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Racial Discrimination & Coke's Annual Meeting

Newsletter May 17, 2012

Contents

  1. The Coke 16's fight against racial discrimination in Coca-Cola plants
    1. Articles on the Coke 16 from Daily News & Ghana Nation
    2. Opening statement in the Coke 16 lawsuit:
    3. Sandra Walker's complaint with the U.S. EEOC
    4. Coke 16 issue raised at the annual meeting
    5. Radio Interview of Ramon Hernandez and Guillermo (Will) Nunez
    6. Help end racial discrimination at Coke. Show support for the Coke 16 on Facebook.
  2. Coke CEO Kent's lies challenged at Coca-Cola's annual meeting
    1. Before the annual meeting
    2. The annual meeting
    3. Protest at Coke's HQ
    4. Articles and videos on annual meeting
    5. Serious questions that never got raised
  3. Please donate to the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke

1. The Coke 16's fight against racial discrimination in Coca-Cola plants

Coca-Cola workers at Coke operations in New York State have linked up with the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke/Corporate Campaign, Inc. to help in their fight for justice. The Coke 16 is a group of black and Latino workers employed at plants in Maspeth (Queens) and Elmsford (Westchester). The New York Daily News dubbed them the Coke 16, although the group is growing much larger. We are also working with victims alleging racial discrimination at Coke's operations in Smithtown (Long Island).

a. Articles on the Coke 16 from Daily News & Ghana Nation

New York Daily News, "Coke's not it: 16 workers sue, call giant 'cesspool' of racial discrimination. Say they were given lesser assignments, unfairly disciplined and retaliated against for complaining"
By John Marzulli, Friday, March 16, 2012

Read Article

"Sixteen black and Hispanic production workers are suing Coca-Cola, claiming they have been forced to work in a "cesspool of racial discrimination."

"The suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, accuses the company of relegating minorities to less favorable assignments, unfair disciplinary action and retaliation for complaining...

"Several plaintiffs say they were subjected to racial epithets, and the people who used them went unpunished, according to the complaint...

" 'I've never been called so many names as I have been at Coca-Cola,' [Sandra] Walker told the Daily News, citing 'Nappy Head' and 'Aunt JaMamma' as examples.

"Walker describes in the complaint an incident when a white worker wore a Confederate flag on his head and another in which a white employee complaining about cleaning a sewer allegedly said: 'What am I, a n----- or something?'

" 'I thought this was a fair and honest company, as American as apple pie,' said plaintiff Guillermo Nunez, who says he has suffered emotionally because of the treatment. 'I thought I had made it. It was my American Dream.' "

Ghana Nation, "What am I, a n***** or something? Lawsuit filed against Coca-Cola claims shocking racial slurs in the workplace," by a Daily Mail Reporter, March 17, 2012
Read Article

"Sixteen Coca-Cola workers have filed a lawsuit against two of the company's five production plants claiming they were forced to work in racially discriminating and hostile environments.

"Recently filed in a New York federal courthouse the black and Hispanic workers described the facilities as a 'cesspool of racial discrimination,' according to the New York Daily News.

" 'I've never been called so many names as I have been at Coca-Cola,' Sondra Walker, a merchandiser at the Maspeth plant in Queens told the Daily News."

b. Opening statement in the Coke 16 lawsuit:

"1. Coca-Cola may be an enjoyable refreshment for most, but its black and Hispanic workers produce Coca-Cola's beverages in a cesspool of racial discrimination. There is an endemic culture of racism at Coca-Cola that runs through its management and supervisors at its New York bottling plants in Elmsford and Maspeth. The 16 Plaintiffs herein have suffered from the worst of its ills in terms of biased work assignments and allotment of hours, unfair discipline and retaliation, and a caustic work environment.

"2. Black and Hispanic production workers at Coca-Cola are typically assigned to the most undesirable and physically dangerous positions, and to tasks that are outside of their job descriptions. Meanwhile, the managers contravene the established seniority system by giving better jobs and more overtime hours to white workers with less seniority than minority workers. As several of the Plaintiffs have found, opportunities for advancement and promotion within the company are routinely biased against minority workers. Finally, the truck drivers among the Plaintiffs have had their hours unfairly limited and prevented from working overtime, while white drivers do not have to face these problems.

"3. Those among the Plaintiffs who have dared to speak up about the discrimination to managers or human resources have not only found no resolution to their concerns, but instead have faced swift retaliation from the white managers. This retaliation has come in the form of unwarranted scrutiny and unfair disciplinary actions, up to the point of suspension and termination for some of the Plaintiffs."

Read the Coke 16 complaint.

c. Sandra Walker, highlighted in the Daily News article above, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Nov. 23, 2011 that included damaging information on Dowin Lewis, who Coke Chair/CEO Muhtar Kent had stand at the annual meeting to attempt to undermine allegations of racial discrimination in Coke's plants:

"[Item] 13. Additionally, one of Ms. Walker's co-workers, Dowin Lewis, would frequently express his dislike of Black American culture. Mr. Lewis has stated to Petitioner and others that 'Black American women are not capable of washing themselves properly. They smell bad and their homes are nasty and filthy.' Mr. Lewis would often refer to certain kinds of food as 'slavery food.'

"[Item] 14. Mr. Lewis would regularly make these racist and offensive comments in the presence of Petitioner's Caucasian supervisors. Mr. Lewis was never reprimanded for his remarks."

Read Sandra Walker's U.S. EEOC complaint

d. Coke 16 issue raised at annual meeting by Kent and Campaign to Stop Killer Coke

At April's Coca-Cola annual meeting, in an orchestrated effort to avoid any tough questions about the Coke 16 racial discrimination lawsuit, Coke Chairman/CEO Muhtar Kent tried to take the offense by claiming a question on the Coke 16 had been emailed to the Company.

The question was submitted through the Shareowner Forum by a user named ELV1152. "I've been following the lawsuit against your company in the paper that claims some of your employees in New York are once again subject to racial discrimination at work. How do you explain this and what are you doing to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen?"

Kent had his answer prepared although he tried to make it seem as though he had never seen the question. During his answer, he looked around at the audience and, in a poor acting job, asked:

"...Is there anyone in the audience that are from those two locations?" pretending as though he did not know that they were present. Five Coke employees WERE present and they stood. Kent stated: "If there's anybody who'd like to, afterwards, talk to our representatives, associates, from those two locations, please feel free to do so." Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Director Ray Rogers went up to one of them, Pat Dixon, at the end of the meeting, but he adamantly refused to speak to Ray.

See the video of Kent addressing racial discrimination; Ray addressing racial discrimination and the Coke 16, and Kent responding to Ray. The five Coke "representatives" stood up at 1:57 of the video; Dowin Lewis is the second person on the left.

Ray Rogers questioning Coke CEO Muhtar Kent about fraud in Mexico and racial discrimination in Coke operations in New York State

Watch Video

e. Radio Interview with Coke 16's Ramon Hernandez and Guillermo (Will) Nunez on WRFG-FM (Atlanta) by Dianne Mathiowetz

Listen on YouTube

f. Help end racial discrimination at Coke. Show your support for the Coke 16 on Facebook. Take a look at "The Coke 16" Facebook page and click on "Like" to show support: https://www.facebook.com/Thecoke16

2. Coke CEO Kent's lies challenged at Coca-Cola's annual meeting

a. Before the annual meeting

The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke traveled to Atlanta for Coke's annual meeting on April 25. With support from the great group of people with Occupy Atlanta, we felt hopeful about raising a number of questions at the meeting.

We arrived in Atlanta, the day before the meeting and headed straight downtown to meet with Occupy Atlanta and Corporate Accountability International. A group of French documentary filmmakers were allowed to film the meeting for a documentary on Coca-Cola due for release in 2013.

On the morning of the meeting, a group of some 30 Campaign supporters with stock proxies filed into the Cobb Galleria ready to challenge the leadership of The Coca-Cola Company. The meeting went well, despite Coca-Cola Chair and CEO Muhtar Kent's efforts to silence us. Kent did his best to keep us from asking questions — he outlined three ways to ask a question: 1-from the floor; 2-people present who submitted questions beforehand and, 3- from the Internet. The last two methods were used so that the executives could choose the majority of questions to be asked — in this system, we could have at most one-third of the questions asked. Kent indicated the meeting would end at 11 am (1-1/2 hours) and he took up more than half the meeting with his propaganda "report."

Banned from the meeting was Coca-Cola shareholder Ian Hoffmann, who was denied entry due to his vocal criticism of The Coca-Cola Company at past annual meetings. (Click to read Coca-Cola's letter to Ian — and Ian's response.) Ian was joined outside the Cobb Galleria with a small group of protesters, including Sam Yergler, who traveled from Illinois by bus to take part in the protests.

b. The annual meeting

Despite Coca-Cola's efforts to avoid tough questions, there were three people who managed to ask critical questions — Ray Rogers, director of Campaign to Stop Killer Coke; Kristin Urquiza, from Corporate Accountability International, and one of the French filmmakers, Olivia Mokiejewski, who asked about what Coca-Cola beverages contained.

However, one of the questions sent in via the Internet was about the Coke 16, the Coke workers suing Coke for racial discrimination in New York State Coke plants - Maspeth (Queens), and Elmsford (Westchester), as mentioned in the first section of this newsletter.

Kent and his team had planned a theatrical event, a charade, to avoid any serious questions that would challenge them. Knowing that Kent would lie as he and his predecessors have done each year at shareholder meetings, plans were made to expose Kent when he lied. The plan was to have someone call out "Point of Order" at that moment and supporters would all shout back "You lie!" According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"Protesters shouted a choreographed 'Point of order. You lie!' at least [half] a dozen times as Kent made remarks about everything from the company's commitment to diversity (it's currently embroiled in a discrimination lawsuit in New York) or accusations of worker intimidation in Mexico."

Kent seemed perplexed the first time "You lie!" was shouted out and by the 5th or 6th time seemed very confused.

The Occupy activists were great — a very diverse group of people and for the most part, between 18 and 25.

c. Protest at Coke's HQ

After the annual meeting, Campaign supporters went to Coke's headquarters and held a demonstration. Many protesters wore Killer Coke t-shirts. Tim Franzen and Shabnam Bashir (Shab) of Occupy Atlanta tried to enter the Coke complex, but were turned back. The group demonstrated on the sidewalk in front of the Coca-Cola complex.

Over all, the day was a success. Coca-Cola certainly heard from us. In the end, it seems that all present were psyched to carry on the campaign in Coke's home town of Atlanta!

d. Articles and videos on annual meeting

"Coca-Cola recommends stock split" by Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 25, 2012
Read Article

"As is tradition, the atmosphere was equal parts pep rally for the beverage giant's supporters and a protest for its detractors. Protesters shouted a choreographed 'Point of order. You lie!' at least have [half] a dozen times as Kent made remarks about everything from the company's commitment to diversity (it's currently embroiled in a discrimination lawsuit in New York) or accusations of worker intimidation in Mexico."

Reporting by Occupy Atlanta's Tim Franzen

"The Two Faces Of Coca Cola" by Tim Franzen, American Friends Service Committee, April 25, 2012
Read Article

"Although Coke spends millions of dollars every year on advertising to market their products with a positive and happy spin, a quick look inside their business practices shows that that like so many corporations, profits take precedence over ethics, morality, and justice.

"Coca Cola's crimes reach all the way across the globe. In Latin America, they have been accused of hiring paramilitary forces to torture, intimidate, and even murder union organizers in countries like Columbia and Guatemala. They profit off of child labor used in the sugar cane fields of El Salvador. In Mexico, they use their bought off pals in the government to control the market, making competition against Coke virtually non-existent. In a country where almost every citizen has access to Coca Cola products, over 12 million people in Mexico don't have access to clean water. In India, their plants contaminate and dry up the water sources, devastating farmers, towns, and the people that live in them. In China they've been known to have deplorable working conditions in their factories, and benefit off of prison labor. The list goes on and on."

Reporting by Dianne Mathiowetz

"Coke Meeting Fizzles" by Dianne Mathiowetz, Workers World
Rear Article

"Despite extremely tight security, dozens of voices rang out from the audience declaring, "You lie," after Kent made multiple falsehoods and misrepresentations. "

Kristin Urquiza, CAI, hits Muhtar Kent on water issues

272

Watch Video

Photos taken at the Annual Meeting and Demonstration

Click to View

e. Serious questions that never got raised

1. More Phony Recognition for Coke: Transparency International and ICCR

2. Books critical of Coke: "The Coke Machine" & "Belching Out the Devil"

3. Coke's benefiting from dangerous child labor

4. Ernst & Young: Auditing the Impact of Public Protests

5. Opposing the appointment of Coke's auditors, Ernst & Young, because of massive accounting fraud

6. Why did Coca-Cola's Have a Relationship with ALEC

3. Please donate to the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke

To contribute through PayPal, go to: http://www.killercoke.org/contribute.php

or send a check made out to "Campaign to Stop Killer Coke" to:

Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
Cooper Station, PO Box 1002
New York, NY 10276-1002

Your support is needed and greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.