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Campaign Moves Forward on Many Fronts

Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Newsletter | June 11, 2014


  1. Workers Unite! Film Festival Sponsors Stop Killer Coke Event: Prominent Ministers Back Campaign
  2. Landmark High School Students Say No More Coke!
  3. Annual Meeting: Children's Issue Too Damning For Kent to Reply: Maria Shriver Receives Applause and Shame
  4. Campaign Gets Great Reception at NYSUT Convention
  5. Rochester Committee on Latin America (ROCLA) Sends Coke a Message
  6. Binghamton University Campaign vs. Coca-Cola & Reynolds Group
  7. Packed Audience at Connecticut College Hears Sinaltrainal's Luis Cardona

1. Film Festival Sponsors Stop Killer Coke Event: Prominent Ministers Back Campaign

The lively May 18 event sponsored by the third annual Workers Unite! Film Festival took place at Judson Memorial Church which is surrounded by scandal ridden New York University. Coca-Cola board member Barry Diller sits on the board of trustees of NYU. Before the church was opened for the event, banners and posters lining the church's fence drew the attention and thumbs up from the many passing by who were handed a new brochure entitled "Scandal and Lack of Ethics Plague NYU." At the event, the Campaign announced its 'NYU Dump Coke Campaign 2014/2015' and read a statement from Judson's Senior Minister Rev. Donna Schaper which read: "Universities stand for the highest ethical and moral standards and we hope New York University will continue that great tradition and remove Coca-Cola from campus."

Banner in front of Judson Memorial Church.

On March 17, Rev. Schaper and noted human rights advocate Rev. David Dyson, Pastor Emeritus, of the Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church wrote a letter to NYU President John Sexton and all members of the University Senate stating that, "NYU should once again remove all Coca-Cola products from campus indefinitely and publicly censure Mr. Diller or demand his resignation from NYU's board."

Posters line Judson Memorial Church.

The event included performances by 30 members of the renowned New York City Labor Chorus, singer Heyleen Williams and seven films, film shorts and videos including "David Rovics Singing Coke Is the Drink of the Death Squads;" "The Real Bears;" "The Honest Coca-Cola Obesity Commercial;" "Dispatches: Mark Thomas on Coca-Coca-Cola" showing Coca-Cola's Hitler Youth Journal ads and Coke's business dealings with Nazi Germany where Coke's Fanta was created, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola, scenes of illegal child labor involved in the dangerous harvesting of sugar cane for Coke's sugar suppliers in El Salvador; Coca-Cola's complicity in violence against union leaders and members of their families in Colombia and violence against demonstrators protesting against Coke's water theft, land and water pollution in India; "The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Erupts" and "The Coca-Cola Case" which is now available on Netflix.

Renowned New York City Labor Chorus.

The New York City Labor Chorus included members from many unions including the United Federation of Teachers; Professional Staff Congress/CUNY; Communication Workers of America; AFSCME District Council 1707; International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Operators of the US and Canada, Local 52; New York State Nurses Association; National Writers Union; Public Employees Federation; Retail, Warehouse and Department Store Union, Local 108/29; Union of Needle, Industrial and Textile Employees; United Auto Workers District 65 Retiree Division; United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology; United Radio, Electrical, & Machine Workers Union; AFSCME District Council 37; CWA Local 1180; American Federation of Musicians, Local 1000; and Service Employees International Union.

2. Landmark High School Students Say No More Coke!

On May 1, the Campaign won a lot of support from students and others after Director Ray Rogers spoke to four classes at Landmark High School about Coke's worldwide human rights and environmental abuses stretching from Latin America to the U.S. and India. Student remarks went from "I never want to drink Coke again" to "I'm telling my parents no more Minute Maid, Diet Coke and Sprite in our house."

Students at Landmark High School, Manhattan

3. Annual Meeting: Children's Issue Too Damning For Kent to Reply: Maria Shriver Receives Applause and Shame

Coca-Cola's April 23 Annual Meeting of Shareowners in Atlanta, Georgia was again carefully orchestrated to prevent shareholder activism and probing questions. When Ray Rogers posed a very serious question about Coca-Cola's continued aggressive marketing to children products that fuel the childhood obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure epidemics, Chair & CEO Muhtar Kent refused to answer the question. Instead, he criticized Rogers for pointing out that he (Mr. Kent) is a consummate liar.

Coca-Cola Chairman & CEO Muhtar Kent

Coca-Cola Chairman & CEO Muhtar Kent

To deflect attention from his refusal to answer the embarrassing question, Mr. Kent stepped out from behind the podium holding up a picture of our poster, "Coke CEO Muhtar Kent LIAR." He then released a diatribe about the poster and why his office never followed up on meeting with Mr. Rogers after he had approached him with the idea at the 2013 annual meeting that the two of them have a meal together to find answers to their differences. In fact, two weeks after that meeting, Coca-Cola's head of Corporate Governance, Mark Preisinger called Mr. Rogers saying he would get back to him with suggested dates that he and Mr. Kent could meet in New York City. Although Mr. Rogers reiterated he welcomed such a meeting and would make it a scheduling priority, Mr. Preisinger never followed up. Coke and its shareholders for good reason want the Campaign to Stop Killer to end but that won't happen if principles of the two sides don't peacefully sit down with one another and discuss how to resolve outstanding issues.

Early in the meeting, Coca-Cola sadly used Maria Shriver as a public relations tool. Unfortunately for her, Ms. Shriver kind of stepped into a hornet's nest as is evidenced by Mr. Rogers comments after he posed his question. Mr. Rogers said:

On behalf of doctors and parents of children everywhere, I need to question you on perhaps Coca-Cola's most reprehensible crime. This is in addition to the company's complicity in the decades long violence directed at union leaders and members of their families in Colombia and Guatemala and the retaliation against Black and Latino workers who dare speak up in Coke's New York factories which have been described as "cesspools of racial discrimination."

The crime is continuing to aggressively market to children products that you know fuel the childhood obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure epidemics while claiming that Coca-Cola will "not market to children under 12 worldwide."

In a report I released on Monday, titled "Buying Respectability: Coca-Cola and the Co-opting of the Corporate Social Responsibility Movement," I go into some detail on this issue. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, obesity expert and professor at the University of Ottawa, berated Coca-Cola for its deceptive practices and outright lies with respect to marketing to children. He points out that:

The sole criterion for entering the "Coca-Cola Kids Challenge" marathon in Vienna, an event lined with bright Coca-Cola ads, is being younger than 10 years old. He also found that Coca-Cola sells at least 719 different Coca-Cola branded toys for kids 3 and up.

At Christmas time, Lewis Friedman found you advertised children's "stocking stuffers" under $10 for children 3 and up.

Dr. Jennifer Harris at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity reported in 2013 that "children younger than 12 were exposed to more advertising for Coke than for any other brand, even child-targeted products..."

Coca-Cola ran a $6 million one-minute TV ad during this year's Super Bowl targeting children. When the star of the ad, a child named Adrian fantasizes about scoring a touchdown in Green Bay Packers stadium, a groundskeeper hands little Adrian a Coke and says "Hey Kid Here."

This scene is followed by the image of three Coke bottles and Coke's "Open Happiness" Slogan.

The head of the national consumer movement in Mexico (Alejandro Calvillo Unna, Director, El Poder del Consumidor), sent a letter to the General Director of the World Health Organization protesting that Coca-Cola, after stating that it would not advertise to children under 12, blankets the airwaves with ads starring children dressed as superheroes like Batman, Wonder Woman And Superman to hawk their unhealthy products.

Photos from Mexico show children's playgrounds and camps covered in Coca-Cola ads. For those who don't know, Mexico is a leader among those countries with the fastest growth in childhood obesity and diabetes and by far leads the world in per capita consumption of Coke, 745 - 8-ounce servings in 2012. So Mr. Chairman, how do you lie your way out of Coca-Cola will "not market to children under 12 worldwide"?

On a more friendly note, Maria's father Sergeant Shriver was a great man who did a lot of good leading the anti-poverty program VISTA, Volunteers In Service To America. I was a VISTA Volunteer and under Sergeant Shriver, the anti-poverty work I did in Appalachia was chosen over 500 other VISTA projects to represent VISTA on the Huntly-Brinkly National News in 1969.

Sergeant Shriver would be very proud of the obstacles his daughter has overcome and the many good things she has done in her life, but Sergeant Shriver would also be so ashamed at Maria's performance today selling Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola's lies to the world."

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Kent quickly stepped down from the stage and scooted over to Rev. Jesse Jackson in the audience to hand him a can of Coca-Cola with "Jesse" inscribed on the can. To Ray Rogers surprise, Mr. Kent then scooted over to him with an outstretched arm and a big smile and handed him a can with "Ray" inscribed on it! Ray laughed and took this as a good will gesture. Perhaps Mr. Preisinger will be making that call for him and Mr. Kent to meet after all.

Rev. Jackson immediately walked over to Ray, clicked cans and said, "Let's drink." As Rev. Jackson sipped, Ray said, "No Jesse, I won't open it and I won't drink it."

4. Campaign Gets Great Reception at NYSUT Convention

The more than 600,000 - member New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) provided prime exhibit space for the Campaign at their 2014 convention in Manhattan on April 4 and 5. We conversed with representatives from all over New York State and handed out buttons and lots of literature. We were warmly welcomed by NYSUT staff and union delegates who expressed overwhelming support for the Campaign. Comments ranged from, "Let's remove Coca-Cola from all faculty lounges and schools" to "If we teachers don't stand up to end Coca-Cola's assault on children's health and human rights, who will?" A hearty thank you to NYSUT leadership, staff and delegates.

NYC retired teacher Lew Friedman and Campaign Director Ray Rogers at NYSUT convention.

5. Rochester Committee on Latin America (ROCLA) Sends Coke a Message

On March 14 at its 26th annual "Rice & Beans Dinner And White Dove Awards" held at Gates Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, "ROCLA is proud to honor legendary union activist Ray Rogers, the founder and director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke with the International White Dove Award. Ray Rogers is an American labor activist, strategist, and organizer. He is founder and director of New York City-based Corporate Campaign, Inc., which has championed labor, human rights and environmental causes for three decades."

In accepting the award, Ray stated: "I want to accept it on behalf of those union leaders and advocates of social justice in Latin America who have lost their lives. I also want to accept the award on behalf of those who still have the courage to stand up and continue that struggle."

Previous recipients of the International White Dove Award include Howard Zinn, Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Rev. David Dyson.

ROCLA has sent in 70 individual letters supporting the Campaign to Muhtar Kent stating that "As a member of the Rochester Committee on Latin America, I am writing to inform you that I, and members of my family, have pledged not to buy any products sold by the Coca-Cola Company or its affiliates...I will also request that the other organizations I am involved in stop buying Coca-Cola products."

The Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO, received the local White Dove Award for "its decades of support for worker justice in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. Its dynamic president, Jim Bertolone, who has "never shied away from a fight," accepted the award on behalf of the Council. The 100,000-member Labor Council has endorsed the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and called upon its unions to stop purchasing all Coca-Cola products and to ban Coca-Cola in all their facilities because "Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia routinely allow and encourage paramilitary death squads to murder, torture and kidnap union leaders and organizers."

"ROCLA educates local residents about the culture, economics and politics of the countries of Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean and the ways globalization, U.S. trade and drug-war policies impact the lives of their people...We also encourage our members and others to advocate for U.S. policies that support human rights and reverse the often oppressive history of U.S. involvement in Latin America."

Awards dinner attendees send Coca-Cola a message.

6. Binghamton University Campaign vs. Coca-Cola & Reynolds Group

"Activists campaign to rid Binghamton University of Coca-Cola Co. and Reynolds Group products; Ray Rogers and Students Organizing Against Reynolds discuss alleged immoral business practices by soda giant" by Margaret-Rose Roazzi, Pipe Dream, March 14, 2014
Read Article

Binghamton students sending a message to Coke.

"SOAR, CCI seek to oust Coca-Cola on campus; Groups cite corruption and human rights violations of 'Killer Coke'" by Margaret-Rose Roazzi, Pipe Dream [University of Binghamton/SUNY], March 10, 2014
Read Article

7. Packed Audience at Connecticut College Hears Sinaltrainal's Luis Cardona

Luis Cardona, a former Coca-Cola worker in Colombia, addressed a packed audience at Connecticut College on February 18. Cardona had been present at the Coca-Cola plant in Carepa when Isidro Gil, Sinaltrainal leader/Coke worker was murdered. He held the bullet riddled union leader in his arms and when the paramilitary murderers tried to kidnap Cardona, he fled and came to the United States for asylum.

Cardona spoke "about his experiences working for Coca-Cola in Colombia and becoming a union activist against this company's unethical and criminal practices."

Click here to hear his speech.

Sinaltrainal leader Luis Cardona & translator.

Connecticut students listening to Cardona.

Connecticut College students challenging Coke.

Cardona's presentation was sponsored by the Center for the Comparative Study in Race and Ethnicity, CISLA, and the Departments of Anthropology, Sociology, Film Studies and Gender and Women's Studies.