager, who had a history of socializing with the paramilitaries and had earlier "given (them) an order to carry out the task of destroying the union."
Fearing for their lives, union members at Carepa resigned en masse and fled the area. The company broke off contract negotiations, the paramilitaries camped outside the plant gate for the next two months, and the union was crushed. Experienced workers who made about $380 a month were replaced by new hires at $130 a month.
On June 2, 2006, the ILRF and the Steelworkers union filed a new Alien Tort Claims Act case against the Coca-Cola Company and its Latin American bottler, Coca-Cola FEMSA. This new complaint charges that managers at the Coke bottling plant in Barranquilla, Colombia conspired with both the Colombian Administrative Department of Security ("DAS") and the AUC paramilitaries to intimidate, threaten and ultimately kill SINALTRAINAL trade union leader Adolfo de Jesus Munera on August 31, 2002. The complaint further alleges that, despite a number of warnings to Coca-Cola management in Atlanta that the management at the Barranquilla bottler has continued to meet with and provide plant access to paramilitaries, the paramilitary infiltration of this bottling plant continues unabated to this day. Meanwhile, these same paramilitaries have continued to threaten SINALTRAINAL members and leaders with death and even kidnapped the child of one SINALTRAINAL leader to pressure him into refraining from his union activities.
On his "official video/audio blog" August 21, 2006 he said: "Thanks to a paid public relations consultant from New York, you may have heard about charges by bottling plant workers in Colombia about violence in their plant years ago."
Because almost 10 years have passed since Gil died in circumstances that plainly implicated Coca-Cola, are his survivors no longer entitled to seek relief and justice? Mr. Patrick's words, "years ago," betray his low regard for the families of both Isidro Gil and union leader Adolfo de Jesus Munera, the latter killed by paramilitaries who still had free access to Panamco (now Coca-Cola FEMSA) plants in 2002, more than a year after Patrick took over Coke's legal affairs.
In July 2003, New York City Council Member and former NYPD police officer Hiram Monserrate, whose district includes a significant Colombian population, sent Coca-Cola CEO Douglas Daft the first of several letters asking him to facilitate an independent investigation of allegations of human rights abuses at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. Coca-Cola wanted no part of it. Rudy Beserra, Coca-Cola's North American vice president of Latin Affairs, wrote to Monserrate on September 11, 2003: "At this time, The Coca-Cola Company does not anticipate supporting in any way any form of 'independent fact-finding delegation to Colombia.' "
It should be noted here that what has happened at Coca-Cola facilities in Colombia is not an aberration. In the 1970s and '80s, a dozen union leaders and activists at Coca-Cola's bottling plants in Guatemala were murdered or disappeared and were never heard from again. The Latin America Bureau in London published a booklet in 1987 stating:
"For nine years the 450 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City fought a battle with Coca-Cola 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."
In January 2004, Council Member Monserrate led a fact-finding delegation to Colombia to investigate allegations of Coca-Cola bottlers' human rights abuses. In April 2004, the delegation issued a report, which said in part:
"The findings of the New York City Fact-Finding Delegation on Coca-Cola in Colombia support the workers' claims that the company bears responsibility for the human rights crisis affecting its workforce.
"To date, there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola's workers, including nine murders. Family members of union activists have been abducted and tortured. Union members have been fired for attending union meetings. The company has pressured workers to resign their union membership and contractual rights, and fired workers who refused to do so.
"Most troubling to the delegation were the persistent allegations that paramilitary violence against workers was done with the knowledge of and likely under the direction of company managers. The physical access that paramilitaries have had to Coca-Cola bottling plants is impossible without company knowledge and/or tacit approval. Shockingly, company officials admitted to the delegation that they had never investigated the ties between plant managers and paramilitaries. The company's inaction and its ongoing refusal to take any responsibility for the human rights crisis faced by its workforce in Colombia demonstrates-at best- disregard for the lives of its workers.
"Coca-Cola's complicity in the situation is deepened by its repeated pattern of bringing criminal charges against union activists who have spoken out about the company's collusion with paramilitaries. These charges have been dismissed without merit on several occasions.
"The conclusion that Coca-Cola bears responsibility for the campaign of terror leveled at its workers is unavoidable. The delegation calls on the company to rectify the situation immediately, and calls on all people of conscience to join in putting pressure on the company to do so.
"On January 13th, the delegation met with two representatives of Coca-Cola/FEMSA in Bogota, Juan Manuel Alvarez, Director of Human Resources, and Juan Carlos Dominguez, Manager of Legal Affairs. Delegation members had tried, while still in New York, to arrange visits to Coca-Cola bottling plants. This request was reiterated in the January 13th meeting, and the delegation at that point asked specifically for access to the plant in Barrancabermeja. Company officials flatly refused. In the course of the meeting with Alvarez and Dominguez, they promised to send several pieces of documentation that they referred to. To date, none of this material has been received despite a letter from corporate headquarters in Atlanta testifying that these materials will be provided.
"The delegation received information about Coca-Cola's labor practices and the violence against its workers from several other parties as well, helping to provide a larger social, economic, and political context. In Barrancabermeja, the delegation met with CREDHOS, a regional human rights organization, on January 14, and with the Organizacion Femenina Popular, a women's organization, on January 15. In Cali on January 17, it spoke to Diego Escobar Cuellar, a representative of ASONAL JUDICIAL, the association of judicial workers. Escobar provided chilling insight into the problem of impunity, describing in detail the corruption within the judicial system and its increasing ideological alliance with the paramilitaries. 'Colombian justice is an oxymoron,' he told delegation members.
"The delegation also met with a variety of government and political officials with whom it discussed the Coca-Cola situation. These meetings included: Congressmen Wilson Borja and Gustavo Petro; Daniel Garcia Peña, aide to Bogotá Mayor Lucho Garzón; members of the executive board of the Frente Social y Politico, a left-wing political party; Cali Mayor Apolinar Salcedo Caicedo; and the City Council of Cali.
"At the outset of the trip, the delegation also met with two staff members of the U.S. Embassy, Craig Conway and Stuart Tuttle, who at the time was in charge of Human Rights.
"Coca-Cola's employment practices in Colombia, both those within the letter of the law and those in contravention of the law, have had the effect of driving wages, work standards and job security for Coca-Cola workers sharply downward, and simultaneously, of decimating the workers' union, SINALTRAINAL. Both trends are reinforced by the appalling human rights violations that workers have suffered at the hands of paramilitary forces.
"The company denies any involvement in the threats, assassinations, kidnappings and other terror tactics, but its failure to protect its workers even on company property, its refusal to investigate persistent allegations of payoffs to paramilitary leaders by plant managers, and its unwillingness to share documentation that might demonstrate otherwise leads the delegation to the conclusion that Coca-Cola is complicit in the human rights abuses of its workers in Colombia.
"Circumstantial evidence of Coca-Cola's complicity in the raw repression of its union workforce abounds. This consists in the suspicious coincidence, reported to the delegation by multiple union sources in Colombia, of waves of anti-union violence during contract negotiations between the union and the company. The union's analysis also reveals that the company's peak profits have come at times of the most intense repression.
"Beyond these correlations, there are troubling eyewitness accounts of paramilitaries having unrestricted access to Coke plants and of paramilitaries consorting with company managers. When the delegation traveled to Barrancabermeja, it conducted a physical assessment of access to the bottling plant there in order to understand more precisely what paramilitary access to company property entails. The plant in Barrancabermeja is surrounded by a 10-foot high iron fence. Entry is limited to a guarded gate, which remains closed. It is simply impossible to gain access to the plant without company knowledge and permission. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that paramilitaries in Coke's bottling plants were there with the full knowledge and/or tacit approval of the company.
"The delegation also heard testimony from multiple sources that there are payments made by local Coke managers to paramilitaries. In the delegation's meeting with Coca-Cola/FEMSA representatives Juan Manuel Alvarez and Juan Carlos Dominguez on January 13, these allegations were vigorously denied. Yet, Alvarez and Dominguez acknowledged that Coke officials had never undertaken any internal or external investigations into these assertions, nor into any of the hundreds of human rights violations suffered by the company's workers.
"The company's representatives also acknowledged there was a possibility that persons employed by the company — but acting without authorization — could have worked with, or have had contact with, paramilitaries. This admission makes the failure to investigate ties to the paramilitaries all the more shocking. Alvarez and Dominguez also maintained that the company assisted workers in filing complaints with the government about paramilitary harassment for union activity and promised to provide documentation thereof; to date, however, no such documentation has been received by the delegation, despite follow-up correspondence.
"The January 13 exchange mirrors the delegation's experience with Coca-Cola throughout its dialogue with the company. Multiple requests for documentation have gone either unanswered or unfulfilled. Coke has shown — at best — disregard for the lives of its workers, who have been threatened, beaten, kidnapped, exiled and killed while the company has not seen fit to investigate this highly disturbing pattern affecting its workforce.
"The delegation found both the quantity and the nature of Coca-Cola workers' allegations shocking and compelling. It seems indisputable that Coke workers have been systematically persecuted for their union activity. It seems equally evident that the company has allowed if not itself orchestrated the human rights violations of its workers, and it has benefited economically from those violations, which have severely weakened the workers' union and their bargaining power."
At a March 2004 meeting with the Student Senate at Carleton College in Minnesota, Coca-Cola representative Lori Billingsley stated that an independent investigation had been done in Colombia by an organization named White & Case and that the company had been exonerated from any allegations of human rights abuses at its plants in Colombia. When students asked if they could get a copy of the report, they were told it was not available to the public.
Coke never told the students that White & Case is a big international corporate law firm that was representing the company in the Alien Tort Claims human rights lawsuit. Alexis Rovzar, an executive partner in White & Case, sits on the board of directors of Coca-Cola FEMSA (formerly Panamco), which is a defendant in the lawsuit.
At the end of the Student Senate meeting at which I presented the Colombian workers' case, students voted to have 42 Coke machines removed from the Carleton campus. On January 23, 2006, Business Week ran a feature article, " 'Killer Coke' or Innocent Abroad? Controversy over anti-union violence in Colombia has colleges banning Coca-Cola." Accompanying the article were photos of Coke machines being removed from Carleton College and students doing a "die-in" protest at Yale University while Douglas Daft made a speech.
Coca-Cola's claims that it has no control over its bottlers in Colombia are blatantly false. As Forbes magazine pointed out in a December 23 article,
The biggest bottlers aren't subsidiaries of Coke, nor are they completely independent. Coke effectively controls them by maintaining big equity stakes and a heavy presence on their boards, and by providing their main source of business. Yet it keeps its stakes in the bottlers below 50 percent thereby avoiding getting hit with their piles of debt and any unpleasant liabilities.
The Coca-Cola Company owns 39.6 percent of the economic stock and 46.4 percent of the voting stock of Coca-Cola FEMSA, its largest Colombian bottler and a defendant in the lawsuit. Many of Coca-Cola's highest-ranking executives serve as directors or alternate directors on Coca-Cola FEMSA's board. [Note: a director of SunTrust Banks of Georgia, a bank closely associated with Coca-Cola since 1919 and a creditor of Deval Patrick, also holds a seat on the Coca-Cola FEMSA board.]
In addition, documents admittedly created by Coca-Cola (i.e., letters to consumers and a statement to shareholders) acknowledge control over workplace practices and its right to inspect the plants to ensure that local managers abide by human rights conventions and domestic law.
Deval Patrick was sitting on the dais at Coca-Cola's April 2004 shareholders' meeting in Wilmington, Del. while I stood at a microphone, representing a Chicago resident who holds 3,000 shares of Coke stock. I was trying to raise many of the issues that made Coca-Cola executives uncomfortable. Suddenly, someone slugged me from behind, I was assaulted by four others, and told to leave the meeting. I assumed the uniformed and plainclothes personnel were on-duty Wilmington City police. Only later did I learn that the men representing themselves as city police on duty were hired to "moonlight" by either Coca-Cola or the hotel.
This raises serious civil rights questions. If someone is breaking the law, police off duty have an obligation and a right to arrest people who are committing a crime, but off-duty police should have no right to represent themselves as police to get a private citizen to do something that a corporation wants that citizen to do.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that, as I was being escorted out of the meeting, "Daft, at the podium watching the events, turned and said quietly, 'We shouldn't have done that.' Then speaking into his microphone, Daft said, 'Security people, please stand down. Stand down, please, please.' " At the same time, Deval Patrick can be seen on the official videocast of the meeting, walking off the stage.
The next day, The Washington Post ran a story claiming that Deval Patrick's decision "this month to resign" was due to his frustration over then-CEO Daft's decision not to allow an independent investigation that Patrick felt would clear Coca-Cola's name to proceed. According to the Post, Patrick "had grown tired of the internal politics along with the long commute between Atlanta and Boston."
However, Patrick stayed on with Coca-Cola through 2004 supposedly to help with the transition of his leaving. On April 8, 2005, the Boston Herald reported:
"Deval Patrick has inked a consulting deal with his ex-employer Coca-Cola that puts $2.1 million into his pocket as he inches closer to a decision to run for governor in 2006.
"The 12-month consulting deal, while not a political contribution, could help Patrick close the fundraising gap with Attorney General Tom Reilly...
" 'One contribution from Coca Cola makes you even with Tom Reilly in the fund-raising department,' said political consultant Scott Ferson. 'That's the real thing.' "
Here's why I referred earlier to the huge sum Mr. Patrick has collected to keep his mouth shut. The same Herald article said: "Under the deal revealed yesterday, Patrick cannot sue the company for any reason and has promised not to work for another company or reveal any company secrets through Jan. 1, 2007."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 8, 2005 reported:
"...Coke announced it will pay $2.1 million to its ex-general counsel, Deval Patrick, to work with the company from now through the end of the year. That amounts to $233,333 per month.
"Patrick has had a long and often messy split with Coke. In April 2004, the company announced his resignation. Days later, the company reversed course and said he would remain for the year.
"In July 2004, Coke's board issued Patrick an apology, saying he had 'acted in a highly professional, diligent and competent manner,' a move that countered reports of criticism of his work.
"On Thursday, when Coke disclosed its deal with Patrick, the company said he will be an independent contractor with 'no obligation to work any particular hours during any period of time...' "
In April 2005, just before Coca-Cola's annual meeting, the company felt heavy pressure from the Killer Coke campaign and from the University Senate at New York University (NYU), the nation's largest private university, which gave Coca-Cola a deadline to support an independent investigation or else the university might, in response to student demands, remove and ban future sales of Coca-Cola products in university facilities.
At the same time, New York City Comptroller William Thompson, on behalf of the city's retirement systems, filed a shareholder resolution stating "that the shareholders request that the Company sponsor the sending of an independent delegation of inquiry to Colombia to examine the charges of collusion in anti-union violence that have been made against officials of Coca-Cola's bottling plants in that country, and that that delegation includes representatives from U.S. and Colombian human rights organizations." (The retirement system owns more than five million shares of Coca-Cola stock.)
Coca-Cola snubbed both NYU and Thompson and said it had a better idea. It hired a Los Angeles firm, Cal Safety Compliance Corp., to do an "independent" investigation. Cal Safety's bogus report exonerating Coke was commissioned and paid for by Coke. Even before this episode, Cal Safety's monitoring record had been widely discredited in publications ranging from the Los Angeles Times to Business Week. The national organization, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), stated at the time: "Cal-Safety is not regarded as a credible monitoring organization within the mainstream worker rights advocate community as a result of its track record of missing egregious violations in high profile cases and its flawed monitoring methodology."
USAS also described the results of a thorough investigation into Cal Safety's monitoring methodology by Dr. Jill Esbenshade, in her book, Monitoring Sweatshops. She conducted extensive interviews with Cal-Safety auditors and directly observed the company's labor auditing in practice. In many key areas, she found that Cal Safety failed to adhere to minimum accepted standards for competent factory investigation.
Coca-Cola, through newly-hired Director of Global Labor Relations Ed Potter, created a "Commission" in May 2005 consisting of representatives of major universities and prominent worker rights advocacy organizations, including the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), the Solidarity Center and USAS. The Commission was expected to develop a methodology for conducting an independent investigation of Coca-Cola's complicity with the paramilitaries in Colombia that have targeted for violence the leaders of SINALTRAINAL who were organizing Coca-Cola bottling plants. When the Commission actually asserted its independence — by kicking out Mr. Potter so that it could be truly independent — Coca-Cola backed away and began finding reasons to delay and obstruct the commission's work. Mr. Potter insisted that the attorneys for SINALTRAINAL and the individual victims of violence agree that any findings of the Commission, as well as any evidence uncovered by the Commission, could not be used in the SINALTRAINAL/ILRF/Steelworkers court case. Because this demand would require them to violate the rules of legal ethics, something Mr. Potter knew, the lawyers refused.
In December 2005, NYU announced it would remove all Coca-Cola products from campus facilities because the company failed to comply with demands for an independent investigation into alleged labor violations in Colombia.
In April 2006, the New York City Employee Retirement System and the Presbyterian Church USA co-filed a resolution again seeking an independent investigation. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola continued to lose ground as two dozen colleges and universities kicked Coke products off their campuses and large labor unions in the U.S. and Europe resolved to ban the sale and distribution of Coke at their facilities and functions. Some called on their members to boycott Coke products and/or SunTrust Banks, deemed "the Bank of Killer Coke." Among those involved were the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Communications Workers of America (CWA), the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT).
In response, Coca-Cola concocted another public relations scheme to make it appear that they were finally agreeing to an "independent" investigation — this time by the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations. Although Mr. Patrick no longer had a formal working relationship with Coke, it was clear that his legalistic and obstructive legacy lingered on.
The Campaign issued a press release on April 17, 2006, highlighting why the ILO could never be considered an independent third party that could conduct an unbiased investigation of Coke's abuses, The release stated:
"First, regarding the Colombia situation...Coca-Cola North America President Donald Knauss wrote: 'On March 2nd, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) announced that it requested the International Labor Organization (ILO) to investigate and evaluate past and present labor relations and workers' rights practices of the Coca-Cola bottling operations in Colombia...'
"Since the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke began in 2003, the IUF has opposed efforts by students on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, the non-IUF union representing most unionized Coke workers in Colombia, to ban Coke products from their campuses and student unions. The union in Colombia affiliated with the IUF that represents Coke workers is SICO, a company union with 40 to 50 Coke workers. SICO replaced SINALTRAINAL after SINALTRAINAL's union officer Isidro Gil was assassinated by paramilitaries inside the Carepa Coca-Cola bottling plant and his local union was crushed...
"Mr. Knauss also wrote: 'Questions concerning the ILO investigation and evaluation should be directed to Ms. Sally Paxton, Executive Director, Social Dialogue.' In an April 12 phone conversation with Ray Rogers, Ms. Paxton contradicted at least two crucial points in Mr. Knauss's letter. First, 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.
"When asked who would fund the 'assessment,' Ms. Paxton responded, 'The money will come from outside donors or the regular budget. That has not yet been decided.' Ms. Paxton said that the model developed for Better Factories Cambodia, a project of the ILO, would be used in the Colombia 'assessment.' According to the ILO website, 'Better Factories Cambodia aims to improve working conditions in Cambodia's export garment factories. It combines independent monitoring with finding solutions, through suggestions to management, training, advice and information.' The ILO website adds that the outside donors for the Cambodian project included the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, whose council is entirely composed of executives from the Cambodian garment industry. Does this mean that the ILO will seek or accept funding from the American Beverage Assn., whose board includes Donald Knauss himself and other Coke executives?
"The ILO has a tripartite structure, consisting of 28 representatives of governments, 14 representatives of employers and 14 representatives of labor. Labor observers and advocates who are familiar with the ILO say that the organization is heavily skewed against workers, since most government representatives align themselves with the employer representatives. Imagine if this multinational body was simply a U.S. body. What chance would workers have to advance any part of their agenda? Because of the stranglehold over the Congress that corporate lobbyists enjoy, U.S. labor can't even get legislation enacted to protect workers' basic rights.
"Why is Coca-Cola so comfortable with Ms. Paxton overseeing this so-called 'investigation and evaluation'? 'Ms. Paxton was a partner in private practice at Fulbright and Jaworski, concentrating in civil litigation at both the trial and appellate levels in a variety of subjects, including labor and employment law,' according to her biography on the ILO's site. The Fulbright & Jaworski website states that the firm 'represents companies in lawsuits involving disputes under collective bargaining agreements' and 'defends employers before the National Labor Relations Board' - not quite the resume of an impartial juror or an unbiased administrator. The law firm has represented ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, Merck & Co and other companies with questionable records on matters involving ethics, exploitation and/or environmental concerns.
"Edward E. Potter, Coca-Cola's Director of Global Labor Relations and Workplace Accountability, serves on the Applications of Conventions Committee within the International Labor Organization. He is currently the head spokesperson for the entire Employers' Group, a powerful position within the ILO structure to promote the interests of big business and thus the interests of Coca-Cola. In addition, Potter leads the U.S. employer delegation to the ILO's annual conference that is coordinated through the United States Council for International Business, which is on the ILO's governing body.
"Over the past year, Potter has demanded that any evidence uncovered by an investigation of Coca-Cola and its Colombian bottlers that indicated Coke committed labor or human rights abuses could not be used in the lawsuit filed by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and the United Steelworkers on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, several of its members and the survivors of Isidro Gil, one of its murdered officers. ILRF Executive Director Terry Collingsworth responded to Mr. Potter's demand in a November 14 letter: 'We cannot prejudice our clients by agreeing to bury evidence that would support their claims,' he said.
"During the process of seeking an independent investigation of Coke's practices, students asserted: 'The investigation in Colombia must include both current and past issues: issues relating to the present lawsuit may not be excluded from the investigation — as these are some of the most egregious violations of our codes and also some of the most contentious issues in this case. This includes issues such as the murders, torture and kidnapping of union workers.' Mr. Potter insisted that there be no investigation of past abuses.
"The proposed ILO assessment of current conditions — not an 'investigation,' as explained by Sally Paxton — is exactly what Mr. Potter and Coca-Cola have wanted all along: a blatantly biased evaluation that will ignore past abuses and will not hold the company accountable in any meaningful way.
"Because of Coke's partnerships and financial relationships with the United Nations, as well as the above-mentioned conflicts of interest, no arm of the UN can be considered an impartial, independent investigator or evaluator of Coca-Cola's labor relations and labor rights practices. Coca-Cola's scheme for worldwide growth specifically includes partnerships with the United Nations. For example, the company touts its $1.5 million fund to support up to 100 projects over five years. The projects involve education, the environment, culture/arts and sports, but essentially serve as vehicles to promote the Coca-Cola brand name and its beverages to young people, the primary target group for Coke's marketing. These projects include youth activities, such as the national youth day in Turkey and a large music festival called Rock 'n Coke.
"In another UN-related public relations scam, Coca-Cola announced in mid-March that it had signed on to the UN Global Compact, which has been described by its senior officer, Gavin Power, as 'a voluntary initiative to promote and advance a principles-based approach to corporate responsibility.' Mr. Power added: 'It is not a regulatory body nor monitoring instrument... The Global Compact is not a club for "perfect companies," if such organizations even exist. It is a platform for companies to work on universal principles and related challenging issues and improve their performance over time.'
"The Global Compact is another public relations vehicle for imperfect companies. Nothing is expected of them nor do they expect to do anything to become perfect or even respectable."
During Deval Patrick's time at The Coca-Cola Company, Coke's overexploitation and pollution of water sources in India became a major issue. The largest Coca-Cola bottling plant in India, in Plachimada, Kerala, has been shut down since March 2004. In addition, Coke was found to contain toxic elements which has recently led to four Indian states banning Coke products from schools and government facilities. The Indian state of Kerala has gone further by banning the production and sale of these products.
Coke has come up with still another public relations scam. Coca-Cola North America President Donald Knauss stated: "We are in active dialogue with TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), a highly respected Delhi-based NGO with deep experience on sustainability issues to develop a transparent and impartial independent third party assessment of water resource management practices at Coca-Cola company facilities in India..."
However, the Killer Coke campaign has learned that Coca-Cola India Ltd. is listed by TERI on its website as a corporate sponsor, TERI Governing Council member Deepak S. Parekh is on the Advisory Board of Coca-Cola India and at least two current projects of TERI are sponsored by Coca-Cola India Ltd.
Furthermore, Coca-Cola is publishing misleading articles and advertisements and making misleading presentations to college audiences. For example, Edward Potter wrote in Business Today (Spring 2006): "For the third consecutive year, we were presented the prestigious Golden Peacock Environment Management Award for environmental practices." But he neglects to mention that the award is given by the Institute of Directors and the World Environmental Foundation. Sanjiv Gupta, President and CEO of Coca-Cola India, sits on the Executive Council of the Institute of Directors. The World Environmental Foundation is sponsored by Coca-Cola, as its website makes clear.
This is just one more example of how the company announces deceptive "initiatives" just prior to its annual shareholders' meetings. Last year, it was the aforementioned Cal Safety Compliance Corporation's bogus report clearing Coke of wrongdoing in Colombia, commissioned and paid for by Coke.
A Boston Globe article (8/13/06) entitled "Patrick's path from courtroom to boardroom" by Brian Mooney, states:
"In a 2001 federal lawsuit brought in Miami by US-based labor groups on behalf of the estate of one of the murdered workers, Isidro Gil, and a Colombian union, Coca-Cola was dismissed in 2003 as a defendant because a judge ruled it did not dictate policies at plants owned by its bottling partners. Charges against two bottling companies are still pending, however."
Attorneys for the ILRF and the Steelworkers insist that when the judge inappropriately dismissed The Coca-Cola Co. from the lawsuit, it had nothing to do with the merits of the case. It's clear that the judge found prematurely, and in error, that The Coca-Cola Co. did not have sufficient ownership or control of its bottlers to be liable. The judge made his decision prior to discovery and the opportunity for plaintiffs to prove that The Coca-Cola Co. does have ownership and control. Also, the judge's decision was based on a single document — a sample bottlers' agreement that Coca-Cola admitted wasn't the actual agreement with the Colombian bottlers cited in the lawsuit.
Coca-Cola chooses to ignore the fact that the court did allow the lawsuit to proceed against its Colombian bottlers, acknowledging that the plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that these bottlers engaged in the same type of serious human rights abuses or crimes against humanity, as defined under international law, that the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 and the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1992 are intended to correct.
Coca-Cola and Deval Patrick have often boasted that Coke's Colombian bottlers "provide good paying union jobs in a country where they are scarce" and "special security measures for union leaders."
This is an outright lie! If, according to Coca-Cola statements, more than 30 percent of the Coca-Cola system workers in Colombia are unionized and the system now employs 8,000, then approximately 2,400 Coca-Cola workers in Colombia would belong to unions. The company claims that its bottlers in Colombia "enjoy extensive relations with 12 separate unions." In fact, about 95 percent of the Colombian workers in the Coca-Cola system are considered "flexible" workers, with no union representation. They are employed through various subcontracting schemes. They receive low pay, no benefits, and have no job security or future with the company. When Coca-Cola states that more than 30 percent of their Colombian employees are union members, they are talking only about a small number of workers whose jobs have not yet been subcontracted. The actual percentage of Colombian workers in the Coca-Cola system who belong to unions is approximately 5 percent at best.
Coke's claim that it has extensive relations with a dozen unions is a far stretch of the imagination. Many of those unions really exist only on paper and all the unions combined, excluding SINALTRAINAL, represent a tiny number of Coke workers. SINALTRAINAL represents the vast majority of those employees working for Coke who are unionized. One of those unions to which Coke refers is SICO, whose president was expelled by his previous union, representing brewery workers, for espousing extreme right-wing views. SICO was set up in Carepa, Antioquia, at the local Coca-Cola bottling plant where SINALTRAINAL had earlier been destroyed after union officer Isidro Gil was assassinated. SICO, which in essence replaced SINALTRAINAL, coexists peacefully with the paramilitary forces that control part of Colombia.
Another union that The Coca-Cola Co. claims does not support SINALTRAINAL and is unaware of company-sponsored violence is SINALTRAINBEC. On June 21, 2001, Oscar Soto Polo, a local president of SINALTRAINBEC, was assassinated during negotiations with Coke's bottler. An article in TIME magazine's international edition describes SINALTRAINAL as "an ally of Soto's organization." Perhaps SINALTRAINBEC has had a change of heart due to the leadership change, which resulted from this murder and the chilling effect it had on the union.
In a report prepared in October 2004 for the Human Rights Committee of the American Anthropological Assn., entitled "Labor and Human Rights: The Real Thing in Colombia," American University Professor Lesley Gill stated that: "Eighty percent of the Coca-Cola work force is now composed of non-union, temporary workers, and wages for these individuals are only a quarter of those earned by their unionized counterparts. Coca-Cola has consistently pressured unionized workers to resign... Coca-Cola is in fact a stridently anti-union company, and the destruction of SINALTRAINAL, as well as the capacity to drive wages into the ground, is one of the primary goals of the extra-judicial violence directed against workers..."
Professor Gill's report was based on her investigation in Colombia between May 23 and June 5, 2004, which included numerous interviews she conducted in Bogotá, Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla, and Cartegena. In July 2005, Prof. Gill returned to Colombia and later reported, "Based on recent interviews and discussions with SINALTRAINAL representatives in Bogot? from July 3-17, 2005, there is little evidence to suggest that the Coca-Cola Company has substantially changed its business practices in Colombia."
The Colombia Solidarity Campaign, a group based in London, published a booklet called The Anti-Coke Manifesto. In 1993, it said, SINALTRAINAL had 1,440 members in Coke plants, but by 2004 that number had fallen to 389. Campaign secretary Andy Higginbottom wrote that since at least the early-1990s, Coke has used brutal methods to maximize return on its investments in Colombia and has taken full advantage of anti-labor policies it promotes that are embodied in the country's political structure. Higginbottom writes:
"Colombia neoliberalism as an economic model — identified especially by the policies of privatisation, deregulation and the flexibilisation' of labour — was imposed from 1990 onwards. In that year two labour laws were passed, law 50 for the private sector and law 60 covering the public sector...Law 50 dispensed with nearly every legal protection for permanent employment contracts, which encouraged subcontracting and temporary working. As a result there are very few private industry trade unions left.
"In 1990 the 'Coca-Cola system' in Colombia employed over twelve thousand workers, of whom nine thousand had permanent employment contracts. By 2001 there were only two thousand five hundred direct employees, and by the beginning of 2005 less than a thousand workers had stable employment contracts. The workforce employed in the 'Coca-Cola system' in Colombia is still nearly ten thousand workers, but 90 per cent of these are now 'flexible' workers, employed indirectly through various forms of sub-contracting..."
Deval Patrick stated almost three years ago in a letter to David Stern, CEO of Equal Justice Works, that "...most workers in most bottling operations in Colombia are organized by labor unions, including production workers in each of the plants that are the subject of the federal court complaint."
The Monserrate report also contradicts Patrick. It said:
"From 1992 to 2002, some 6,700 Coca-Cola workers in Colombia lost their jobs. Eighty-eight percent of the company's workers are now temporary workers and not part of the union. Wages have been reduced by 35 percent for those temp workers in the last decade, and they make one-fourth what union workers earn. Temp workers have no job security, no health insurance, and no right to organize.
"The company has continually pressured workers to resign their union membership and their contractual guarantees. Since September 2003, they have pressured over 500 workers to give up their union contracts in exchange for a lump-sum payment. In Barranquilla, the delegation also heard testimony from three Coke workers who said they had been fired for attending union meetings. Two of them said that they and their families are now hungry and do not have enough to cover the necessities of life.
"Most of the union leaders at Coca-Cola have resisted this pressure and refused to resign. Since the delegation's return from Colombia, the company has turned up the pressure on these leaders, successfully petitioning the Colombian Ministry of Social Protection for authorization to dismiss 91 workers, 70 percent of whom are union leaders. SINALTRAINAL has called this 'Coca-Cola's effort to essentially eliminate the union.'
"In response, SINALTRAINAL began a 12-day hunger strike on March 15th in eight Colombian cities to protest 11 plant closings last year. These closings resulted in the forced resignation of 500 workers, despite Colombian law and a union contract that guarantees the right to transfer from one plant to another..."
Deval Patrick also stated: "Our leading Colombia bottler has worked with local labor unions to provide employees and union officials with extensive special benefits to address their safety concerns. These include transportation, loans to improve security of personal homes, paid leave for employees considered to be in danger, job transfers, security training, shift and job changes to alter daily patterns, extensive life insurance to provide for surviving family members, cellular telephones for use in emergencies, and loans to improve security at union offices. This is in addition to enhancing security at the workplace itself."
Yet Mr. Patrick and the Coca-Cola board of directors were explicitly informed during Coke's April 2003 annual meeting that such security measures have never been provided by the bottlers.
William Mendoza Gomez, president of the Barrancabermeja section of SINALTRAINAL, who attended the stockholders' meeting in Houston, said: "I'm one of 65 members of SINALTRAINAL who are threatened with death by the paramilitaries. Bodyguards are with me all day, and some nights they stay at my house for increased security. My family has been victimized."
Mendoza and several other union leaders, including Javier Correa, president of the national union, insist that all protection made available to union members is funded by the Colombian Ministry of the Interior and partially subsidized by the U.S. government and unions in Europe and the U.S.
"Coke has virtually nothing to do with providing or paying for any of the protective measures," Correa said. "We have received some help as a result of the (legal) cases we have brought against the company. In one case, the Ministry of the Interior agreed to provide an armored car but still has not given it, so Panamco (Coca-Cola's 'anchor bottler' in Latin America) loaned him one. In another isolated case, a worker was granted permission to take a few days out of the city where he'd received death threats. Coca-Cola wants the world to believe that the things the Ministry of the Interior has provided were given because Coca-Cola asked for them. That is completely false! These are things we have achieved with the CUT (the national union federation) through complaints and requests for protection."
"I am in the program that provides protection for union leaders and human rights defenders," Mendoza said. "This is a program created by the Colombian government, due to pressure from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights of the OAS. The Commission forced the government to give me protection and this came through the CUT and through Domingo Tovar (of the CUT human rights department), who took the necessary steps to obtain the protection. Coca-Cola doesn't have anything to do with this process.
"Coca-Cola also says they loaned me money to buy the weapon I have," Mendoza added. "This is a lie. I bought the weapon with my own money. I said this directly to the company lawyer (Coke's general counsel, Deval Patrick) at the shareholders' meeting, and told him he shouldn't lie. He said he had received false information from Panamco." * * *
I realize this is a lengthy response, but since the Office of Campaign and Political Finance is asking me to name "Candidates For Whom...Election or Defeat Promoted," it will hardly suffice to simply answer, "Deval Patrick." My leaflet and my related statements are intended to sound an alarm about the growing influence on government of corporations, particularly those associated with unethical and illegal behavior.
At Coca-Cola, Deval Patrick was part of a culture that operated in an atmosphere of unbridled greed. While thousands of workers were being laid off and downsized, Patrick and his cronies at Coke were collecting bonuses and stock options valued into the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars.
Executives at Coca-Cola, including Patrick, have made millions and continue to benefit from the aggressive marketing of nutritionally worthless and damaging soft drinks to children that health experts say fuel childhood obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. And Patrick supported the company's intense lobbying efforts to prevent state legislatures from banning junk beverages in schools.
Tax avoidance and corporate welfare schemes orchestrated and supported by top executives of companies cheat governments out of badly needed revenues and increase the tax burden on individual taxpayers and small businesses.
On Patrick's watch, Coke avoided paying billions in taxes through the use of offshore tax havens. In an August 2004 Bloomberg Markets article entitled "The $150 Billion Shell Game." David Evans reports that some of the biggest U.S. companies use havens like the tax-free Cayman Islands "to escape billions of dollars in U.S. taxes." Four companies, including Coca-Cola, have accumulated a combined total of more than $75 billion in earnings untaxed by the U.S. According to Evans, "with the offshore tax savings and other tax breaks...the company's effective tax rate was reduced to 20.9 percent for 2003...Coke's tax savings came as the company's board of directors...told shareholders in its annual report that it had scaled back work in high-tax nations, firing a total of 3,700 employees in the United States and Germany last year." Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) was quoted: " When companies...like Coca-Cola, decide they want to minimize their participation in the payment of taxes for that which we enjoy in this country, it bothers me...I'd like to see just a small dose of patriotism with some of these companies because they do well as American companies, they're protected by our military, they access all our transportation, our education facilities and so on. They want all the benefits of American citizenship except that of paying taxes."
In America over the past several years, the press has failed to ask the tough questions and do the necessary investigative work to hold government officials and corporations accountable for their unethical and criminal behavior. If the media investigate Coca-Cola under Patrick's "careful stewardship," no doubt they will uncover more unsavory activities.
At a time when corporate lobbyists actually write federal and state legislation affecting their own industries, we should not support corporate lawyers and lobbyists who run for mayor, governor and other high offices because to do so clearly undermines the public interest. I am acting as a private citizen who loves Massachusetts and respects the good works of Democratic governors and presidents of the past.
I think of Harry Truman, for example, and the famous sign on his White House desk that said, "The Buck Stops Here." If Deval Patrick makes it to the State House, the sign on his desk will probably say, "Anything for a Buck."
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