ACTION ALERT: Darfur, Victory at Guelph and Speaking Engagements
ACTION ALERT: Darfur, Victory at Guelph and Speaking Engagements
April 10, 2007
Coca-Cola Has an Obligation to Help End Genocide in Sudan
"I believe The Coca-Cola Company should take the following action to help end genocide in Sudan's Darfur.
"1. Allocate $15 million to run a three-month public relations and lobbying campaign to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide in Darfur. This sum is $4 million less than the $19 million Coca-Cola spent in 2003 to advertise Sprite.
"2. If this doesn't work, The Coca-Cola Co. should shut down its operations in Sudan and the company should compensate every worker affected by the shutdown the equivalent of at least four times Sudan's per capita income or one year's salary, whichever is greater, to help those Sudanese Coke workers' families adjust while seeking other means of making a living. Even if there were 7,000 employees, as reported in 1998, this would cost The Coca-Cola Co. less than $20 million, a drop in the bucket compared to the annual profits of $4 -5 billion or the compensation paid to its executive officers. E. Neville Isdell's compensation for 2006 as reported by the Atlanta Business Chronicle was $32.3 million.
Statement by Ray Rogers, Director, Corporate Campaign, Inc.
Why is Coca-Cola back operating in Sudan?
On May 15, 1998, the African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania reported in a Sudan Update: " 'When the U.S. government announced sanctions against Sudan four months ago, officials here shrugged their shoulders,' reports IPS. `Trade between the countries was low,' they said, so the measure would hardly affect the economy. Now, however, the effect is being felt: Coca-Cola, for example, pulled out of the country this week and, as a result, at least 7,000 workers and technicians have lost their jobs, according to the Sudan Standard, an official weekly. Coca-Cola Ltd. was one of the leading employers in Sudan, economists here say.
"Sudan Standard said that Coca-Cola International had requested that Egyptian industries stop shipping concentrate and chemical mixtures needed to manufacture Coca-Cola drinks to its subsidiary in Sudan. The paper quoted company authorities as saying that they had not received permission from the U.S. government to ship the inputs to Sudan."
On October 24, 2006, Jeffrey Gettleman reported in The New York Times ("War in Sudan? Not Where the Oil Wealth Flows") that "In 2002, Sudanese investors opened a new Coca-Cola factory, with Coke syrup legally exported to Sudan under an exemption for food and medicine. The $140-million plant churns out 100,000 bottles of Coke, Sprite and Fanta per hour..."
In 1997, the American government imposed a trade embargo freezing Sudanese government assets in the U.S. and prohibiting exports to and imports from Sudan. The reason as reported in The New York Times: "human rights abuses connected to the north-south war and Sudan's links to terrorists."
In 2002, The Coca-Cola Co. exploited a loophole in the U.S. sanctions that gave the company an opportunity to ignore genocide in Darfur and to open a new plant in Sudan, thus propping up the Sudan economy and the government of Sudan's President Hassan al-Bashir. According to the Times article, President Bashir, an army general, seized power in 1989 through a military coup. Among the biggest beneficiaries of government revenues have been his troops - this in a country where the per capita income in 2005 was $640.
The New York Times story stated: "Sudan still marches to a martial tune. Army officers enjoy special status, foreign visitors must register with the police and schoolchildren are required to wear camouflage uniforms to class..."
An excerpt from a U.S. Treasury Dept. document entitled: "An overview of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations..." states: "Except for information or informational materials and donated articles intended to relieve human suffering, such as food, clothing and medicine, and the licensed export of agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices, no goods, technology, or services may be exported from the United States to Sudan, either directly or through third countries, without a license..."
Certainly, Coca-Cola soft drinks, Coke, Sprite and Fanta, hardly meet the standards of a food or medicine "intended to relieve human suffering." And the syrup for these products is certainly not being donated.
Nat Hentoff reported in the Village Voice: "We all know that the United States has placed certain trade restrictions on Sudan. Yet gum arabic is exempted, and it is the number one export of Sudan. Coca-Cola and the other major soft drink conglomerates need gum arabic. So what do we do? We proudly proclaim that we've got sanctions on Sudan, but we exempt gum arabic."
According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Dept. of Treasury, Coca-Cola has paid fines "to settle allegations of violations of the Sudan sanctions...OFAC alleged that Coca-Cola exported to its bottler in Sudan services not authorized by its OFAC license and disregarded or evaded certain OFAC license restrictions. The services included financial and market support."
I believe The Coca-Cola Company should take the following action to help end genocide in Sudan's Darfur.
1. Allocate $15 million to run a three-month public relations and lobbying campaign to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide in Darfur. This sum is $4 million less than the $19 million Coca-Cola spent in 2003 to advertise Sprite.
2. If this doesn't work, The Coca-Cola Co. should shut down its operations in Sudan and the company should compensate every worker affected by the shutdown the equivalent of at least four times Sudan's per capita income or one year's salary, whichever is greater, to help those Sudanese Coke workers' families adjust while seeking other means of making a living. Even if there were 7,000 employees, as reported in 1998, this would cost The Coca-Cola Co. less than $20 million, a drop in the bucket compared to the annual profits of $4 -5 billion or the compensation paid to its executive officers. E. Neville Isdell's compensation for 2006 as reported by the Atlanta Business Chronicle was $32.3 million.
This could serve as a model for other companies operating in the Sudan. Furthermore, the public everywhere should demand that gum arabic not be imported from the Sudan.
It should be noted that Warren Buffett who left Coca-Cola's board in 2006, but remains the company's largest shareholder with 8.3% of common shares outstanding worth about $10 billion, is also a major investor in the PetroChina Oil Company which gets oil from Sudan and is targeted by the Sudan divestment community. "Oil has turned it [Sudan] into one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa - if not the world - emboldening the nation's already belligerent government and giving it the wherewithal to resist the Western demands to end the conflict in Darfur."
2. Coca-Cola Booted from University of Guelph
We posted a March 30 article from the Guelph Mercury which reported that the University of Guelph students had voted to boot Coke off campus with a 65 percent vote in favor. "'This has been on students' agenda for a long time and the university's response has always been "There's nothing we can do, we're in a contract" ' said Becky Wallace, a student association member."
Guelph Mercury, "Squeezing out Coke: Students want it off campus," By Thana Dharmarajah, March 30, 2007
India Resouce Center Press Release, "Coca-Cola Booted from the University of Guelph," April 5, 2007
Read Press Release
A Central Student Assn., University of Guelph press release stated on April 3, in part:
"In the recent student elections, University of Guelph students voted to replace the current Coke contract with that of an ethical beverage supplier.
"The vote took place within the context of an international movement against Coca-Cola. For the past three years, activists have been calling on the giant beverage company to clean up its act in Colombia and India. Of the 4780 students who voted on this question, 64.44% voted to end the current contract. This is particularly relevant to the University of Guelph as their contract with Coca-Cola is coming to an end. The University is already in the processing of reviewing possible beverage suppliers.
" 'Students have voiced their opinions loudly and clearly. We want ethical choices on this campus,'" says Becky Wallace, a member of Students Against Sweatshops. 'The University is in a position now, because the contract with Coke is ending, to actually do what is right and to switch to an alternative beverage supplier. They have the ability to work with us and bring about positive change in the world: the question remains whether or not they will do this.'
"The Central Student Association represents over 16,000 undergraduate students at the University of Guelph and is a member of the Canadian Federation of Students."
For more information, please contact:
Becky Wallace, Central Student Association
Phone: (519) 824-4120 ext 56742
This impressive victory has a history that goes back to 2004. In the Campaign's November 16, 2004 newsletter, we posted a letter from John O'Regan of the University of Guelph:
Letter from John O'Regan of the University of Guelph, Canada:
What do a company that exceeds four billion dollars in annual profits, the second most widely understood word in the world, and a beverage that is often cheaper and more readily available than potable drinking water have in common? The name Coca Cola.
Since its creation in 1886, Coca Cola has become one of the most powerful and recognizable corporations in world history. Although the company claims to benefit and refresh everyone it touches, Coca Cola's human rights records tell a much different story. Since 1989, eight union leaders at the company's bottling plants in Colombia have been murdered. In the last fifteen years, over one hundred additional employees have been threatened, kidnapped, or tortured as a result of their attempts to unionize.
Coca Cola certainly has the economic power to drastically improve the situation in Colombia, but "tries to avoid responsibility," explains Ray Rogers, the director of an international organization known as the Campaign Against Killer Coke. Since launching the website www.killercoke.org, Rogers has raised public awareness in an effort to stop the human rights abuses in Colombia. In addition to discrediting the image that Coca Cola spends over one million dollars in advertising per day to maintain, Rogers also targets colleges and universities that have signed lucrative distribution contracts with the corporation.
The University of Guelph is one of the many institutions that have inked such a contract with Coca Cola. Interestingly, both Hospitality Services representatives and university administrators are wary of giving Coke's competitors unfair advantages, and have flatly refused to publicize the terms of the contract. Regardless, it is the presence of students that make universities a lucrative market for corporations in the first place, and as such, I believe that paying students should be privy to this contractual information. Especially because the contract in question links the university that we students pay to support to a corporation that operates, in Rogers words, like "criminal enterprise."
Last February, a committee of students and administrators drafted a Code of Ethical Conduct for Suppliers and Subcontractors, in which the university admitted that "our actions, including our consumer decisions, have an impact on those involved in production [and that] this obliges us to address the ethical implications of our business transactions." Although the Code cannot affect the U of G's contract with Coca Cola (it doesn't apply to existing contracts) it will still help the university take steps towards "conducting its business affairs in an ethical manner."
Unfortunately, more than seven months have elapsed since the committee presented its final draft of the Code, and it still has not been implemented. Although university President Alastair Summerlee has expressed a desire to pass the Code, he has yet to provide even a tentative date for its ratification. Without the Code in place, the University of Guelph is only increasing the likelihood that it will again find itself conducting business with unethical companies. Furthermore, by refusing to provide students with information relating to its contracts with Coca Cola, the university is preventing them from making informed purchasing decisions.
One wonders why, instead of doing its "utmost to fulfill [its] moral obligations to workers," the University of Guelph would rather do its utmost to fulfill its business obligations to a killer corporation like Coca Cola.
University of Guelph
And in our newsletter of March 23, 2005, we reported:
"15,000-member University of Guelph Student Union Dropping Coke (Canada)
The Campaign was notified on March 11 by the External Commissioner of the Central Student Assn. that the 15,000-member University of Guelph Student Union is "dropping Coke as their supplier." This is a tremendous victory for both the students who have been campaigning for the past year and for the Campaign in Canada."
Again, we commend the students who have campaigned to gain this tremendous victory.
3. Hear Ray Rogers Speak at Plymouth State University, New Hampshire, & Pitzer College, California
A. Ray Rogers Will Speak at Plymouth State University, New Hampshire
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
6:30 - 8:30 pm
Boyd Hall #144
B. Ray Rogers Will Speak at Pitzer College, California
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Free to the public