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Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Update September 3, 2009

Contents of This Newsletter

  1. Violence in Coca-Cola's labor subcontracting system in China
  2. Bigger better bottle bill passed in New York State
  3. Paw Paw (Michigan) sues Coca-Cola for water contamination
  4. IBEW Local 103, Massachusetts, dumps Coke machine
  5. The Coca-Cola Company gives award to union-busting law firm
  6. Queen's University, Canada: Undergrad student union opposes Coke contract renewal
  7. Venezuela Bans Coke Zero
  8. Dr. Betty Martini: "Diet Coke is poison! And it's addictive!"
  9. Killer Coke Newsletter Editor in Venezuela
  10. Carlos Latuff Illustrations on Killer Coke in Colombia & India
  11. Videos & Interviews
  12. Mark Thomas' 'Belching Out the Devil' released in the U.S.
  13. Join Witness for Peace & Campaign to Stop Killer Coke demonstration, Nov. 20 in Atlanta, GA

Our office has been somewhat overwhelmed for most of the summer so we haven't sent out a newsletter for a number of months. Some of our staff has been out of town and others have been busy relocating our office to another site in New York City. We are in the process of revising theKillerCoke.org website to make it easier to navigate. We welcome reports that we can post from campuses, labor unions, businesses, civic organizations, health practitioners and other groups around the world describing how they are working to help bring justice to the doorsteps of Coca-Cola and its bottlers. This newsletter is a catch-up sharing information that we did not include in the last newsletter.

1. Violence in Coca-Cola's labor subcontracting system in China

Press Release, "Violence in Coca-Cola's Labor Subcontracting System in China," Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), August 31, 2009
Read Release

"On the 12th of August 2009, a labor dispatch company hired by Coca-Cola's designated Hangzhou-based bottling plant was discovered to have threatened two university student-workers who asked for their own and their two other fellow workers' backpay upon their resignation. Xiao Liang, 24, was beaten up by two managers at the labor dispatch company's office, resulting in serious wounds over his left eye, left hand, and right ear. Xiao Xu sent Xiao Liang to the Dongfang Hospital immediately after police arrived on the scene. Xiao Liang was later diagnosed with a ruptured eardrum, resulting in compromised hearing capacity...

"Despite their declared commitment to corporate responsibility, Coca-Cola, the world's largest beverage company, has never approached the student-workers to explain wage arrears and use of violence...

"Regardless of whether it is the high or low production season, a significant body of subcontracted or dispatched workers who face frequent wage arrears and even cutbacks on their pay exists in Coca-Cola's Chinese factories.

"Dispatched workers are employed by agencies, which send them to fill temporary, supporting or replaceable positions," according to Article 66 of China's Labor Contract Law. Referring to the Implementing Rules for the China's Labor Contract Law, effective September 2008, it further stipulates that companies shall not use dispatched workers for more than six months, otherwise, they must sign full labor contracts with them.

"SACOM's DEMANDS

"To Coca-Cola, the world's largest beverage company:

"SACOM calls on Coca-Cola to take full responsibility for its abusive use of the 'flexible' labor system in its supply chains. We demand that:

"(1) Coca-Cola apologizes publicly to all four affected students, who have safeguarded their legitimate interests in accordance with the local law but were insulted and assaulted.

"(2) Coca-Cola pays for Xiao Liang the injured student-worker's medical fees.

"(3) Coca-Cola Hangzhou bottling plant signs contracts directly with all laborers dispatched from Zhi Qiang and many other agencies.

"(4) Coca-Cola converts all its subcontracted workers into full time employees within a reasonable time frame.

"(5) Coca-Cola invites the Coke Student Concerned Group, SACOM, and credible not-for-profit labor organizations to organize in-factory labor rights training program for all workers who produce goods for Coca-Cola in China."

2. Bigger better bottle bill passed in New York State

"NY BOTTLE BILL UPDATES BACK ON TRACK: Groups Hail Federal Judge's Decision to Lift Injunction," The American Littoral Society
Read Article

[This new bill will cover non-carbonated beverages, including iced teas, sports drinks and bottled water. Currently, the state's bottle law covers carbonated drinks like beer or soda and lets beverage distributors keep all of the 5-cent deposits not turned in — estimated as between $93 million and $115 million a year. In addition, 80 percent of the unclaimed deposits will go back to the state while 20 percent remains with the distributor.

The New York State Returnable Container Act, also known as the "Bottle Bill", passed in 1982, has been a tremendous success. Over the last 26 years it has achieved significant impacts to create a cleaner and healthier New York. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Bottle Bill has:

  • reduced roadside litter by 70 percent;
  • recycled 90 billion containers, equal to 6 million tons of materials, at no cost to local governments;
  • saved more than 52 million barrels of oil; and
  • eliminated 200,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.

In 1982, non-carbonated drinks like iced teas, sport drinks and bottled water made up a small fraction of the beverage market. Today, non-carbonated water makes up more than 23 percent of the market.

Coca-Cola and the beverage industry lobbyists, as expected, opposed this bill and immediately began to amend it arguing that it was unconstitutional and will cost them millions of dollars and could result in the layoffs.

As we know, Coke only fires employees to bust unions, to shut up whistleblowers and to maximize profits so that they can pay their executives multimillion-dollar salaries and bonuses.]

"Environmentalists and small businesses applauded a decision issued on July 19 by Federal District Court Judge Deborah A. Batts that will allow most provisions of the 'Bigger Better Bottle Bill' to go into effect immediately, and the bottled water expansion to take place in October.

"In April, lawmakers updated New York's Bottle Bill as part of the state budget for FY 2009-2010.

". . .Judge Batts' order means that:

"1) the state can start collecting 80% of the unclaimed deposits on beverage containers covered under the law

"2) the handling fee increase will now go into effect, raising the compensation to stores and redemption centers from 2 cents to 3.5 cents for each container they recycle

"3) the expansion of the law to include bottled water will likely take place on October 22. . .

"While the order gives bottled water companies a court date of October 22nd to show that they might need more time to comply, the decision notes that Nestles had already said it could comply by October 1st, 2009, which is when Connecticut's bottled water expansion goes into effect. The decision stated that 'it is the Court's expectation that Plaintiffs. . .are actively working to achieve compliance with all aspects of the Bottle Bill.'

"The American Littoral Society and other environmental groups praised the Attorney General's office for its handling of the case."

3. Paw Paw (Michigan) sues Coca-Cola for water contamination

The Courier Leader, "Paw Paw Township residents ask Board's consideration in addressing. . .water contamination," By Deborah Klinger, August 14, 2009

"A request to Paw Paw Township from Coca-Cola North America to provide public water to nine homeowners whose wells had been tagged as having' potential water contamination from juice waste that Coca-Cola had sprayed on fields behind their facility was the hot topic of the night at the Township's Tuesday evening meeting.

"Several residents from the specified homes attended the Township meeting asking board members "not to jump and take action too quickly in regards to Coca-Cola's proposal to extend, the public water system to them.

" 'Find out if this is what we' really want before agreeing to this,' said Brian Stump. 'We would also like the Township to look at the whole picture and not just focus on the nine homes identified as being on Paw Paw Road and Hidden Lane. There are many more residents affected by this and maybe more to come as the plume continues to expand.'"

Courier Leader [Michigan], "Brockovich representative declares action has started against Coca-Cola," By Deborah Klinger, July 6, 2009

"Paw Paw residents experiencing well water contamination are moving forward with a lawsuit against Coca-Cola North America. Robert Bowcock, chief investigator for environmental crusader Erin Brockovich, held his second town hall meeting in Paw Paw Monday night. Bowcock, stepping in for Brockovich, whose scheduled appearance was canceled due to illness, announced that the Brockovich group now represents people from the area. He said that with the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., of New York, they would be filing suit against Coca-Cola for groundwater contamination. The contamination is allegedly caused from the spraying of juice waste on fields located behind the Paw Paw facility. Juice waste sprayed on fields in large quantities can strip metals from the soil and make them soluble in groundwater."

"Paw Paw Village Council receives water hook-up request from Coca-Cola NA," By Deborah Klinger, Paw Paw Courier Leader, June 26, 2009

Acting on a recommendation from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Coca-Cola North America has approached the Village of PawPaw with a request that the Village (at Coca-Cola's expense) connect nine residents along Paw Paw Road and Hidden Lane to the Village's water system.

According to Village Manager Larry Nielsen, MDEQ felt that connecting to the village water system. was the best remedy for those residents, with wells tagged as having potential water contamination from juice waste that Coca-Cola had sprayed on fields behind their facility (a standard practice in the food processing industry). For the last 20 months, as a precautionary measure, Coca-Cola has been supplying these residents and others with bottled water.

On June 15, Coca-Cola representatives met with Paw Paw Township and Village officials to discuss options that could be used to accomplish the connection. Currently the Township does not provide water to its residents and it may opt out from taking on these nine residents as customers to avoid becoming a MDEQ regulated water system. Should that be the case, an agreement between the Township and the Village could be developed to allow the nine properties to become Village customers instead of Township customers.

According to Nielsen, Coca-Cola would be contacting the nine property owners regarding the proposal..."

4. IBEW Local 103, Massachusetts, dumps Coke machine

"Local 103's [IBEW] Building Corporation voted...to remove the Coke machine in our hall because of their labor policies or lack thereof."

"Regards
"Michael P. Monahan
"Business Manager"

IBEW Local 103 is a leading force in New England fighting abuse of workers in the electrical and satellite television industries. Three of Local 103's websites that readers of this newsletter will find of interest are:

Stop Satellite Sweatshops

Stop Biotech Looting

IBEW Local 103

We urge our readers to support IBEW Local 103's campaigns, on which Corporate Campaign, Inc. has been working. These sites raise serious issues of greed, exploitation and abuse by companies such as DirecTV and its contractors and biotech/pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Biogen IDEC, Genzyme, EMD Serono, Shire and Wyeth/Pfizer,

5. The Coca-Cola Company gives award to union-busting law firm

Business Wire, "The Coca-Cola Company Names [union-busting law firm] King & Spalding, L.L.P. as Recipient of Its 'Living the Values' Award," August 28, 2009
Read Article

Once again Coca-Cola hands itself, or rather its f amily, an award. This time The Coca-Cola Company presented its "Living the Values" Award (LVA) to Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding L.L.P. How is this an award to itself? Simple research on the Internet will come up with the fact the Coca-Cola board member and former Senator from Georgia Sam Nunn is a retired partner at King & Spading.

King & Spalding is a notoriously anti-union law firm, and Nunn continues to have an office and an email address there. Nunn became a partner and a Coke board member in 1997 shortly after he left the Senate. King & Spalding's website describes their "Traditional Labor Practice":

"...We counsel non-union clients on how to remain union free, and we represent clients in union organizing campaigns and unfair labor practice cases. We have also advised clients with respect to decertifying incumbent labor unions, and have had a number of successful decertifications. We often represent clients in collective bargaining, advise clients on contract interpretation issues, and represent clients in arbitration proceedings pursuant to their collective bargaining agreements. We also actively work with clients facing work stoppages, including training management employees, obtaining injunctive relief where appropriate, and advising clients on replacement of striking workers..."

Under "Preventive Advice and Training" King & Spalding states: "We also conduct training for all levels of employees from executives to staff. These training sessions include: The Manager's and Supervisor's role in Maintaining Union Free Status..."

Some of the clients that King & Spalding have represented include Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., The Coca-Cola Co., Chevron, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil Corp, GlaxoSmithKline, Lockheed Martin Corp and SunTrust Banks, Inc.

It should also be noted that in 1993 Nunn was a leader of the Senate's drive to keep openly gay people out of the military by taking the press on tours of showers and submarine quarters and firing two staff members who were gay. Although he now supports a review of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, he still takes no position on the issue.

So once again, The Coca-Cola Co. shows its antipathy for the labor movement and its employees in honoring Sam Nunn's anti -union law firm, King & Spalding.

6. Queen's University, Canada: Undergrad student union opposes Coke contract renewal

"I just want to send you a message letting you know what's going on at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Last night at the Annual General Meeting the undergraduate student union, the Alma Mater Society (AMS), passed this motion with a landslide vote:

" 'That AMS assembly opposes Queen's University entering into any future exclusivity or other contractual agreement with the Coca-Cola Bottling Company until that company's labor practices in Colombia significantly improve. "Significantly improve" includes the criteria that SINALTRAINAL (the union concerned) publicly announces that their members right to belong to a trade union is respected.' "

"The AMS sits on a committee that will make a recommendation to the University about what to do when the Coca-Cola contract ends next year. Included in the committee are some administrators and a representative from the graduate student union. The graduate student union adopted a motion against Coca-Cola years ago. The students have made their position clear; we will see if the administration honors that."

"Sincerely,

"James Douglas
"USAS"

7. Venezuela Bans Coke Zero

Venezuela's Health Ministry has banned sales of Coca-Cola Zero because the The Coca-Cola Co. failed to declare that the no-calorie soft drink uses an artificial sweetener known to be harmful to health. Health officials said tests show that Coca -Cola Zero contains sodium cyclamate, a sweetener that was banned in the United States in 1970. The Coca-Cola Co. disputes that, saying the product sold in Venezuela uses different artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, which is also a dangerous sweetener as indicated below in the letter by Betty Martini.

Financial Times, "Venezuela bans Coke Zero, citing 'harmful' ingredients," By Benedict Mander in Caracas, June 11, 2009
Read Article

8. Dr. Betty Martini: 'Diet Coke is poison! And it's addictive!'

"Coke's Aspartame Campaign to Bring You Pain — Gets Award," By Dr. Betty Martini
Read Article

"...That word is aspartame, and [Coke's] only recourse is denial, denial, denial, though every ad and commercial builds higher the scaffold upon which Coke shall surely hang. Reality is in that twisted Diet Coke can. It's poison. It's killing the unborn, raining tumors and seizures on the population, destroying children, incapacitating workers, mimicking MS, erasing memory and blinding. Inexorably Diet Coke visits a plague of 92 symptoms listed by our FDA on a secret report they'll never show that names diet soda as the top cause of aspartame disease. And yes, Death was one of the 92.

"Diet Coke is poison! And it's addictive; some victims drink several liters a day and keep it on their nightstands. If Coke changes the formula to remove aspartame the world will heal and the surge of hatred and vengeance by the disabled and bereaved shall certainly destroy Coca Cola.

"The poison in Diet Coke is aspartame. As a member of the National Soft Drink Association, Coke opposed FDA approval of aspartame for beverages. Their objections, running to several pages published in the Congressional record of 5/7/85, said aspartame is uniquely and inherently unstable and breaks down in the can. It decomposes into formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, formic acid, diketopiperazine and other toxins. In a test on 7 monkeys 5 had grand mal seizures and one died, a casualty rate of 86%.

"Coke knew; and knowing, broke their good faith contract with customers, a breach shown by their English plot to program vending machines to kite the price with the temperature. Dissatisfied with selling flavored sugar water plus phosphoric acid, they switched to pushing an addictive formula called "Diet". Addiction multiplies consumption, so Diet Coke soared off the sales charts, spreading obesity. We're fatter because aspartame suppresses serotonin and makes us crave carbohydrates."

9. Killer Coke Newsletter Editor in Venezuela

I recently spent two weeks touring Venezuela in and around Caracas and in Merida in the Andes. Coke IS present in the country despite Pres. Hugo Chavez's hostility for the company, but the brand is not as omnipresent as in other South American countries or as I found in Morocco. I estimate that Coke and Pepsi have an equal presence in the country.

During the tour with a group of 19, we met many campesinos on cooperative farms and workers on cooperative plants. These farms and plants have been developed with government subsidies financed with income from the oil industry.

Newsletter Editor Lew Friedman and Braulio Alvarez

I brought with me Killer Coke tee-shirts, DVDs, mini-posters and flyers to distribute as gifts to those with whom we met. I gave a Killer Coke tee-shirt to Augusto Montiel, a member of the Venezuelan Assembly who addressed the group and thoroughly answered our questions. Montiel told that he would wear the tee-shirt at the next demonstration and would send us a photo.

Augusto Montiel and Newsletter Editor Lew Friedman

At a school for community video, I handed out our four mini-posters to students. I had printed our leaflet in Spanish on the reverse side. As I gave one copy to each student, many became excited about the wonderful images and decided to press me for a copy of all four.

At one point, I became somewhat sick and was encouraged to visit a clinic. We drove to a housing project which had a small clinic staffed by a Cuban doctor. It seems that Venezuelan doctors did not want to move into the poorer communities, so the Cubans came in to 1: service the poor and to 2: train new Venezuelan doctors. After a short checkup, the doctor gave some medicine. Although he was aware that I was an American, there was no charge for the examination.

We did visit one clinic where many of the patients are middle class and opposed to Chavez. But they took advantage of the free medical care.

Another member of our group had a medical problem more serious than mine, spent a night in the hospital, was given eight tests and medication all for no charge.

Some of the members of our group were aware of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, but by the end of the trip, all swore never to drink Coke products again.

10. Carlos Latuff Illustrations on Killer Coke in Colombia & India

KillerCoke in India, By Carlos Latuff

KillerCoke in Colombia, By Carlos Latuff

11. Videos & Interviews

KZSC (Radio)-Santa Cruz, "An Interview with Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Director Ray Rogers," by Jacob Margolis, January 15, 2009
Listen to Interview with Ray Rogers

Mark Thomas interviewed by Gary Null, June 16, 2009 in The Gary Null Show, June 17th, 2009
Click here to listen to the interview

PBS, "Coca-Cola, Indian Farmers Compete for Water Supply," The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, November 18, 2008
Watch Video
Read Text of Segment

"The India Resource Center worked closely with Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) producers to highlight the critical campaign against Coca-Cola in Kala Dera in the state of Rajasthan. The story aired on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on November 17, 2008 which has a daily viewership of 2.7 million in the US. While we think that the story missed some key points and could have been much stronger, we welcome the national attention nevertheless."

Video, "Coca-Cola Crimes: The hard truth about the soft drink," By J. I. Stone; sound by Ben Potts, January 13, 2009
Click here to watch video

KillerCola Kills
Click here to watch video

Video, "The Hard Truth About a Soft Drink," By Natalie Bogard
Click here to watch video

12. Mark Thomas' 'Belching Out the Devil' released in the U.S.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "A look at Coke around globe: 'Devil' takes readers on worldwide journey. Author chronicles how PR powerhouse ignores victims of its practices." By Gina Webb, June 28, 2009
Read Article

"Do things always go better with Coke? Not necessarily. Colombia, El Salvador, Turkey and India are some of the places where British comedian and political activist Mark Thomas traveled 'to find the reality behind the PR image of the world's most famous brand, Coca-Cola' — a harsh reality that formed the basis for his book 'Belching Out the Devil...'

"What Thomas discovers is shocking: According to workers and human rights organizations, Sinaltrainal, after more than a decade of union-busting attacks and intimidation by paramilitaries allegedly hired by the Coca-Cola plants, is struggling to survive."

Newsweek, "We Read It So You Don't Have To: 'Belching Out The Devil', " June 6, 2009
Read article

"...he writes, the iconic white-and-red ribbon is a slick PR blindfold for child labor, union crackdowns and even violence, all to protect cash flow and the supply chain...The company, Thomas contends, looked the other way as some bottlers in Colombia and elsewhere intimidated and attacked union organizers, who 'walk with a gravestone' on their backs. Pressured to audit Colombian plants in 2005, Coke helpfully noted a substandard number of fire extinguishers at one, but didn't address the charges."

Mark Thomas interviewed by Gary Null, June 16, 2009The Gary Null Show - 06/16/09 June 17th, 2009
Click here to listen to the interview

Purchase 'Belching Out the Devil' in the UK

Purchase 'Belching Out the Devil' in the US

13. Join Witness for Peace & Campaign to Stop Killer Coke demonstration, Nov. 20 in Atlanta, GA

Witness for Peace and the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke will be holding a demonstration against Coca-Cola's human rights abuses in Colombia on Friday, Nov. 20, at 11 am in Atlanta, Georgia. Information regarding the specifics of the demonstration will be posted on our website and decribed in an upcoming newsletter. All groups are welcome to participate in what we hope will be a highly-visible demonstration in Coca-Cola's backyard. For those interested in participating in the demonstration, please contact Campaign to Stop Killer Coke at info@KillerCoke.org.

On that weekend, we urge you to gather with tens of thousands of other activists for the annual vigil to close the notorious School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Columbus, Georgia. Each year the movement grows closer to seeing the school closed for good. Together we can close the SOA!

The School of the Americas (SOA), in 2001 renamed the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the "biggest base for destabilization in Latin America." The SOA, frequently dubbed the "School of Assassins," has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, "disappeared," massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

Click here for more information on the demonstration at the School of the Americas.