Next time you head to a vending machine and drop quarters down for a Coke or purchase an Odwalla, or chug down a Dasani, you may want to think about what your drink is supporting...
Written by SOJA – Students Organization for Justice in the Americas
- The death count within the past ten years of SINALTRINAL union leaders and members of Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia totals to eight. Managers of these Coca-Cola bottling plants had been repeatedly seen exchanging money with paramilitary leaders directly after threatening union leaders that they need to quit the union or suffer the consequences. Some of the threatened union leaders were gunned down by paramilitaries shortly after the exchange of money. Some of these murders took place in union member's homes, and a number have taken place within the Coca-Cola bottling plants' gates. Union leader Segundo Isidro Gil on December 5, 1996, was shot ten times behind the gates of the Coca-Cola bottling plant. Returning to the plant the next day, the paramilitaries forced workers to sign union resignation forms. Soon thereafter many of those worker were fired and new workers were hired which were paid one third of the former workers' salary. On August 21, 2002, paramilitaries killed union activist Adolfo de Jesus Munera Lopez on his mother's doorsteps. Coca-Cola, whom is lovingly referred to as Coca-Killa or Killer-Coke by activists, claims no responsibility. The responsibility is not theirs, they say, because the factory where the union members worked is subcontracted. Yet, it is interesting to note that in recent years enormous companies like Nike and GAP with as many subcontracted facilities as Coca-Cola have stopped using such an excuse with pressure from the anti-sweatshop movement. Nike and GAP now take responsibility for all of the factories that make their products – subcontracted or not. Coke should take such responsibility. A court case in Miami was brought against the Coca-Cola Company by union leaders of SINALTRINAL, United Steelworkers of America, the International Labor Rights Federation, and the families of the diseased concerning the murders. Coca-Cola America was released from the case, but the Coca-Cola Company in Colombia was not. The case continues to be tried and the judge's decision to release the American division of the company can be appealed at any time as new evidence surfaces. A clause in the UC Berkeley Code of Conduct for Business Partners and Trademark Licensees states that Cal's business partners (contractors or subcontractors) are not allowed to have human rights abuses. We dare to suggest that murdering counts as human rights abuse. SOJA – Students for Justice in the Americas – has worked and is eager to continue a diligent campaign to gain campus awareness, to gain publicity (a story on the Coca-Cola boycott was published on the front page of the Atlantic Business Chronicle – Coke's headquarters' home newspaper), and to get Coke to clean up their act, take responsibility, protect their workers and pay retributions. SOJA is also an affiliate group of United Students Against Sweatshops' (USAS), an international organization fighting in solidarity with workers for sweatshop free labor conditions and workers' rights. We have joined forces with other university activists from NYU to San Francisco State to demand our universities cut their contracts with Killer Coke. The campaign is strong and willing and we love new members who care as much as we do.
Familiar Coca-Cola products include Odwalla, Dasani, Powerade, and now Vitamin Water. To learn more about the Killer-Coke campaign visit http://www.killercoke.org or studentsagainstsweatshops.org You can also mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
SOJA's recent victories includes the ratification of the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) which ensures the protection of workers who sew university apparel. Under the Designated Suppliers Program, university licensees are required to source most university logo apparel from supplier factories that have been determined by universities, through independent verification, to be in compliance with their obligation to respect the rights of their employees – including the right to organize and bargain collectively and the right to be paid a living wage.
The most recent victory was the release of UC Custodial and Physical Plant workers' equity wages in 2007 as a result of a year and a half long struggle. Workers at Cal were being paid poverty wages when compared to the salary of workers at Community Colleges across the Bay Area (www.afscme3299.org). With continued student, political, and celebrity pressure, nonviolent civil disobedience direct actions, and student-worker collaboration we were able to win the living wage campaign at Cal.
We look forward to another victory, when Killer Coke is kicked off our campus...
As students, as individuals we do not support human rights abuses; we expect the same from our institution of higher learning.
Because of human rights violations, Because of contaminations, Because we love life, We do not consume coke.