ILRF & USW Bring New Complaint Against Coca-Cola,
Alleging Complicity With The Colombian DAS and AUC Paramilitaries In Killing of Labor Leader
On Friday, June 2, 2006, the ILRF and USW filed a new Alien Tort Claims Act case against the Coca-Cola Company and its Latin American Bottler, Coca-Cola FEMSA. This new Complaint charges that managers at the Coke bottling plant in Barranquilla, Colombia conspired with both the Colombian Administrative Department of Security ("DAS") and the AUC paramilitaries to intimidate, threaten and ultimately kill SINALTRAINAL trade union leader Adolfo de Jesus Munera on August 31, 2002. The Complaint further alleges that, despite a number of warnings to Coca-Cola management in Atlanta that the management at the Barranquilla bottler has continued to meet with and provide plant access to paramilitaries, the paramilitary infiltration of this bottling plant continues unabated to this day. Meanwhile, these same paramilitaries have continued to threaten SINALTRAINAL members and leaders with death and even kidnapped the child of one SINALTRAINAL leader to pressure him into refraining from his union activities.
These allegations come at a time when the DAS in Colombia has come under fire for collaborating with paramilitary forces. In particular, credible allegations have surfaced in recent weeks that the DAS, which has responsibility to protect trade unionists under threat has actually been creating and maintaining hit lists of trade union leaders and providing these lists to the paramilitaries to act upon. These allegations also come at a time when the Coca-Cola Company has been kicked off of numerous campuses throughout the U.S. over allegations that it has failed to adequately address such labor and human rights abuses in Colombia.
According to ILRF Executive Director Terry Collingsworth, "This new Complaint underscores the need for The Coca-Cola Company to spend more of its effort and resources in protecting the lives and well-being of its workers in Colombia in lieu of focusing on its public relations campaign to deflect the allegations of abuse being leveled against it." There is no question, however, that it is the Coca-Cola Company that is the proper defendant in this case because it has complete control of its empire and Coca-Cola managers have been traversing the United States claiming that the Coca-Cola Compnay is taking all possible steps to address human rights violations in its bottling plants in Colombia. USW Associate General Counsel Daniel Kovalik states that "The continued assassination of trade unionists in Colombia with the complicity of the Colombian DAS and military, as well as corporate interests, calls into grave question the propriety of the U.S.'s continued commitment to aid for the Colombian military forces."
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