India to Spain to the U.S.: Coke Protests Continue
Newsletter August 30, 2014
- Colossal Victory in India: Coca-Cola Forced to Abandon $25 Million New Bottling Plant
- Striking Coca-Cola Workers in Madrid & Barcelona Unite With Panrico Food Workers
- AAFP Doctors Protest Sell-out to Coca-Cola: Want Coke Out & Integrity Back!
- Stop Killer Coke Campaign Supports SOA Watch's Petition to Stop Ban on Protest to Shut Down School of the Americas (School of the Assassins) at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA 11/21-23/14
1. Colossal Victory in India: Coca-Cola Forced to Abandon $25 Million New Bottling Plant
Press Release, India Resource Center, August 25, 2014
"The Coca-Cola Company has been forced to abandon a $25 million newly built bottling plant in Mehdiganj, Varanasi, India as the result of a sustained campaign against the company's plans...
"The groundwater conditions in the Mehdiganj area have gone from 'safe' category, when Coca-Cola began operations in June 1999 to 'critical' in 2009...
" 'Coca-Cola is a shameless and unethical company that has consistently placed its pursuit of profits over the well-being of communities that live around its facilities. It is absolutely reprehensible for a globally recognized company like Coca-Cola to seek further groundwater allowances from an area that has become acutely water-stressed, and that too in large part due to Coca-Cola's mining of groundwater alone,' said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center which has led the campaign to challenge the new plan..."
Past campaigns forced Coca-Cola plants in Plachimada (Palakkad District), Kerala (2004) and Sinhachawar (Ballia District), Utter Pradesh (2008) to shut down.
Protests against Coca-Cola from large demonstrations to small vigils continue throughout India over Coke's practices that have turned "farmlands into wastelands" and "potable water into wastewater." The Company's toxic waste has polluted land and water, while its operations have drained out vast amounts of groundwater.
Also of great concern to health experts in India are Coke's efforts to greatly increase the consumption of their soft drinks in India attempting to reach the per capita consumption in Mexico, which is 745 (8 oz. servings) the world's highest, or that of the United States, which is 401 (8 oz. servings). India's per capita consumption rate is 14 (8 oz. servings). Mexico and the United States are among the countries suffering with the highest obesity and diabetes rates in the world, particularly among children.
In our last newsletter, we pointed out that:
Coca-Cola still faces legislation holding it liable for $47 million in damages as a result of its operations that were forced to shutdown in Plachimada. The company is also the target of a major community campaign in Kala Dera in Rajasthan where the community is seeking closure of the bottling plant due to rapidly depleting ground water. Coca-Cola's plans to build a new factory in Charba in Uttarakhand were defeated almost as soon as the proposal was made public in 2013, "testament to how quickly and efficiently communities can organize and network in India against problematic companies such as Coca-Cola..." Stay on top of the shutdown Coke India movement by visiting www.IndiaResource.org.
For additional information, check out the sections "Coca-Cola's Water Stewardship in India: A Travesty" and "Reducing Global Water Footprint: Coke's Deceptive Public Relations Gimmick" in "Buying Respectability: Coca-Cola and the Co-opting of the Corporate Social Responsibility Movement."
March to Coca-Cola Plant in Sinhachawar, Ballia District, Utter Pradesh, Photo by India Resource Center
Protest Against Coca-Cola Credit: Sarvesh/India Resource Center
March to Coca-Cola plant in Mehdiganj, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Photo by India Resource Center
2. Striking Coca-Cola Workers in Madrid & Barcelona Unite With Panrico Food Workers
In Spain, Coca-Cola workers, as of August 28, have been on strike for 209 days. Sales of Coca-Cola in Spain are reported to have slumped by half, in the wake of a call for a boycott over an attempt by the company's Spanish bottler to lay off workers.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke received the following note from striker and union organizer, Dani Sobrino: "Thank you, very much to promote the news against Coke in Spain. I've been in contact with you before and I'm one of the 236 people that are fighting against the capitalist Coke Company. We have at the moment been on strike for 158 days [209 days as of 8/28] and we have beaten the company in the courts, but we are still waiting to get our jobs back because Coke went to the Supreme Court. We just can say thanks for all your help and we are still promoting a Coke boycott in Spain until we get our jobs back."
' "Boycott Coca-Cola," say Spanish Workers'
By Barry Weisleder, Socialist Action, August 3, 2014
"Hundreds of Coca Cola workers sporting red T-shirts shouted, sang, and marched into Madrid's historic central square on July 18 to demand the return of their jobs...
"I [Barry Weisleder] spoke to Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) union organizer Daniel Andres Sobrino about the issues in dispute with the soft drink giant. He told me that Spain's national labour court overturned Coca Cola's dismissal of 1190 workers in that country...
Please send messages of solidarity to Spain's striking Coca-Cola workers at: email@example.com
3. AAFP Doctors Protest Sell-out to Coca-Cola: Want Coke Out & Integrity Back!
'AAFP & Coca-Cola: Unhealthy Bedfellows' (page 26-28)
By Dr. Richard Bruno & Dr. Orlando Sola, The Maryland Family Doctor, Summer 2014
"Since 2009 the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has had a financial relationship with the Coca-Cola company (TCCC), providing advertising space and consultation in creating what they define 'healthier' forms of sugar-sweetened beverages in exchange for contributions totaling over $1 million...For the past four years, students and residents -- the future of family medicine -- have requested that the AAFP Board of Directors end any relationship with corporations that are associated with products that contribute to poor health outcomes...
"Many Academy members were upset by the AAFP's financially motivated decision, and some quit. The ethics of the move were called into question. Every year since then, at the AAFP's National Conference of Students and Presidents, concerned members have spoken out against this alliance and passed resolutions calling for an end to partnerships with TCCC and other companies whose ethical shortcomings represent conflicts of interest with the Academy. The board of directors has ignored these actions, and a two-year alliance was renewed in 2013...
"Psychologists have labeled TCCC advertising campaigns as 'predatory marketing,' with recent research estimating the average child is exposed to almost 200 Coca-Cola ads each year..."
Petition by Dr. Richard Bruno, Baltimore, Maryland:
American Academy of Family Physicians Members Petition the AAFP
End the alliance with Coca-Cola
"For the past four years, AAFP students, residents, and state chapters have passed resolutions calling for an end to the alliance with TCCC, a $1.5M deal which funds AAFP operations and underwrites the FamilyDoctor.org page on "Added Sugar" (with ads for Coca-Cola linking to their Live Positively page claiming their products are completely benign) among others. For four years the board has ignored these calls to restore the integrity of the organization by avoiding this conflict of interest. Unless AAFP members demand an end to the alliance, the board will continue to engage with this corporation, which has consistently made the top 10 worst corporate offenders by Corporate Accountability International and SourceWatch.org each year for their corporate irresponsibility--practices which range from diverting natural water sources in India, to authorizing assassinations of union leaders in Colombian bottling plants, to being the number one contributor of obesity in the US. As physicians and medical students, we cannot allow Coca-Cola to undermine our organization and use our name to perpetuate their bottom line."
'Selfish Giving: How the Soda Industry Uses Philanthropy to Sweeten its Profits'
Published in 2013 by Center for Science in the Public Interest
"Growing scientific evidence shows that Americans' excessive consumption of sugar drinks contributes to the country's obesity epidemic, as well as heart disease, diabetes, gout, and other health problems. Those diseases threaten the quality of life for millions of individuals and impose an enormous economic burden on the country's health-care system. Amid growing public concern about soft drinks and health, beverage companies are using strategic philanthropy to protect their images and profits and to fend off public health and regulatory policies that aim to limit soda consumption.
"Soda companies use philanthropy strategically to:
- Link their brands to health and wellness rather than illness and obesity
- Create partnerships with respected health and minority groups to win allies, silence potential critics, and influence public health policy decisions
- Garner public trust and goodwill to increase brand awareness and brand loyalty
- Court growing minority populations to increase sales and profit...
"The beverage industry's use of philanthropy may compromise the program activities and credibility of health groups, local governments, and minority-interest groups. Beverage company partnerships with those groups impede the advancement of important, evidence-based public health measures to reduce sugar-drink consumption and push consumption among communities that are most affected by the adverse health effects of obesity...
"It should come as no surprise that the soft-drink industry pursues its own self-interest in constructing giving strategies...
"As was the case in the fight against tobacco, improving the prospects for new public health policies to reduce consumption of sugar drinks calls for, in part, a growing awareness of the soda industry's philanthropic strategies...Health groups, child-welfare organizations, advocates for low-income and minority communities, hospitals, and all levels of government should consider whether ties with industry serve the best interests of their constituencies or reinforce practices and policies that foster ill-health and poverty."
4. Stop Killer Coke Campaign Supports SOA Watch's Petition to Stop Ban on Protest to Shut Down School of the Americas (School of the Assassins) at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA 11/21-23/14
This year, as SOA Watch prepares to gather for the 25th Vigil to Close the School of the Americas, Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren is trying to stop protestors from speaking truth to power at the main gates of Fort Benning. Thousands have gathered every November for the nonviolent demonstration since the first anniversary of the 1989 SOA graduate-led massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America in El Salvador.
"Dear Police Chief Boren,
"We are concerned about the denial of the constitutional rights of people to continue demonstrating on the street outside the main gates of Fort Benning. We are calling on the Columbus police department to reverse its decision and to uphold the constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.
"Since the demonstrations began there 25 years ago, thousands of people have gathered annually at the gate to honor the memories of the victims and to work to make our world a more peaceful and just place for all. The entrance, the gate, and the location of our annual funeral procession is sacred ground to us.
"We have responsibilities and freedoms under our constitution to peacefully assemble and to speak truth to power. We are committed to these principles and are disturbed by the suggestion that our right to peaceably assemble and protest injustices of our government at the same location we have been doing so for 25 years can be seemingly arbitrarily taken away by the government."
What is SOA Watch?
SOA Watch, which is a movement to close the School of the Americas (SOA), was founded by Father Roy Bourgeois who remains a vocal, dynamic leader in the movement.
The SOA, renamed the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," but better known as the School of the Assassins, is a U.S. military training school for Latin American soldiers located in Fort Benning, Georgia. The school is synonymous with torture and military repression around the world. Its graduates have a long history of military coups, human rights abuses and the suppression of popular movements. Hundreds of thousands, according to SOA Watch, have been tortured, raped, murdered and "disappeared" by those trained at the SOA.
According to a 2001 lawsuit, SINALTRAINAL, et al v. The Coca-Cola Co., et al:
"The U.S. government has trained over 10,000 of Colombia's military troops at the School of the Americas...SOA training manuals, which the Pentagon was forced to turn over in 1996, show that the U.S. encouraged these troops to engage in torture and murder of those who, inter alia, do 'union organizing and recruiting'; pass out 'propaganda in favor of the interests of the workers'; and 'sympathize with demonstrators or strikes.'
"As a consequence of the official vilification of trade unionists by the Colombian and U.S. governments as well as corporations operating in Colombia, Colombia has led the world in the number of murders of trade unionists."