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Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Update September 24, 2008

Killer Coke Campaign Moves into High Gear with Unions and on Campuses

Contents of This Newsletter

  1. South Carolina State AFL-CIO unanimously passed resolution to ban Coke products
  2. Maine labor organizations ban Coke
  3. 120,000-member OPSEU, Canada, backs up their Coke boycott resolution with strong action
  4. Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, removes Coke products
  5. Coke rep says: Will be no ILO Investigation of past abuses in Colombia
  6. Human rights abuse case against Coke continues
  7. 'Dying for a Coke' by Kacie Morgan, London Progressive Journal
  8. 'The Emperors of Coke' by Murray Eldred, a former Coke executive (UK)
  9. 'Protest Against Multinational Terrorism' & Coke in Colombia
  10. Coke Issues raised at TIAA-CREF's annual meeting
  11. Second plant in India shuts down & Coke continues dishonest practices
  12. More Coke Scandals
  13. New videos further exposing Coke
  14. FLOC's Baldemar Velasquez in North Carolina & 'Call to the Fields'
  15. Daily News story highlighting Ray Rogers, Director, Campaign to Stop Killer Coke

1. South Carolina State AFL-CIO unanimously passed resolution to ban Coke products

A motion to ban Coca-Cola products from the facilities of the South Carolina State AFL-CIO, representing 78,000 workers, was passed unanimously at their 2008 convention in September. The resolution called upon affiliates and their members to avoid purchasing Coca-Cola products.

"THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that South Carolina State AFL-CIO ban Coca-Cola products from its facilities and functions in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters fighting a life and death struggle to secure basic democratic and trade union rights, and

"RESOLVED that South Carolina State AFL-CIO, calls upon affiliates and their members to avoid purchasing Coca-Cola products, including Dasani, Fanta, Minute Maid, Nestea, Odwalla, Powerade and Sprite, until the violence against union leaders and organizers stops and the lawsuits are resolved."

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2. Maine labor organizations ban Coke

a. Southern Maine Labor Council, AFL-CIO, calls on affiliates to ban purchases of Coke

From the Southern Maine Labor Council, AFL-CIO, resolution:

"WHEREAS, Coca-Cola Bottling plants in Colombia routinely allow and encourage paramilitary death squads to murder, torture and kidnapping union leaders and organizers, therefore be it,

Resolved, That the Southern Maine Labor Council requests that its affiliates remove all Coca-Cola products from all facilities, until this issue is resolved, and be it further

Resolved, That the Southern Maine Labor Council requests that all unions stop purchasing all Coca-Cola products until this issue is resolved.

Southern Maine Labor Council AFL-CIO resolution passed Portland, Maine June 4, 2008

b. Western Maine Labor Council, AFL-CIO, supports boycott of Coca-Cola

Peter Kellman, President of Maine's largest central labor council, the Southern Maine Labor Council, opened the July meeting of the Western Maine Labor Council (WMLC), representing workers in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties, with a labor history moment recounting the history of the 1948 Boycott of Coke by the Teamsters. The Council discussed the current Coke boycott - the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. The boycott is organized because of Coca-Cola's widespread human rights and environmental abuses, most notably the assassination of union leaders at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. WMLC passed a motion to support the current boycott. Supporting the boycott means WMLC will not have Coke products at events and meetings and will attempt to educate members and peers about the boycott.

c. Maine's Bath Iron Works IAM Local S6 removes all Coke products

LOCAL S6, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, AFL-CIO (IAM), Bath, Maine, had all Coca-Cola products removed from the union hall. The union represents 3,400 production employees of Bath Iron Works.

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3. 120,000-member OPSEU, Canada, backs up their Coke boycott resolution with strong action

OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union), "International Labour Updates: Coca-Cola products banned by OPSEU," July 28, 2008
Read Update

"We are requesting that locals contact their employers and request that Coca-Cola products be kept out of the workplaces and work meetings."

Excerpts from recent letter written by OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas:

"In our 2008 annual OPSEU convention, delegates passed a resolution to join the Coca-Cola boycott supported by several other unions, NGOs and social organizations from all over the world

"Eight Coca-Cola bottling plant workers in Colombia have been murdered?by right wing paramilitary death squads, one of which took place inside the facilities of one of the bottling plants?While the Coca-Cola board of directors refuses to acknowledge the horrific reality that Colombian Coke workers and their families are facing, many more Coca-Cola workers and family members have been tortured, kidnapped and/or illegally detained by paramilitaries

"Today, I am asking you to please implement the resolution L16 by banning all Coca-Cola products from all OPSEU offices, and by ending the provision and sale of all Coca-Cola products in all OPSEU functions."

Currently the union, Canada's largest provincial union, is planning to produce bumper stickers, t-shirts, buttons and literature to wage a campaign to mobilize support from their 120,000 members and their workplaces.

In addition to banning Coke, OPSEU has also taken strong action in support of Colombian trade unionists through demonstrations, rallies, letters and petitions and the union is opposing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement because of "the negative effects it will have on the job security here in Canada and on the labour conditions in Colombia," according to OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

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4. Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, removes Coke products

Skidmore's students' campaign to kick Coke off campus began last semester, Coke products are now a thing of the past at Skidmore, making the college at least the 51st campus to dump Coke products. Skidmore has 2,400 students and 241 faculty members. We received the following email from Skidmore USAS announcing the victory:

"On August 15th, Skidmore's purchasing department decided not to renew their contract with Coca-Cola. Skidmore's United Students Against Sweatshops group applauds this decision to change from Coca-Cola products to Pepsi products. We feel that this change better reflects the campus' dedication to social, environmental and economic justice. Skidmore is fortunate enough to have the power to choose what it consumes. This power enables the campus to support corporations that are responsible and committed to their workers, and likewise to revoke our support from corporations that abuse their power here and abroad. We hope this choice sets a new standard in the products Skidmore chooses to endorse. Good job Skidmore!"

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5. Coke rep says: Will be no ILO Investigation of past abuses in Colombia

A letter was sent to filmmaker Matt Beard by Dana Bolden of The Coca-Cola Co. In it the Coca-Cola representative says: "the agreed-upon scope of the assessment [in Colombia] was always of current workplace practices." Where has Bolden been during the past 2-1/2 years? All of the Coke executives, including E. Neville Isdell, Ed Potter and Donald Knauss, have lied over these years stating that the ILO had agreed to do an investigation of past and present labor policies and practices of Coke bottlers in Colombia, repeating these lies time and time again even when four ILO officials completely contradicted them. This is the first time that a Coke representative has admitted that Coke knew that the ILO had never agreed to an investigation of past and present labor policies and practices of Coke bottlers in Colombia.

To remind our readers, in a letter to University of Michigan Executive VP and Chief Financial Officer Tim Slottow on April 10, 2006, 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?" Based on this letter, one man, Mr. Slottow, brought Coke products back on the U-M campus after a campaign by 20 campus student groups had been successful in removing all Coke products from the Michigan campus.

In an April 12 phone conversation with Campaign Director Ray Rogers, the ILO's Executive Director of Social Dialogue Sally 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. And three other executives of the ILO in conversations with Mr. Rogers took the same position as Ms. Paxton.

At the April 19, 2006 Coca-Cola annual shareholders' meeting, Rogers publicly confronted Coke CEO Neville Isdell with Ms. Paxton's statement. Isdell responded: "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?"

Since 2006, Mr. Isdell has repeatedly stated at each shareholders meeting that there was to be an investigation of past and present practices, even criticizing Rogers' facts as "faulty."

Clearly, Coke executives have been incorrectly characterizing what the ILO is doing in Colombia. And because of this Coke scam, a democratic decision to remove Coke made by the University of Michigan was circumvented by Coke and Mr. Slottow. Other colleges have used the Michigan example, such as the University of Montana, as an excuse to ward off any attempts to remove Coke products from their campuses. New York University officials have unsuccessfully tried to bring Coke back to their campus using the so-called ILO investigation as a reason.

Because of this new information, the University of Michigan and other schools relying on the word of The Coca-Cola Co. should rethink any decision and discontinue selling Coca-Cola products.

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6. Human rights abuse case against Coke continues

During the week of December 1, the 2001 Alien Tort Claims case against The Coca-Cola Co. is scheduled for oral argument. The appeals hearing on the lawsuit will be in front of a three-judge panel from the 11th circuit court in Miami. The lawsuit focuses on the murder of union leader Isidro Gil inside a Coke bottling plant in Colombia and the kidnapping and torture of other union leaders.

Read the 2008 appeal.

The following links to the 2001 lawsuit (murder of union leader Isidro Gil, Colombia), the 2005 lawsuit (Turidi et al. v. The Coca-Cola Co.: Turkish Coca-Cola workers victimized by riot police under orders from Coca-Cola), the 2006 lawsuit (murder of union leader Adolfo de Jesus Munera, Colombia) and the site of International Rights Advocates.

Read the 2001 complaint
Read about the 2005 lawsuit
Read the 2006 Complaint.
International Rights Advocates

Graphic by high school student Seth Opperman

At Coke's annual meeting in April 2008, Ed Potter, Coke's head of Global Labor Relations, told Campaign Director Ray Rogers that he didn't feel that the Colombians were interested in settling the lawsuits. At the same time, Ed Potter volunteered that one of the concessions Coke was demanding as a condition to settlement was that SINALTRAINAL leaders resign from the union! If that's the case, it's no wonder the Colombians would not be interested in such a settlement.

It also seems apparent that, to Coke, the loss of a Colombian life has little value!

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7. 'Dying for a Coke' by Kacie Morgan, London Progressive Journal

Kacie Morgan is a journalism student at Cardiff University in the UK. Cardiff continues to be very active in the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke.

London Progressive Journal, "Dying for a Coke," By Kacie Morgan, 11th to 17th July 2008
Read Article
"...A similar attempt to preserve the integrity of Coca-Cola within the soft-drinks market was made in 2007 advertisements [Satire of ad] that linked the company directly to Martin Luther King Jr. in a celebration of Black history. The campaign failed to mention his call for a boycott of Coca-Cola during the Civil Rights Movement following the discrimination of Black employees. Coca-Cola's tendency towards racial discrimination can also be observed in its alleged support of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the advertisements placed in Hitler Youth booklets. Furthermore in 2001, Coca-Cola had to pay the largest racial discrimination settlement in US history of $192.5 million - a huge contradiction for a company that boasts of its " long-standing commitment to equal opportunity and intolerance of discrimination.

"Perhaps after reading thus far into the dark side of Coca-Cola, it may no longer shock you that this reputable company has long been practicing anti-worker and anti-environmental policies worldwide. The UK's Channel 4 Production, "Dispatches: Mark Thomas on Coca-Cola" of 2007, exposed child labour in El Salvador sugar fields. During sugar harvesting, the young workers suffer from smoke inhalation, burns and cuts from machetes yet have no access to healthcare. Despite this, Coca-Cola continues to spend $3 billion a year on advertising and claims to firmly oppose child labour."

This article originally appeared in the London Progressive Journal.

Click here to watch Cardiff's "This Funeral Is Brought To You By Coca Cola."

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8. 'The Emperors of Coke' by Murray Eldred, a former Coke executive (UK)

Description: A history book of scandal. A book which shows the intrigues and combinations of the Leaders of the Coca-Cola system. A history book primarily centered in the 20th century which shows the growth of a Multinational corporation, of the United States and the power of unrelenting advertising and PR to sell a product. This is the only time that an ex Manager from the Coca-Cola system has written so candidly. You will read about the things that the Coca-Cola system wants to remain hidden.

Murray Eldred: "One day about 8 years ago I was flipping through a magazine in a supermarket. In the magazine was some more propaganda by the Coca-Cola system about how the firm had just run such and such a promotion directed to children. What bothered me was that the man running the PR for The Coca-Cola Company in the region was someone who seldom said or wrote anything truthful. The boss he reported to in London was also someone who had obviously learned his ethics by reading of the intrigues and combinations of the Sublime Port in the 19th Century. It was then I said ''enough is enough'', I will start researching this company and finding out why ''fear'' and ''subterfuge'' seem to be pillars in this company. You might say this is true of all capitalist companies and multinationals. Fair statement. But the Coca-Cola system sets itself up as whiter than white. Well this company more or less invented the vision of the ''Santa Claus'' we have in the western world, of the linking of ''the American Way'' with the ''Coca-Cola Way''. Of inter racial harmony - '' I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony'' was a Coke TV ad in the 1960's when Coke was ''whiter than white'' but for the wrong reasons.

"The more I researched the more I came to the conclusion that the "Emperors of Coca-Cola" had set the scene. They had developed a Papal-like infallibility and their underlings would always agree with what the Emperor wanted for new clothes. ''Fear'' had come down from the top. But is ''fear'' the American way? I think not always. Yes, the American Empire, like all Empires has been insensitive. But the best of ''America'' - Lend Lease, The Marshall Plan, The Green Revolution, an Independent Judiciary, the separation of Church and State are sullied when linked to any Multinational.

"I unearthed some very interesting original correspondence thanks to the assistance of Harvard University which showed the Coca-Cola System at its most brutal. I was able to reflect on discussions I had with disillusioned former Coke system employees in countries where no labour unions were allowed. I was able to establish a link in the selling of product to Iran and Libya when both countries had trade embargoes on them from the USA State Department.

"It was a worthwhile Journey... 'Journey' is a word often used in the Coca-Cola system. It is a book which needed to be written."

Buy the book online

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9. 'Protest Against Multinational Terrorism' & Coke in Colombia

This protest was in support of the Multinational Tribunal taking place on July 21, 22 and 23 in Colombia concerning the Crimes Against Humanity committed by transnational corporations in different sectors of the economy.

Watch Slideshow of demonstration
Read Leaflet for this protest

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10. Coke Issues raised at TIAA-CREF's annual meeting

Rocky Mountain News, "Issue of Sudan on table for CEO," By James Paton, July 15, 2008
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"A group of activists, academics and gadflies kept the pressure on TIAA-CREF [Teachers Insurance and Annuity Assn.-College Retirement Equities Fund], urging its new CEO on Tuesday to dump stocks of companies that fail to cut ties to Sudan, to improve labor practices and to act more responsibly...

"One critic was Neil Wollman, a senior fellow at Bentley College in Massachusetts who has been needling TIAA- CREF since 1984. Wollman and colleagues are upset about labor practices at Nike, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart and want TIAA-CREF, which manages $420 billion in assets, to hold those companies and others accountable."

Below is a statement by Caroline Bninski, who spoke against Coke at the TIAA-CREF meeting in support of the Make TIAA-CREF Ethical Coalition: Statement at TIAA-CREF's Annual Meeting by Caroline Bninski

"I have come here to both applaud TIAA-CREF and to criticize the institution with respect to The Coca-Cola Company.

"Two years ago, the $9 billion CREF Social Choice Account divested one and a quarter million shares of Coca-Cola Company stock because the company did not meet KLD's Broad Market Social Index (BMSI) criteria as a socially-responsible company.

"Last year and again this year, The Coca-Cola Company and its largest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, have been dropped from the BMSI and investments in both companies are banned from the Social Choice Account, which is our nation's largest socially-screened fund for individual investors.

"At least 50 colleges and universities have kicked Coke products off their campuses because of the company's widespread labor, human rights and environmental abuses including the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders in Colombia.

"Many of the largest unions in the U.S., Canada and Europe, including teachers' unions, have banned Coke products from their facilities and functions and have called on their members to boycott Coke. These include the New York State United Teachers, the California Federation of Teachers, Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York and the United University Professions of the State University of New York, together representing hundreds of thousands of campus faculty and staff.

"Business Week reported that Coca-Cola has lost 4% of its brand name value, which translates into a $2.5 billion loss. That should be of great concern to any large institutional investor.

"Last November, a documentary film was broadcast nationally in England highly critical of Coke, even showing the company's history of collaborating with the Nazis, showing Martin Luther King, Jr. calling for a boycott of Coke and airing 2007 film footage showing how Coke benefits from hazardous child labor cutting sugar cane for Coca-Cola sugar processors.

"Why, if Coca-Cola has such a deplorable record of anti-social behavior, does TIAA-CREF still have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Coke?

"Do the executives and trustees of TIAA-CREF really believe its participants, many of them teachers, do not care on whose backs or at what cost to others they make their profits?

"If Coca-Cola does not clean up its act quickly, TIAA-CREF should take strong constructive actions. One action that can be taken immediately before complete divestment is considered is to follow the lead of many campuses like Rutgers University, New York University, DePaul University, State University of New York Stony Brook and Smith College, and make your cafeterias, other facilities and functions Coke-free and publicize why you are taking such action."

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11. Second plant in India shuts down and Coke continues dishonest practices

Commondreams.org, "Coca-Cola Plant Shut Down in India: Community Welcomes Decision, Company Cites 'Unbearable' Financial Losses," By India Resource Center, August 14, 2008
Read Release
" 'Community campaigns in India have shut down Coca-Cola bottling plants in Plachimada and in Balia, and now we will ensure that Coca-Cola bottling plants in Mehdiganj and Kala Dera also meet the same fate,' said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, a community group challenging Coca-Cola's operations in Mehdiganj, near Varanasi. Lok Samiti worked very closely with the community in Sinhachawar towards the plant's closure. The Coca-Cola company is also the target of intense community campaigns in Mehdiganj and Kala Dera in India for creating water shortages and pollution. The company was forced to agree to an assessment of its bottling operations in India as a result of a sustained international campaign. The assessment, released in January 2008, was a damning indictment of Coca-Cola's water management practices in India. The assessment recommends that Coca-Cola shut down its bottling plant in Kala Dera because the plant contributes significantly to water shortages in the area.

India Resource Center, "Coca-Cola Continues Unethical and Dishonest Practices in India, Company Must Follow Recommendations of Company Funded Study: Shut Down Kala Dera Bottling Plant," By Amit Srivastava, September 12, 2008
Read Article
" It is said that those who don't learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them. It seems that the Coca-Cola has not learnt any lessons from its past mistakes in India. The manner is which the Coca-Cola company has decided to deal with another formidable community-led campaign in India - in the village of Kala Dera in the state of Rajasthan - is indicative of the arrogance and impunity of the company that has landed it in trouble before. And Coca-Cola in India is in for a rude awakening, once again."

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12. More Coke Scandals

Dow Jones, "Colombian Bogota Fines Femsa COP201 Million For Pollution (Coca Cola Company)," August 12, 2008
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"The council of Colombian capital Bogota fined the local unit of Mexico-based soft-drink bottler Coca-Cola Femsa SA (KOF) 201 million Colombian pesos, or about $110,000, for dumping industrial waste waters in marshes located in the city's outskirts...The council's environment secretary's office said Femsa had been polluting the wetlands with industrial waste waters since 2006."

FlexNews, "Coca-Cola Agrees to Pay US$137.5 Million to Settle Fraud Lawsuit," July 4, 2008
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"Coca-Cola Co has agreed to pay US$137.5 million to settle a lawsuit in which it was accused of with-holding information to increase its stock price...Plaintiffs said bottlers in Japan were forced to buy extra syrup in an effort to inflate sales - called channel stuffing - so that Coca-Cola could post higher income and therefore artificially boost its share price."

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13. New videos further exposing Coke

a. Polaris Institute, "Talking Back to Coke-Part 1" April 16, 2008
Watch Part 1
On April 16, the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, Polaris Institute, Corporate Accountability International, India Resource Center, Coke large shareholder B. Wardlaw, Mark Thomas, ("DISPATCHES: Mark Thomas on Coca-Cola"), Students for a Free Tibet, students and others went to Wilmington, Delaware, to confront the Coke policymakers with their crimes against humanity. The Polaris Institute, Canada, filmed participants answering the question, "What do you want to say to Coke?"
Watch Part 2

b. Mark Thomas, "DISPATCHES: Mark Thomas on Coca-Cola"
Now in one 48-minute video:
Watch entire 48-minute video

Bulletin: Mark Thomas's book, "Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola," will be available soon. Click here for more information and to buy the book

c. Matt Beard's Trailer & 'The Cost of a Coke'
This film was produced by Matt Beard, a student at the University of Montana, and the image below was created by Seth Opperman, a high school student in Colorado:

Trailer, "The Cost of a Coke: 2nd Edition," By Matt Beard

The Cost of a Coke: 2nd Edition Coming Soon!

Recent photo taken in Florence, Italy, by Robin Bell

14. FLOC's Baldemar Velasquez in North Carolina & 'Call to the Fields'

Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, (FLOC) and its president, Baldemar Velasquez, have been strong supporters of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and we at the Campaign support the great work of FLOC.

Baldemar Velasquez was raised as a migrant farmworker. Since his childhood, he has worked in the fields and orchards of many states from Texas to the Midwest. He suffered the oppression and discrimination of migrant workers, and watched his parents humiliated many times from the injustices they experienced trying to support their family. Finally, after one incident when his father was cheated out of promised wages in front of the family, Baldemar began organizing migrant workers to stand up for their rights. Following the model of Cesar Chavez, this protest led to the founding of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).

Baldemar has a long history of sacrifices for migrant rights, including living in poverty to start and maintain the FLOC movement in its struggles and fasts to focus public attention on the suffering of migrant workers who provide Americans with food on their tables.

Baldemar has led the FLOC movement through many hard times to a number of victories, including the Campbell Soup strike and boycott and the Mt. Olive boycott... and into the current RJ Reynolds Tobacco campaign. FLOC staff and supporters know that the FLOC motto "Hasta La Victoria" is a promise to struggle through all the hardships to victory.

Baldemar's commitment to justice now leads him to experience one more challenge - to understand directly the hardships of tobacco field workers. We support the great work FLOC has done in the past and is currently doing in its struggle against RJ Reynolds on behalf of tens of thousands of migrant farm workers.
Read about Baldemar's experience in the tobacco fields.

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15. Daily News story highlighting Ray Rogers, Director, Campaign to Stop Killer Coke

Daily News, "Spotlight on Great People: Corporate Campaign Inc.'s Ray Rogers banks on finance to defeat big business," By Clem Richardson, August 22, 2008
Read Article

" 'A lot of people don't understand where power comes from,' Rogers said. 'It comes from organized concentrations of money and people. I realized that inherent with large organizations, like unions and all the members they represent, there is a lot of financial power there that had never been tapped. That financial power was and is being used against them.'

Article corrections: 1. In discussing the campaign to win a TWU Local 100 contract in 1999, there was no strike. The article should have stated: "The contract was settled shortly afterward." 2. TIAA-CREF has divested itself of more than one and a quarter million shares of Coca-Cola stock, not a quarter million. 3. While Ray coined "The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke," Corporate Campaign writer Joe Pilati developed the Killer Coke concept, including posters, "Killer Coke, the drink that represses," "Dasani is Daphoney" and "Colombian Coke Float: Unthinkable! Undrinkable!"