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Reports Documenting Coca-Cola's Abuses

Critical Talking Points

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Some find it unbelievable that human rights abuses — systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder — are occurring at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. But it's not the first time Coke has committed such atrocities.

In a 1987 booklet, "Soft Drink, Hard Labour," the Latin America Bureau in London said: "For nine years the 450 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City fought a battle for their jobs, their trade union and their lives. Three times they occupied the plant — on the last occasion for 13 months. Three General Secretaries of their union were murdered and five other workers killed. Four more were kidnapped and have disappeared. Against all the odds they survived, thanks to their own extraordinary courage and help from fellow trade unionists in Guatemala and around the world."

"A huge international campaign of protests and boycotts was central to their struggle. As a result, the Coca-Cola workers forced concessions from one of the world's largest multinational food giants and kept the Guatemalan trade union movement alive through a dark age of government repression."

What happened at the Coke bottling plant in Guatemala in the '70s and '80s is still happening at Coke bottling plants in Colombia. The worldwide Campaign to Stop Killer Coke is dedicated to stopping such human rights abuses by Coke once and for all. We can't allow Coke's unsavory history to repeat itself anywhere in the world.

Lesley Gill Report

LABOR AND HUMAN RIGHTS: 'The Real Thing' in Colombia
Report to the Human Rights Committee of the American Anthropological Association
Lesley Gill
Department of Anthropology
American University
Washington, D.C. 20016
November 28, 2004
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(Excerpt) Being a trade unionist in Colombia is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. More unionists are killed in Colombia than any other country. The Central Unitaria de Trabajadores–the country's largest trade union confederation–has lost 4,000 members since its founding in 1986, including nearly all of its founders. Seventy-eight were murdered in 2003, and twenty-eight were assassinated in the first five months of 2004. Hundreds more have been threatened, forced into exile, displaced from their jobs, attacked, detained, and kidnaped. Right- wing paramilitary groups affiliated with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) commit the majority of murders, and they target union leaders disproportionately.

Aaron Bernstein Harvard Paper

"Incorporating Labor and Human Rights Risk Into Investment Decisions."
by Aaron Bernstein
Pensions and Capital Stewardship Project
Labor and Worklife Program
Harvard Law School
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Aaron Bernstein, a veteran writer on labor affairs for Business Week, while a Wertheim Fellow at Harvard Law School, published a paper in September 2008 called "Incorporating Labor and Human Rights Risk Into Investment Decisions."

In his discussion of a growing "movement to include corporate environmental, social and governance behavior into portfolio and lending decisions" and "the risks posed by company decisions affecting labor and human rights [abbreviated LHR]," Bernstein bemoans "the lack of objective and quantitative data available about corporate activities in these areas." The following are excerpts from Bernstein's paper:

In January 2007, the [Coca-Cola] company released a Workplace Rights Policy and Human Rights Statement as part of its [United Nations Global] Compact commitment. The policy and statement assert that Coke follows the Compact's LHR principles for its wholly-owned manufacturing operations, which produce 17 percent of the company's production. However, the review gives no hard data about how the principles have been implemented, whether any violations have been uncovered, and what if anything might have been done to correct them...

Coke's review is ambiguous about the application of its LHR policies to the suppliers that produce the other 83 percent of its output. Unlike many multinationals, Coke has significant partial ownership of most of its bottling suppliers...

Although the Compact holds up Coke's report as exemplary, it offers virtually nothing investors can use to assess the long-term LHR risks of buying its stock. The review states that the company and its "bottling investments," which presumably means its partially owned suppliers, employed 71,000 around the world at the end of 2007. It doesn't say what percent work for the parent company as compared to its suppliers. It gives no description of its LHR auditing process for either group. A factory may be audited once a year for ten minutes by outside groups with no experience in LHR. The audits may be announced in advance to the factory managers, a practice widely criticized by labor and human rights groups...

Nor does the review quantify any results about what its 1,029 audits produced. LHR violations could be rampant or virtually nonexistent, they could have doubled or halved between 2005 and 2006, the company could have attempted to deal with any problems it found in any factory, or with none. Essentially, investors learn virtually nothing about Coke's LHR risks, other than the company has adopted a variety of ambiguously explained policies to deal with them that may apply to some or all employees...

Bernstein also notes that "allegations that a supplier bottler in Colombia conspired with paramilitary groups to intimidate union activists there and was complicit in the deaths of eight union leaders...led to widespread student boycotts in the United States..."

Coca-Cola's failure to address the events in Colombia that led to the pending lawsuits, campus bans, boycotts and public outrage is still a festering scandal. The same should be said about the lies Coke has foisted upon a world all too willing to believe them.

Higginbottom's "The Anti-Coke Manifesto,"

By Andy Higginbottom, Secretary, Colombia Solidarity Campaign 
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Read Manifesto in Italian:
http://www.tmcrew.org/killamulti/cocacola/dossier/anticoke_manifesto_ita2.pdf

(Excerpt) His name is Isidro Segundo Gil. Isidro worked at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Carepa in the far north Uraba region of Antio- quia department in Colombia, towards the border with Panama. Isidro was assassinated inside the Carepa plant at 9am on 5th December 1996. He was a leader of the local branch of the food and drink workers union SINALTRAINAL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Alimentos) which had one week earlier tabled the union's demands in the annual nego- tiation round with the bottling company. He was shot dead by right-wing paramilitaries, the fourth union member at the Care- pa plant they had assassinated since 1994.

Historic Discrimination Settlement: Ingram vs. The Coca-Cola Company

www.findjustice.com/cases/civil-rights/racial-equality/results/coca-cola/

The case involved race discrimination in promotions, compensation and evaluations. Among other things, the plaintiffs alleged a substantial difference in pay between African-American and white employees; a "glass ceiling" that kept African-Americans from advancing past entry-level management positions; "glass walls" that channeled African-Americans to management in areas like human resources and away from power centers such as marketing and finance; and senior management knowledge of these problems since 1995 and a failure to remedy them.

In early 2000, the Court ordered both sides into mediation. The parties reached agreement on a Settlement-In-Principle on June 14, 2000. A final Settlement Agreement, valued at $192.5 million and designed to ensure dramatic reform of Coca-Cola's employment practices, was officially approved by the Court on June 7, 2001.

OFCCP: Racial Discrimination Settlement

OFCCP News Release, "US Labor Department settles discrimination case with 2nd-largest Coca-Cola bottler in the nation," October 7, 2010
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"CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated has agreed to pay $495,000 in back wages and interest to 95 African-American and Hispanic job seekers who applied in 2002 for sales support positions at the company’s Black Satchel Road distribution facility in Charlotte. The settlement follows an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs."

Monserrate Investigation

NYC fact-finding delegation's report on human rights violations by Coke —
Final Report, NYC Council Member Hiram Monserrate, April 2004
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View Appendices:

Monserrate Report in Italian — html format
http://www.tmcrew.org/killamulti/cocacola/rapporto_nyc.html#top

(Excerpt) In January 2004, New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate and a delegation of union, student and community activists traveled to Colombia to investigate allegations by Coca-Cola workers that the company is complicit in the human rights abuses the workers have suffered. The delegation met with Coke officials and workers, as well as a variety of governmental, human rights and clergy representatives.

The findings of the New York City Fact-Finding Delegation on Coca-Cola in Colombia support the workers' claims that the company bears responsibility for the human rights crisis affecting its workforce.

Polaris Institute Report

"Inside the Real Thing: Corporate profile on Coca-Cola Corporation,"
Report by the Polaris Institute (Canada) 
Read the report in pdf format
http://www.polarisinstitute.org/files/Coke profile August 18.pdf

"Our human rights as workers are systematically violated, with assassinations, disappearances, targeting, torture, exile, terrorism, mass sackings, and death threats as part of a bloody policy to eliminate the union and rob the workers' rights." 172 SINALTRAINAL statement, 18th May 2005

Professor Peter Barton Hutt Class Paper, Harvard Law School

April 16, 2001
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Interestingly enough, the Statue of Liberty was unveiled in New York on the same day that the first batch of Coca-Cola syrup was stirred. Yet at various times throughout its history Coca-Cola has also symbolized American imperialism, violence, and death for many around the globe....

Yet although the Company has benefited from politics, has affected politics to a great extent, and has at some times been all about politics, the Company claims to never enter politics. Thus, "it has been perfectly willing to co-exist with Hitler, bejeweled Maharajas, impoverished migrant workers, malnourished Africans, Guatemalan death squads, clear-cut Belizean rainforests, or repressive Chinese." The Company thus sees itself as having no real morality and no commandment other than increased consumption of its drink.

War On Want Report

War on Want, Press Release and Report, "Coca-Cola under fire as World Cup comes to London
Released March 20, 2006 
http://www.waronwant.org/attachments/Coca-Cola%20-%20The%20Alternative%20Report.pdf

"We believe that the objective of this ongoing and escalating campaign is to crush the union." Daniel Reyes, General Secretary of the Sole Union of Coca-Cola Company Workers in Nicaragua (SUTEC)