Evidence of The Coca Cola Company's Human Rights Abuses and

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Information Packet:
Evidence of The Coca Cola Company’s
Human Rights Abuses and
Environmental Violations
brought to you by:
Saint Joseph’s University
Students for Workers’ Rights
[email protected]
Table of Contents
1. SJU Students For Workers’ Rights Resolution …………………..……….
..……page 4
2. Overview of Coca Cola Injustices & Campaign Demands: .......................
..……page 7
by United Students Against Sweatshops
3. Corporate Profile on The Coca Cola Company: by The Polaris Institute …..
• The Polaris Institute is a watchdog agency based in Canada that investigates corporations
and keeps track of the global economy regarding social justice, human rights, and
environmental issues.
• The full 61-page document can be found at the following website:
(http://www.polarisinstitute.org/corp_profiles/public_service_gats_pdfs/coca-colapdf.pdf)
Enclosed is Section 4, the Social Profile [pgs. 32-45]. It highlights human rights violations in
Colombia, global environmental abuses, & labor violations in the US and globally.
…….page 12
4. New York City Fact-Finding Delegation on Coca-Cola in Colombia……
……page 27
5. Letter from Terry Collingsworth to Ed Potter …………………………….
• Terry Collingsworth, attorney from International Labor Rights Fund representing
……page 39
6. How credible is Coca Cola? ………………………………………………...
……page 41
• 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.
Colombian Coca Cola plant workers in their law suit against the company, wrote this letter
to Ed Potter, Director of Global Labor Relations for Coca Cola, after a meeting they had in
November 2005.
by Ray Rogers, Director of Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
• Overview of Coca Cola’s various injustices, particularly in the United States, including
racial discrimination, aggressive marketing towards children, and factory safety issues.
7. Expose of Cal-Safety- by United Students Against Sweatshops ……….……...
……page 48
8. Press Release Concerning ILO Investigation- from Killercoke.org ………….
……page 52
• In the spring of 2005, Coca Cola stated that Cal-Safety conducted an independent
investigation of their labor practices in Colombia. This article reviews several reasons why
Cal-Safety is not a credible source and their involvement in major cover-ups in the past.
• This article reviews the many reasons why the second ‘independent investigation’ proposed
by Coca Cola is neither independent nor an investigation at all.
9. Denials and Truths- by United Students Against Sweatshops ………………....
……page 57
10. “Hofstra Faculty Passes Resolution to End Coke Monopoly”- article ……
……page 60
11. “WHO Objects to Reference in Coca-Cola Campaigns”- article ………….
……page 63
Alternatives:
12. Responsible Shopper Corporate Profile: Cadbury Schweppes ..................
……page 64
• Responsible Shopper alerts the public about the social and environmental impact of major
corporations, and provides opportunities for consumers and investors to vote with their
dollars for change.
• This report outlines the criticisms against Cadbury Schweppes. It is 2 pages.
13. Responsible Shopper Corporate Profile: Coca Cola ……………...............
• This report outlines the criticisms against Coca Cola. It is 9 pages.
……page 66
14. Other Schools Involved In the Campaign- from Killercoke.org …………....
……page 75
15. Additional Resources ……………………………………………………….
……page 78
•
Many schools that have cut contracts with Coca Cola have moved to
Pepsi Cola. Corporate reports, however, have shown that Pepsi is just
as ethically horrendous as Coca Cola (for full report please see:
http://www.coopamerica.org/programs/rs/profile.cfm?id=276).
•
Other schools now use local bottlers, which is a viable option.
•
Students for Workers’ Rights endorses Cadbury Schweppes as a
beverage provider, given their reputable social responsibility record,
variety of popular, brand name beverages and snack foods, and
commitment to human rights and environmentally sound practices.
o Their full Corporate and Social Responsibility Report for 2006
is available in PDF form from:
http://www.cadburyschweppes.com/
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Unthinkable! Undrinkable! A Campus Campaign Overview
The materials in this packet are designed to help student activists launch campaigns demanding
that Coca-Cola stop its abusive treatment of workers and communities in the global economy.
Why Target Coca-Cola?
Coca-Cola is one of the world’s most powerful and profitable corporations. In 2004, CocaCola earned $4.85 billion in profits. Yet, despite repeated pleas for help, Coca-Cola has not found
the time or resources to insure the most basic safety of the workers who bottle its products or
prevent massive environmental devastation in the communities where it does business. Coca-Cola
has responded by launching public relations campaigns and denying responsibility- it’s time we
show them that they need to actually change things on the ground- enough is enough!
Death Squads in Colombia
Colombia has long been the most dangerous country in the world to organize a union. Since
1986, roughly 4000 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered. In 2000, three of every five
trade unionists killed in the world were Colombian. The vast majority of these murders have been
carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups (aka death squads) on an ideological mission to
destroy the labor movement. These groups often work in collaboration with the official U.S.supported Colombian military, and in some instances with managers at plants producing for
multinational corporations. In the case of Coca-Cola, according to numerous credible reports, the
company and its business partners have turned a blind eye to, financially supported, and actively
colluded with paramilitary groups in efforts to destroy workers’ attempts to organize unions and
bargain collectively.
♦ Since 1989, eight union leaders from Coca-Cola plants have been murdered by paramilitary
forces. Dozens of other workers have been intimidated, kidnapped, or tortured.
♦ In Carepa, members of the paramilitary murdered union leader Isidro Gil in broad daylight
inside his factory’s gates. They returned the next day and forced all of the plant’s workers to
resign from their union by signing documents on Coca-Cola letterhead.
♦ The most recent murder attempt occurred on August 22, 2003, when two men riding
motorcycles fired shots at Juan Carlos Galvis, a worker leader at Coca-Cola’s
Barrancabermeja plant.
♦ There is substantial evidence that managers of several bottling plants have ordered assaults to
occur and made regular payments to leaders of the paramilitary groups carrying out the
attacks.
These ongoing abuses have taken their toll on Coca-Cola workers’ efforts to organize. Their
union, SINALTRAINAL, has suffered a dramatic loss in membership, as worker leaders are
intimidated or forced into hiding. SINALTRAINAL has appealed for solidarity and allies in the
U.S. labor and social justice movements have answered their call. The United Steelworkers and
the International Labor Rights Fund have filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola on behalf of the union
and victims’ families in U.S. federal court. Other unions including the Teamsters and many
community groups have launched public campaigns targeting Coke.
What are workers in Colombia demanding?
♦ Acknowledge Underlying Facts. The events alleged in the four Complaints filed in federal
district court in Miami, Florida are objectively verifiable. For example, Mr. Isidro Gil
was murdered in the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Carepa. The Plaintiffs are extremely
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distraught that Coca-Cola's public statements have labeled these allegations as "false"
since this constitutes an effort to alter the historical record.
♦ Public Statements Denouncing Anti-Union Violence. Coca-Cola and Panamco/FEMSA
should issue strong, public statements throughout the press in Colombia and in the world
denouncing violence, and particularly anti-union violence, by all armed actors in
Colombia. The companies should state that such violence, regardless of who commits it,
is seen by corporations such as themselves as being bad for business and investment.
Specifically, they should publicly state that if the paramilitaries see themselves as
protecting the interests of domestic and foreign investment, they are wrong; that their
violent conduct, especially against trade unionists, is bad for business and investment and
must cease. Coca-Cola and Panamco/FEMSA must also make public statements in the
press indicating their belief that, contrary to the statements made by local Colombian
management, Sinaltrainal is not connected with any armed groups in Colombia, and
acknowledge that the violent acts described in the four federal complaints was unlawful.
♦ Human Rights Committee. Coca-Cola and Panamco/FEMSA must agree to support the
creation of an independent committee to which workers can submit complaints about
anti-union violence and intimidation at or around any Coca-Cola bottling plant. The
Committee will work with such employees and the union to address such concerns in a
productive way.
♦ Investigation and Training: Coca-Cola and Panamco/FEMSA must encourage the proper
authorities in Colombia to investigate links between local Colombian management and
the armed groups, particularly the paramilitaries. Further, the companies must conduct
their own internal investigations and remove management with such links. This
investigation must be subject to independent review. Coca-Cola and Panamco/FEMSA
should also conduct training with all management personnel and employees in which they
strongly stress that any collusion with armed actors or any encouragement of anti-union
violence by these actors, whether material or moral, will not be tolerated and will result
in immediate discharge.
♦ Address Anti-Union Impact of Violence. As a consequence of the anti-union violence that
is the subject of the four legal cases, SINALTRAINAL has suffered significant losses of
members and other institutional damage. In order to address this distinct aspect of the
violence, Coca-Cola must agree to require its bottlers to negotiate with SINALTRAINAL
and to agree to a process to repair the damage suffered by SINALTRAINAL. This shall
include prohibiting any of the Coca-Cola bottlers from referring to the union in a
derogatory way, such as calling it a "guerilla union," reinstating union members who fled
following specific death threats from paramilitaries or who were discharged unlawfully
for their union activity, and allowing SINALTRAINAL to have access to workers prior to
elections in any of the subject bottling plants where SINALTRAINAL was decertified
following the acts of violence due to lost membership from terror and intimidation.
♦ Cessation of Criminal Charges. Coca-Cola and Panamco/FEMSA must stop pressing
criminal legal action against the Plaintiffs as they have done since shortly after, and in
retaliation for, the Plaintiffs' commencement of the civil human rights lawsuit in Miami.
♦ Compensation for Victims
Environmental Devastation in India (selections from indiaresource.org)
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Communities across India are under assault from Coca-Cola practices in the country. A pattern
has emerged as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations in India.
♦ Communities across India living around Coca-Cola's bottling plants are experiencing
severe water shortages, directly as a result of Coca-Cola's massive extraction of water
from the common groundwater resource. The wells have run dry and the hand water
pumps do not work any more. Studies, including one by the Central Ground Water Board
in India, have confirmed the significant depletion of the water table.
♦ When the water is extracted from the common groundwater resource by digging deeper,
the water smells and tastes strange. Coca-Cola has been indiscriminately discharging its
waste water into the fields around its plant and sometimes into rivers, including the
Ganges, in the area. The result has been that the groundwater has been polluted as well as
the soil. Public health authorities have posted signs around wells and hand pumps
advising the community that the water is unfit for human consumption.
♦ In two communities, Plachimada and Mehdiganj, Coca-Cola was distributing its solid
waste to farmers in the area as "fertilizer". Tests conducted by the BBC found cadmium
and lead in the waste, effectively making the waste toxic waste. Coca-Cola stopped the
practice of distributing its toxic waste only when ordered to do so by the state
government.
♦ Tests conducted by a variety of agencies, including the government of India, confirmed
that Coca-Cola products contained high levels of pesticides, and as a result, the
Parliament of India has banned the sale of Coca-Cola in its cafeteria. However, CocaCola not only continues to sell drinks laced with poisons in India (that could never be
sold in the US and EU), it is also introducing new products in the Indian market. And as
if selling drinks with DDT and other pesticides to Indians was not enough, one of CocaCola's latest bottling facilities to open in India, in Ballia, is located in an area with a
severe contamination of arsenic in its groundwater.
Destroying Lives, Livelihoods and Communities
Water shortages, pollution of groundwater and soil, exposure to toxic waste and pesticides is
having impacts of massive proportions in India. In a country where over 70% of the population
makes a living related to agriculture, stealing the water and poisoning the water and soil is a sure
recipe for disaster. Thousands of farmers in India have been affected by Coca-Cola's practices,
and Coca-Cola is guilty of destroying the livelihoods of thousands of people in India.
Unfortunately, we do not even know the extent of the damage as a result from exposure to the
toxic waste and pesticides as these are long term problems. Most affected are the marginalized
communities such as the Adivasis (Indigenous People's) and Dalits (formerly untouchables), as
well as the low-income communities, landless agricultural workers and women. Taken in its
entirety, that's a lot of people in India.
The Struggles
The arrogance of Coca-Cola in India is not going unanswered. In fact, the growing opposition to
Coca-Cola- primarily from Coca-Cola affected communities- has spread so rapidly and gained so
much strength that Coca-Cola is now on the defensive.
Kala Dera, Rajasthan
In the state of Rajasthan, the High Court ruled in November 2004 that all soft drinks in the state
must state the level of pesticides on the product label, in addition to the ingredients. This
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unprecedented ruling came only three weeks after a 2,000 strong demonstration to shut down the
Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kala Dera, on the outskirts of Jaipur in Rajasthan. Over 50 villages
are experiencing water shortages as a result of Coca-Cola's indiscriminate mining of water, and
"struggle committees" have been formed in at least 32 villages to confront Coca-Cola's abuses.
The Central Ground Water Board, a government agency, not only confirmed the declining water
table as a result of Coca-Cola's indiscriminate mining of the water, it also faulted Coca-Cola for
creating "ecological imbalances" in the area.
In response to the court order to state the level of pesticides on their labels, Coca-Cola appealed
the decision on the grounds that such an action would force them to compromise with their
"commercial confidentiality"! Coca-Cola also submitted to the court that small traces of DDT and
other pesticides are not harmful "to the health of the consumers." The court rejected the appeal,
and significantly, stated that "commercial interests are subservient to fundamental rights."
Plachimada, Kerala
The single largest Coca-Cola bottling plant in India, in Plachimada, Kerala, remains shut down
since March 2004. Initially ordered to shut down until June 15 (for arrival of monsoon rains) by
the state government to ease drought conditions, the Plachimada bottling plant has been unable to
open because the local village council (panchayat) is REFUSING to reissue Coca-Cola a license
to operate. The village council has maintained that the plant needs to shut down because it has
destroyed the water system in the area as well as polluted the area.
The panchayat is an elected body at the most local level in India, and forms the building block of
democracy in India - Panchayat Raj- a model promoted extensively by Mahatma Gandhi. CocaCola, in typical fashion, has chosen to undermine democracy by appealing to the courts that the
panchayat has no jurisdiction over the plant and Coca-Cola, and that it should be the state of
Kerala that makes the decision. Coca-Cola's efforts to undermine local governance is being
followed closely as the court ruling in favor of the panchayat could set a significant precedence
for local governance.
The struggle in Plachimada is the oldest struggle against Coca-Cola in India and there has been a
24/7 vigil directly in front of the factory gates since April 22, 2002. The struggle in Plachimada
has also enjoyed significant victories. In December 2003, the High court, in an extremely
significant decision, ruled that Coca-Cola HAD to seek alternative sources of water and that it
could extract only as much water from the common groundwater resource as a farmer owning 34
acres of land could. The justification being that the plant is located on 34 acres. Furthermore, the
court held that the groundwater belonged to the people and the Government had no right to allow
a private party to extract such a huge quantity of ground water which was "a property held by it in
trust''.
In another significant action in August, 2004, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB),
acting upon a Supreme court order, directed the Coca-Cola company to ensure that water supply
through pipeline is delivered to the houses of all the affected communities in the vicinity.
While the various court and government agencies are validating and acting upon the community
concerns, Coca-Cola is busy putting more money into a public relations strategy designed to
convince everyone that they have nothing to do with the water scarcity and pollution in
Plachimada and in India.
Mehdiganj, Uttar Pradesh
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More so than other struggles against Coca-Cola in India, the communities in Mehdiganj, a
village about 20 kms from the holy city of Varanasi, have more of an uphill battle because the
local and state officials are turning a blind eye to the concerns of the communities.
The water table has declined between 25-40 feet in the last four years, and Coca-Cola has been
discharging its waste water into the surrounding fields, and now into a canal that feeds into the
river Ganges, a holy river for millions of Indian. The landscape is very rural, and farming is the
main source of livelihood in the area. Many farmers have yet to be compensated for the land that
was taken from them in order to build the Coca-Cola bottling facility.
The movement to shut down the Coca-Cola plant has been growing rapidly for the last year. In
August 2003, community members entered the office of the Regional Pollution Control Board in
Varanasi, and to protest their inaction, dumped sacks full of sludge from the Coca-Cola plant on
the table of the regional officer. In September 2003, over 500 people marched to the Coca-Cola
factory gates and were physically attacked and beaten by police and private security guards. In
October 2003, a march was organized from the Coke plant in Mehdiganj to a Pepsi plant in
Jaunpur, about 150 km away. And in mid-December 2003, ten activists went on a five-day hunger
strike in front of the plant. They were supported by fifty people sitting with them each day, and
about 300 people went on hunger strikes of varied duration. And in June 2004, hundreds
conducted a sit-in in front of the state assembly in Lucknow.
So far, not only have the authorities not cooperated at all, they have consistently refused to make
good on their promises of inquiries and investigations to look into Coca-Cola's practices that are
depleting the groundwater and polluting the water and soil. In addition, the authorities have
trumped up criminal charges against some of the key leaders of the struggle, and issued orders to
these leaders preventing them from "shouting slogans or making inflammatory speeches …
within 300 meters of the plant".
The communities are determined to close down the factory in Mehdiganj, and the local
organizers have been extremely successful in garnering local support in the area. They have also
organized the community around a new Coca-Cola plant in Balia, about 250 kms away. From
November 15-24, 2004, a march will be conducted from the Coca-Cola factory gates in Balia to
the Coca-Cola factory gates in Mehdiganj, demanding the closure of both the facilities.
What are communities in India demanding?
The first step that Coca-Cola must take is to admit to the severity of problems it has caused in
India, and then find ways to address them operationally:
♦ They must permanently shut down the bottling facilities in Mehdiganj, Kala Dera and
Plachimada.
♦ They must compensate the affected community members.
♦ They must recharge the depleted groundwater
♦ They must clean up the contaminated water and soil.
♦ They must ensure that workers laid off as a result of Coca-Cola's negligence are retrained
and relocated in a more sustainable industry.
♦ They must admit liability for the long term consequences of exposure to toxic waste and
pesticide laden drinks in India.
What Can Students Do?
corporate
Profile
profile
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Inside the Real T hing:
A Pr ofile of the Softdr ink Giant
T he Coca-Cola
Company
profile
Oct ober 2 0 0 5
P r epar ed by R ich ar d Gir ar d
P ol ar i s I n s t i t u t e R es ear ch er
corporate
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4. Social Profile
This section profiles three cases that demonstrate what Coke is capable of doing to protect its
bottom line. Coke’s complicity with the actions of right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia along
with massive ground water takings in India and their landmark racial discrimination settlement in
the United States challenge the notion that this corporation practices a high standard of corporate
social responsibility. Below are three specific cases followed by sections exposing Coke’s labour
and environmental track record.
4.1 Colombia: “Our human rights as workers are systematically violated, with assassinations,
disappearances, targeting, torture, exile, terrorism, mass sackings, and death threats as part of a
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bloody policy to eliminate the union and rob the workers’ rights.” SINALTRAINAL statement,
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18 May 2005
Coke has extensive bottling operations in Latin America. The Latin American market has long
been lucrative for the corporation who has bottling agreements with over 20 bottlers throughout
Mexico and South and Central America. Ten percent of Coke’s $21.96 billion 2004 revenue was
generated from sales in Latin America (excluding Puerto Rico), while over 25 percent of their unit
case volume is consumed in the region. The Latin American country pages on Coke’s website
outline the locations of each bottling company Coke uses in region with one exception: Colombia.
The Colombia page states only that Coke has “bottler agreements with independent companies
that own and operate bottling plants that manufacture and distribute Coca-Cola products”, while
the other country sites disclose the number and names of the bottling companies used by Coke to
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manufacture their products.
That Coke would be reluctant to disclose who they have bottling agreements with in Colombia but
not in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela may be related to the
corporate links with its bottlers’ associations and paramilitary groups in Colombia.
The US based Stop Killer Coke campaign group cites that since 1989, seven union leaders and
one friendly plant manager employed at Coca-Cola bottling operations have been murdered by
right wing paramilitary groups in Colombia. Hundreds of other Coke workers and their family
members have been tortured, kidnapped and/or illegally detained by violent paramilitaries, often
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working closely with plant managements. As of July 2005, the situation for Coke workers and
their family members remains dangerous.
Union organizers at Coca-Cola bottling plants are not alone in a country where hundreds of union
leaders have been assassinated over the last decade by right wing paramilitary groups, widely
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known to be linked to the army and the Colombian government. What makes the plight of Coke
workers stand out is that one of the world’s largest corporations is complicit in this inhumane
treatment. For Coke the repression of organized labour helps cut production costs by dismissing
thousands of workers and minimizing salaries while increasing production and profits. Regarding
the attitude of the corporation towards the actions of paramilitaries at Coke’s bottling facilities in
Colombia, United Steelworkers of America (USWA) lawyer, Dan Kovalik said that “if any of these
plants make a mistake in applying Coca-Cola’s formula or in delivering Coke, they would be there
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to correct it, but in cases where they kill union leaders, they do nothing”.
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“The anti-coke manifesto”, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, 2005,
http://www.polarisinstitute.org/polaris_project/water_lords/campaigns/anticokefinal1.pdf
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Coca Cola website, http://www2.coca-cola.com/ourcompany/cfs/cfs_colombia.html
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http://www.killercoke.org/crimes.htm
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Human Rights Watch website, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/01/21/colomb6978.htm#3
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Lobe, J., Coca-Cola to be Sued for Bottlers’ Abuses, Inter Press Service, July 20, 2001,
http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/headlines01/0720-01.htm
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Colombia’s National Union of Food Industry Workers (SINALTRAINAL), president Javier Correa
says that “the paramilitaries have graffitied threats and accusations against us on the walls of
bottling plants. These plants have become like concentration camps. The army patrols the
buildings. There is so much repression that union workers are even followed into the toilet. One
worker killed himself. In his suicide note he blamed Coca-Cola.” On the attitude of the
corporation, Correa says that “Coca-Cola has turned from a time of exploitation to a time of
slavery. Because the workers continue to resist this oppression the paramilitaries now try to
kidnap family members, they’ve burnt union headquarters and destroyed whatever evidence they
can so we are unable to bring a case against them. If SINALTRAINAL is dissolved," adds Correa
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"we face assassinations".
The links between Coke and actions of Colombia’s paramilitary groups can be traced to the
corporation’s bottling agreements with companies in Colombia. As explained on page 1 of this
report, Coke franchises its bottling operations to various bottling companies who purchase syrups
and concentrates from the corporation, mix them with water, and package and sell the final
product to retailers.
While different Coca-Cola bottling operations in Colombia have been involved in violence towards
union organizers, one case in Carepa during the mid-1990s showcases how closely Coke is
associated to paramilitary action in the country.
In July 2001, the Colombian labour union, SINALTRAINAL, along with the United Steel Workers
Union and International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Miami against Coke
and two of its bottlers, Bebidas y Alimentos and Panamerican Beverages, INC. The lawsuit
charges that Coke and its associates are responsible for “the systematic intimidation, kidnapping,
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detention and murder of trade unionists” working at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia.
The suit alleges that Coke’s Colombian bottlers maintained open relations with right wing
paramilitary death squads as part of a strategy to intimidate union leaders. One portion of the
case covers the 1996 murder of union organizer Isidro Segundo Gil who worked at the Coca-Cola
bottling plant owned by Bebidas y Alimentos in Carepa Colombia.
Violence and intimidation towards SINALTRAINAL members at the plant began in April 1994
when paramilitary forces murdered Bebidas workers, Jose Eleazar Manco David and Luis
Enrique Gomez Granada. Paramilitary forces then began to intimidate other SINALTRAINAL
members and threatened local union leadership with violence if they did not resign. Many
members left the bottling plant and moved from Carepa due to the threats. Paramilitaries had full
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permission to enter the plant to deliver the threats to the leadership.
Very soon after the union elected a new executive, including Isidro Gil, to replace the one that
had fled, Bebidas y Alimentos began to hire members of the paramilitaries who had threatened
the first union board to work at the plant. In September 1995 Richard Kirby Keilland, the American
owner of the bottler with his father Richard Kirby, hired Ariost Milan Mosquera to become the
plant Manager. Ariost Milan Mosquera proceeded to illegally fire members of the SINALTRAINAL
executive and threatened to destroy the union. He announced in public that he had given orders
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to the paramilitaries to carry out the task and bragged that he would sweep away the union.
From the beginning of 1996 until December of the same year, the paramilitaries stepped up their
threats against union members and executives, forcing members to flee Carepa fearing for their
lives. During the same time period the suit claims that SINALTRAINAL members witnessed
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Williams, M., “Coca Cola Genocide”, Colombia Solidarity Campaign,
http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/Solidarity%209/cocacolagenocide.html
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Complaint filed against The Coca Cola Company in the United States District Court Southern District of Florida, page
1, http://www.laborrights.org/projects/corporate/coke/index.html
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ibid, page 18, http://www.laborrights.org/projects/corporate/coke/index.html
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ibid, page 19, http://www.laborrights.org/projects/corporate/coke/index.html
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Bebidas manager Ariost Milan Mosquera socializing with paramilitaries and providing them with
coca-cola products for their social functions.
SINALTRAINAL was meanwhile negotiating a new labour agreement at the plant which included
proposals for increased security at the plant for threatened union members and a cessation of
Ariost Milan Mosquera’s threats against the union and his collusion with paramilitaries. Richard
Kirby Kielland was present at the negotiations and refused the unions requests.
As a response to these events, SINALTRAINAL began a national campaign in August 1996,
calling upon Bebidas, as well as Panamco Colombia and Coca-Cola Colombia to protect union
leadership and members in Carepa. In November 1996, the union presented a labour contract to
Bebidas which included a provision which would have required the bottler to provide security in
the plant to protect workers from the paramilitaries. Ariost Milan Mosquera took the letter to
Bogotá to discuss it with Richard Kirby Keilland.
th
On December 5 , 1996, two paramilitaries approached Isidro Gil, who was then involved in
negotiations with the Bebidas, and shot him to death at the entrance to the Carepa plant. The
same day paramilitaries approached other members of SINALTRAINAL’s board telling them that
they had murdered Gil and would do the same to them if they did not leave Carepa. They also
said that they would hold a meeting the next day at the plant with all members of the union to tell
them that they would have to resign from the union or face death. That night the paramilitaries
went to the SINALTRAINAL office in Carepa and burned it down.
The paramilitaries held their meeting as planned on December 7 where they explained to the
workers that they had 3 options: 1 resign from the union; 2 leave Carepa; 3 be killed. The workers
were then directed to the manager’s office where they signed resignation papers prepared by
Bebidas y Alimentos. As a result of the threats, workers resigned en masse from the union thus
destroying the SINALTRAINAL local in Carepa. The lawsuit says that after Gil’s murder and the
forced resignation of union members at the plant, Bebidas y Alimentos paid the paramilitaries for
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their efforts. On December 26 the paramilitaries killed another Bebidas worker and then later in
2000 the wife of Isidro Gil.
In 1997 Richard Kirby and Richard Kirby Keilland asked Coke if they could sell the Bebidas y
Alimentos along with the Carepa plant. Coke denied the request and they continue to own the
185
Carepa plant.
At Panamco’s plant in Bucaramanga, the lawsuit claims that five members of the union executive
were falsely accused in 1996 of planting a bomb in the plant during a labour dispute. The union
members were badly beaten by police and then three were thrown in jail for six months only to be
released after regional prosecutors found that the charges were groundless. At the bottler’s
Cucata and Barrancabermeja plants, union members were forced into hiding after receiving death
threats from paramilitaries beginning in 1999. In a similar story to the Carepa plant, the manager
in Barrancabermeja openly collaborated with and supported paramilitaries, according to the
lawsuit.
This well documented case illustrates how the management at Bebidas y Alimentos, colluded
with paramilitaries to commit murder and destroy the SINALTRAINAL union local in Carepa. But
how are these bottling plants such as Bebidas y Alimentos and Panamco linked to Coke’s
corporate headquarters in Atlanta?
In the case of Bebidas, it receives its supply of Coke products from Coke Colombia – Coke’s
subsidiary in Colombia – which are then bottled and distributed throughout Colombia. Coke
Colombia monitors and controls all aspects of Bebidas’ bottler’s agreement with Coke, including
184
185
ibid, pp 22-23
Ibid, p 23
34
16
186
Coke’s requirements for product quality, presentation, marketing and bottling. The union
sponsored lawsuit claims that the bottler’s agreement gives Coke control over small details of
production and distribution including: approved containers, boxes, stamps; the right to inspect the
products; the imposition of standards concerning employee qualification and appearance; the
monitoring of labour relations and practices of its subsidiaries and bottlers; the right to terminate
bottler’s agreements for noncompliance with their terms and conditions; the right to conduct
inspections and monitor day-to-day compliance with the bottler’s agreement through frequent
187
reports.
Due to the extent of Coke’s influence over its bottlers through bottler’s agreements, the lawsuit
states that Bebidas is “subject to the ultimate control of Coke because the business exists solely
at the pleasure of Coke”, and that Coke has complete control over “Panamco and Bebidas y
188
Alimentos because these companies exist solely to bottle and distribute Coke products”. One
striking example of Coke’s control over Bebidas is their refusal to let Richard Kirby and Richard
Kirby Keilland sell the company in 1997.
In the case of Coke and Panamco the two companies are linked both financially and through
Coke executives serving on Panamco’s Board of Directors. In 1996 Coke owned a 13% interest
in the Panamco bottling company while two Coca-Cola Company executives sat on Panamco’s
Board of Directors.
A judge in Miami ruled these links were insufficient and removed Coke from the lawsuit in March
2003 saying that the company does not set labour policies at independently owned bottling
plants. In April 2004, SINALTRAINAL filed an amendment to the lawsuit in the Miami Federal
Court claiming that due to recent restructuring of Coca-Cola’s bottling network in Latin America,
189
where Coca-Cola Femsa purchased Panamco (May 2003), the company’s main bottler in
190
Colombia, Coca-Cola can be held liable. According to witnesses quoted in a Colombia
Solidarity Campaign report, Panamco is explicitly linked to paramilitary leaders through financial
donations. The report states that Panamco official Jhon Ordonez makes monthly payments to
191
paramilitary leaders in Cucuta.
Meanwhile, union leaders who work at Coca-Cola bottlers continue to live in fear for their lives.
After exhausting all legal avenues in Colombia, SINALTRAINAL began a worldwide boycott of
Coke products in July 2003. The campaign has brought worldwide attention to victims of Coke’s
complicity with assassination, harassment and displacement of many workers in their bottling
facilities in Colombia.
Some other incidents of violence and harassment against Coke workers and their families in
Colombia:
rd
June 2005 – On June 3 paramilitaries in Barranquilla kidnapped 5 students who were working
with SINALTRAINAL on Coke’s environmental record. The students were threatened with death if
192
they ever protested outside a Coke plant again. They were released the same day.
th
April 2004 – On April 20 , a number of armed men entered the house of Coke worker and union
activist Efrain Guerrero’s brother-in-law in Bucaramanga and opened fire at the family. The
186
Ibid 11
ibid, 12
188
ibid, pp. 13,14
189
The merger was actually orchestrated by The Coca-Cola Company, for more information visit:
http://www.killercoke.org/pdf/collmerg.pdf
190
Liu, B., “Colombian Union Renews Coke Suit”, Financial Times, April 17, 2004.
191
“The Anti-Coke Manifesto”, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, 2005,
http://www.polarisinstitute.org/polaris_project/water_lords/campaigns/anticokefinal1.pdf
192
“The people vs Coke”, Colombia Solidarity Campaign,
http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/cocacolacampaign/peoplevscoke.html
187
35
17
gunmen killed Guerrero’s brother-in-law, Gabriel Remolina, his wife Fanny Remolina and one of
193
their children, Robinson Remolina.
th
November 2004 – On November 17 , paramilitaries delivered death threats to the regional
headquarters of the CUT (a Brazilian labour federation) in Bucaramanga. The letter read as
follows:
"This threat is directed towards those trade unionists who oppose the governor,
the mayor and those private companies who are supporting the policies of the
government of Dr Alvaro Uribe Velez. We inform you that we have made a
military judgment to force you from the areas under our influence, or to kill you.
We will show no mercy to those trade unionists who have initiated legal
proceedings against government of private company officials. For this reason we
have declared the following as military objectives:
David Florez
Martha Diaz
Teresa Baez
Efraín Guerrero
Carlos Castro
Javier Jiménez
Rafael Ovalle
Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), Santander."
All of the people mentioned in the letter are members of the CUT. Efrain Guerrero works
at Coke’s Bucaramanga plant and is the leader of SINALTRAINAL at the facility. This is
194
the second time that Guerrero has received death threats.
nd,
October 2002 – On October 2 a known paramilitary, Saul Rincon, along with another man were
seen monitoring a union protest at the entrance to Coke’s plant in Barrancabermeja. The men
entered the plant and spoke with the managers. Three days later Rincon warned that local
SINALTRAINAL leader Juan Carlos Galvis was an assassination target. Rincon was later seen
spying in Galvis’ neighbourhood. Close to a year later in August 2003, Galvis was shot at by a
195
number of paramilitaries, but managed to escape with his life.
August 2001 – The AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – paramilitary units) published
death threats against two Coke workers and union activists in the Barrancabermeja publication La
Noticia. On Christmas Eve of the same year both men found AUC greeting cards in their
196
lockers.
For more information on Coke’s human rights abuses please visit the following websites:
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke - http://www.killercoke.org/
Colombia Human Rights Network - http://colhrnet.igc.org/
Colombia Solidarity Campaign - http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk
SIANLTRAINAL - http://www.sinaltrainal.org/
193
Communique between SINALTRAINAL and the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, April 20th, 2004,
http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/UA%20Apr-Jun%2004/UA04.04.20.html
194
“Bucaramanga: More death threats against Coca Cola worker and trade unionists”, Colombia Solidarity Campaign
press release, November 17, 2005, http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/UA%20Oct-Dec%2004/UA04.11.22.html
195
“The Anti-Coke Manifesto”, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, 2005,
http://www.polarisinstitute.org/polaris_project/water_lords/campaigns/anticokefinal1.pdf
196
ibid
36
18
4.2 India197: “Without access to clean and safe water, natural systems are threatened,
economies sputter, and communities wither. For companies like ours, continuing success
depends on ensuring adequate water for both ourselves and for the communities where we
operate. We are committed to benefiting and refreshing consumers and their communities, and
198
being an active partner in addressing water challenges is a crucial part of that commitment.”
From Coke’s website
Coke has had a long and volatile relationship with India. The company originally began selling its
products during the 1950s but was eventually kicked out of the country in 1977 for violating
investment laws. Coke refused to abide by India’s Foreign Exchange Regulation Act which
required Multi-Nationals to sell 60% of their equity to an Indian interest. Coke refused, and was
forced to leave the country. In 1993, in a new political and economic climate of liberalized trade
and investment policy, Coke was allowed back into the country where they promptly purchased
199
the leading domestic soft drink brand. Since then, Coke has invested more than $1 billion in
India. The company operates 27 wholly owned bottling plants and another 17 franchise owned
bottling operations and is constantly looking to expand its presence in a country where it sees a
200
huge market for its products.
However, all is not well for Coke in India. In 2002 Since 2002, Coke has come face to face with
strong resistance to their ongoing water takings, their environmental pollution and the discovery
of high levels of pesticides in their products. One community, after a long and bitter struggle, has
been successful in shutting down production at a local bottling plant. The fight against Coke has
spread to other parts of the country, beginning a movement that could bring about a repeat of
1977.
Plachimada – Coke meets its match
Coke opened its plant in Plachimada in 1998, digging 65 wells with the capacity to extract 1.5
201
million liters of water each day from the aquifer. The company received 15% cash back on its
investment in the Plachimada factory by the government of Kerala, in return for moving into an
202
impoverished region within the state. In Kerala, the desire of the provincial and national
governments to attract investment from multinationals like Coke has meant that communities are
losing control of their natural resources.
Since Coke set up shop in Plachimada and began extracting vast amounts of water and adding
polluting sludge to farm fields, local farmers have seen their wells dry up and crop yields shrink
forcing many to abandon their farms. In June 2005, the state Water Resources Department found
that in 16 wells around the plant water levels dropped significantly in nine of them while one dried
up completely between 2002 and 2004. The study also found that between May 2003 and May
203
2004 ground level dropped in 11 of the 16 wells. Despite the region’s extended droughts, Coke
continued to extract water from their boreholes, while 2000 families in the area were being
adversely affected by the lack of water. Due to low water levels, families would walk long
distances twice a day to find suitable drinking water while others were forced to try alternative
crops. Salination and residues from bottle washing had rendered what little water remained
204
useless. One local farmer commented that his irrigation pump “used to run for 12 hours
throughout the night; now it runs dry after 30 minutes…Coke managed to acquire all the lowest
197
For timely updates on resistance movements against Coke’s operations in India please visit:
http://www.indiaresource.org
198
The Coca Cola Company, Website, http://www2.coca-cola.com/citizenship/water.html
199
Multinational Monitor, “Backwash: Coke Returns from India Exile”, An Interview with George Fernandes, July August
1995, Vol. 16, No. 7&8
200
Ranjith, K.R., “Holy Water From the West”, Altermedia: Thrissur, 2004, p. 48
201
Vidal, J., Coke on trial as Indian villagers accuse plant of sucking them dry, The Guardian, November 19, 2003
202
Stuart, L., “Multinationals should face the same rules no matter where they set up shop”, The Guardian, August 11,
2003
203
“Ground water level down in Plachimada”, The Economic Times, July 6, 2005
204
Ranjith, K.R., “Holy Water From the West”, Altermedia: Thrissur, 2004, 58
37
19
lying land in the area and after digging a series of deep wells they took all the water. Its downright
205
theft.” The worst affected are the 10,000 landless labourers who relied on working on these
farms for a livelihood. The shortage of water became so severe at one point that Coke itself was
trucking water from outside the region as their boreholes had dried up.
When the suffering of the people in Plachimada reached a limit, farmers and community
members began to organize resistance in order to regain control of their rights to the water and
soil which was being used extensively by Coke. A non-violent protest began outside the plant in
April 2002. A powerful group of local people began the protest sitting stoically under a
Samarapanthal or thatched shed and have maintained their presence for over two years. Even
though major political parties in Kerala province distanced themselves from the protests the
struggle against Coke grew. The people demanded that Coke should work to restore groundwater
resources and ensure a continuous water supply for the affected area, or leave Plachimada
206
forever.
The protests continued despite counter efforts by the corporation and repression from the police
who have arrested hundreds of protestors. The sustained determination of the resistance
combined with a BBC documentary exposing how Coke was selling contaminated ‘fertilizer’ to
local farmers, finally gained the attention of the mainstream media. Coke responded with
vehement denials of any wrongdoing and has hired a public relations firm to improve their image
207
in India.
In April 2003, the Village Council asserted their right to the self-determination of natural resources
and revoked Coke’s license. After arguing before the Kerala High Court, Coke managed to
reverse the decision. The Village Council filed another petition in High Court and on December
16, 2003, the Court historically declared that the local self-government body has the right to
208
control the water exploitation by Coke’s Plachimada plant. The judgment rejected Coke’s
claims and forced the company to stop exploitation of water reserves and find alternative water
resources within one month.
Since the December order came down, a seesaw battle has ensued between the Village Council,
Coke and the Kerala state government. Coke was given reprieve by the state government on the
decision not to renew their license. However, on April 7, the court stayed the original order on a
petition filed by the president of the Village Council who says that the state government has been
interfering with the Village Council’s constitutional power to issue or suspend a license or impose
209
conditions on an industry .
While the legal battle continues, a February 21, 2004 order is preventing the plant from drawing
ground water until June 15 when monsoon rains are expected to arrive. The order will not prevent
production at the plant, but stops the withdrawal of water from local groundwater. Meanwhile, the
protests, which passed the 2 year mark on April 22, continue.
Dirty Coke and the spread of resistance
In January 2004 the Indian parliament banned the sale of Coke as well as Pepsi products in its
cafeteria after tests found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides, including lindane,
205
Clarke, J., Stuart, L., “Coke Adds Life? In India, Impoverished Farmers are Fighting to Stop Drinks Giant Destroying
Livelihoods”, The Independent, July 25, 2003
206
Ranjith, K.R., “Holy Water From the West”, Altermedia: Thrissur, 2004, p. 60
207
Srivastava, A., “Coke with Yet Another New Twist: Toxic Cola”, India Resource Center, January 31, 2004,
http://www.indiaresource.org/campaigns/coke/2004/coketwist.html
208
Ranjith, K.R., “Holy Water From the West”, Altermedia: Thrissur, 2004, p. 63.
209
Surendranath, C., “Coke vs People: The Heat is on in Plachimada”, India Resource Center, April 14, 2004,
http://www.indiaresource.org/campaigns/coke/2004/heatison.html
38
20
210
DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos, in the colas, making them unfit for consumption. Some test
samples showed toxin levels 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union.
Coke products from India rejected entrance to the United States
In May 2005 the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) rejected a shipment of Fanta sent by
Coca-Cola India to the United States. The USDA said that the products appeared to contain an
unsafe colour additive. A Coca-Cola India representative claimed that Fanta has never been
211
exported to the United States.
Adding to Coke’s problems in India, Villagers living in Mehdiganj near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh,
Kudus, in the Wada taluka of the Thane district and Sivaganga in TamilNadu - all regions
212
experiencing acute water crises - have begun protests at local Coke plants.
Some recent updates from India:
June-July 2005, Kerala
• July 22 – The State Government of Kerala moved to take Coke to the Supreme Court of
India challenging the company’s right to extract groundwater. The announcement made
by Local Self-Government Minister Kutty Ahmed Kutty, challenges the April 7 Kerala High
213
Court ruling.
• June 13 – The Panchayat (village council) rejects Coke’s application for a two-year
214
license.
215
• June 9 – Coke files an application with the Panchayat for a two year license.
th
• June 6 – The Panchayat issued Coke a three month conditional license on June 6 .
th
Coke rejected the temporary license saying that it was in violation of the April 7 High
Court order entitling the company to draw 500,000 litres of groundwater a day at its plant
216
in Plachimada.
• June 1 – The High court of Kerala directed the Panchayat to renew Coke’s license within
217
a week.
April 2005, Kerala
• On April 28, the Panchayat of Kerala rejected Coke’s application for the renewal of its
license for the company’s plant in Plachimada. The Panchayat claims that Coke did not
supply the required documents with its application, including a clearance from the state
218
pollution control board.
th
• On April 7 The Kerala High Court entitled Coke to draw 500,000 litres of groundwater a
day from its plant in Plachimada under normal rainfall conditions. The court ruled that the
Panchayat did not have the authority to cancel the license issued to the company. The
court also directed the company to ensure regular water supply for residents and to
219
prepare an action plan to cover villager’s social security and healthcare.
March 2005, Palakkad – Thousand of people demanding the closure of Coke and Pepsi factories
in the Palakkad district formed a human chain between Pepsi’s bottling plant in Kanjikode and
210
Srivastava, A., “Coke with Yet Another New Twist: Toxic Cola”, India Resource Center, January 31, 2004,
http://www.indiaresource.org/campaigns/coke/2004/coketwist.html
211
“US rejects Coke, HLL, P&G, Britannia Shipments”, Financial Express, June 9, 2005
212
Ranjith, K.R., “Holy Water From the West”, Altermedia: Thrissur, 2004, p. 68, 69.
213
“Indian State takes Coca-Cola to court; Sales drop 14% in Summer”, India Resource Center, July 22, 2005,
http://indiaresource.org/news/2005/1086.html
214
“Panchayat rejects Coke’s plea for a two year licence”, The Press Trust of India, June 13, 2005
215
ibid
216
“Coke rejects conditional licence, files another plea”, The Hindu, June 10, 2005
217
“Kerala HC asks Panchayat to renew Coca Cola licence”, The Press Trust of India, June 1, 2005
218
“This Kerala village wants Coke out”, Hindustan Times, April 30, 2005
219
“Coca-Cola firm gets nod for drawing groundwater”, The Hindu, April 8, 2005
39
21
Coke’s operation in Plachimada. Protesters included political leaders, students, environmentalists
220
and community members.
March 2005, Kaladera, Rajasthan – The village council (Panchayat) of Kaladera adopted a
resolution that it would issue a notice to Coke demanding that it close down its bottling plant in
the village. The demand will be issued because of what they say is Coke’s ‘indiscriminate
exploitation’ of ground water reserves that has led to a sharp decline in the water table. The
resolution states that “the extraction of colossal amounts of water by the Coca-Cola factory has
221
destroyed agriculture in Kaladera and nearby villages.”
th
January 15, 2005, Plachimada – January 15, 2005 marked the 100 day of struggle against
Coke for the people of Plachimada.
November 2004, Mehdiganj, Varanasi – On November 24, over a thousand community
members adversely affected by Coke marched to the Coca-Cola factory in Mehdiganj, near
Varanasi. The rally brought an end to a 10-day, 250km march from the site of another Coke plant
in Ballia to Mehdiganj, bringing attention to Coke’s negative impacts on communities across India.
Marchers who decided to approach the factory gates, which were heavily guarded by armed
police, were met with a brutal baton (lathi) charge. Over 350 people were arrested and
222
approximately 100 injured.
For more information on Coke’s ongoing abuses in India please visit the India Resource Center’s
website: http://www.indiaresource.org/
4.3 Racial discrimination in the workplace: Class action lawsuits and multimillion-dollar settlements
In April 1999, a group of Coke employees filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the corporation of
systemic racial discrimination against African Americans. The lawsuit was brought by four current
and past employees on behalf of themselves and almost 2000 other former and current Coke
employees. The class action lawsuit brought together a damning list of corporate behaviour. The
list of racially discriminatory workplace practices was split into the following 6 categories:
•
Discrimination in evaluations: The suit claimed that performance evaluations system
implemented by managers, made biased and inconsistent determinations on evaluation
scores, which permitted racial discrimination. The evaluation scores decided who would
receive raises or promotions. The lawsuit stated that “because of the undue discretion of
managers, African-Americans receive lower evaluation scores than Caucasians and
223
fewer high scores”.
•
Discrimination in compensation: Dramatic differences between salaries paid by Coke
to African Americans and White employees at the company’s headquarters and
throughout the corporation were revealed in the lawsuit. In 1995 the average AfricanAmerican employee in the corporate headquarters received $19,000 less than the
224
average white employee, while in 1998 the disparity had risen to $27,000.
220
“Thousands form Human Chain for Closure of soft drink units”, The Hindu, March 30, 2005
“Rajasthan village council wants coca-cola out”, India Resource Center press release, March 15, 2005,
http://www.indiaresource.org/news/2005/1009.html
222
“Police attach Coca-Cola protest, over 350 arrested”, India Resource Center press release, November 25, 2004,
http://www.indiaresource.org/press/2004/mehdiganjattack.html
223
United States District Court Northern District of Georgia, Civil Action No. 1-98-CV-3679,
http://www.essentialaction.org/spotlight/coke/complaint.html#IV
224
ibid
221
40
22
•
Discrimination in promotions: Promotions opportunities were not posted and occur
through management nominations, which amounted to little more than word of mouth
recommendations and closed procedures. “Jobs are filled without being posted,
candidates are handpicked in advance, and supervisors who make hiring decisions
disregard the results of panel interviews and manipulate scores in order to ensure that
their favorites are chosen. As a result of this kind of discrimination, African-Americans are
denied the opportunity to advance to the same level and at the same rate as equally
225
qualified Caucasian employees.”
•
Glass ceiling: African-American employees at Coke experience a glass ceiling, blocking
equal opportunity advancement to top level positions at the company. Compared to the
significant number of salaried African-American employees at Coke, very few make it to
senior levels in the company. While African-American employees make up 15.7 percent
of the employees at corporate headquarters, they are underrepresented at top pay-grade
226
levels.
•
Glass walls: The suit also found that organizational barriers segregate the company into
divisions where African-American leadership is acceptable, and divisions where it is not.
African-Americans in senior positions are concentrated in less powerful and non-revenue
227
generating areas.
•
Terminations: According to the lawsuit, African-American employees at Coke are
involuntarily terminated at a much higher rate than white employees. In 1997, there were
62 involuntary terminations at Coke’s corporate headquarters, and African-American
employees accounted for about 37% of those, or 23 people. Whites, who make up over
77% of the employees in the corporate office, accounted for fewer than 50% of the
terminations in 1997.
The lawsuit also outlined cases where white Coke executives and managers had been
discriminatory. In one case a white Vice President of Advertising told an African-American
advertising agency that “I don’t hire you to do good advertising, I hire you to do black
advertising...it’s not my fault you are black – it’s yours”. In another case, Coke’s marketing
strategy succumbs to racial stereotyping. For example, during a presentation about ethnic
marketing in 1998 a white brand manager showed a picture of an inner city neighborhood and
said “this is where black people live” and then stated that American musician L.L. Cool J featured
in a Coke commercial should be sitting in the ghetto instead of on the steps of an attractive
228
suburban house. In another situation, one of the plaintiffs received a low evaluation after
making comments about racial discrimination, even though she had always received positive
evaluations. Such examples were not simply from a few isolated incidents; rather the lawsuit
argued they represented a company-wide pattern.
As the trial proceeded, Coke denied any wrongdoing. Coke initially responded to the lawsuit
saying that actions toward the four African-American plaintiffs "were in no way motivated by
229
race...but instead were based solely on legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons." The
CEO at the time, Douglas Ivester, sent an email to all Coke employees a week after the suit was
filed saying that the suit had “significant errors of fact” and that the company does not
230
systematically discriminate against African-Americans. Coke’s manager of share-holder affairs
sent a similar letter to all share-holders trying to soothe investors over the lawsuit. The letter
stated that "while we [Coke] believe the lawsuit is without merit, I wanted to write and assure you
that our management team takes these allegations seriously. Discrimination in any form is not
225
ibid
ibid
ibid
228
ibid
229
Unger, H., Hosendolph, E. “Coke, plaintiffs in court today”, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, May 13, 1999
230
Unger, H., “Coke chief: Suit wrong but serious”, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 30, 1999
226
227
41
23
231
tolerated." The Company continued to deny any wrongdoing In December 1999 when a Coke
spokesperson, commenting on the ongoing lawsuit said that the company "will demonstrate that
232
Coca-Cola has not, does not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind." In July of the
same year, the company said that “we're confident it will be determined that Coca
-Cola does not
233
discriminate."
After a long legal battle, a settlement was reached in principle in June 2000 and was finalized in
November 2000 when Coke agreed to pay out a record $192.5 million, the largest settlement in a
US race discrimination lawsuit. Despite denying any wrongdoing for months, Coke agreed to pay
$113 million in direct compensation and another $43.5 million towards the elimination of pay
234
disparities. Twenty three people who were covered in the suit opted out of the settlement to
pursue their own settlements against the company. The settlement also ordered the
establishment of a task force designed to monitor the company’s progress in complying with the
settlement guidelines.
After the settlement was finalized, Coke’s new CEO Doug Daft sent a contrite e-mail to all of
Coke’s employees worldwide saying that “"Today we are closing a painful chapter in our
company's history…
The settlement is meaningful, constructive and equitable to all parties and
allows us to move forward. . . . In fact, we will not rest until we have reclaimed our position as the
best of the best in these matters and restored the confidence of every person who touches the
235
Coca-Cola Co."
In 2002, two years after the settlement was reached, the court appointed panel in charge of
monitoring Coke’s human resources practices, found that minority employees at Coke continue to
have issues with fairness in career advancement, pay decisions and the company’s commitment
236
to equal opportunity. An April 2002 report in the Washington Post quoted one Coke employee
who opted out of the settlement saying that “Coca-Cola has done a wonderful job of fooling the
public into believing that the racial discrimination lawsuit is over…It’s not over. And I’m not
interested in settling. The only way to expose the racism at Coca-Cola is to have our day in
237
court.”
The second of the four annual reports to be submitted to US district judge by the bias task force
found in December 2003 that the company had failed to implement a number of planned changes
and that the North American restructuring of the company has led to a disproportionate number of
executive positions filled by white men. The report also said that the company failed to make
recommended changes to its interview process or to develop a diverse candidature for executive
238
positions.
Minority employees negatively rated the company’s record on diversity in the report.
4.4 Labour
This section will outline a selection of strikes, walkouts and labour negotiations that have taken
place at various Coke bottling plants since 1994.
Australia – In September 2001, 140 employees at a Coca-Cola Amatil bottling plant and
warehouse in Melbourne went on strike after the company moved to cancel a bargaining
231
Unger, H., “Coca-Cola tries to soothe investors on suit”, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, May 7, 1999
McCarthy, M., “Racial bias suit at Coke awaits CEO New chief must tackle diversity issues”, USA Today, December
13, 1999
233
Unger, H., “Class-action part of Coca-Cola suit is not dismissed”, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, July 16, 1999
234
Unger, H., “Coke to Settle Racial Suit with $192.5 Million Deal”, Atlanta Journal Constitution, November 17, 2000
235
Unger, H., “Coke to settle racial suit with $ 192.5 million deal”, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, November 17, 2000
236
Day, S., “Anti-Bias Task Force Gives Coca-Cola Good Marks, but Says Challenges Remain”, New York Times,
September 26, 2002
237
White, B., “Black Coca-Cola Workers Still Angry”, Washington Post, Thursday, April 18, 2002
238
Newkirk, M., “Bias Report Criticizes Coke: Planned Changes Fell Short , Judge Told”, Atlanta Journal And Constitution,
December 18, 2003
232
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24
agreement. The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union claimed the company was
239
clearing the way to introduce individual contracts.
Australia – In December 2004, Coca-Cola Amatil was ordered to pay AUS$3 million
compensation for failing to protect a former contractor who was shot five times while loading a
vending machine. Craig Douglas Pareezer sued the company in the New South Wales Supreme
Court for negligence after he was shot in the head, chest, stomach, leg and hand. The attack
occurred in 1997. After being attacked in the same area in 1995, Pareezer returned to work only
after the company promised he would not have to go back to the neighbourhood. However, when
another worker was injured, Pareezer reluctantly made a trip there and was attacked in a robbery
attempt. The Justice in the case ruled in September 2004 that the company was liable for
Pareezer’s injuries, saying that it failed to protect him when it knew drivers were a target of
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robberies.
Canada – In November 2003, 50 workers at a Coke bottling plant in Cobourg, Ontario went on
strike over wages, shift premiums, uniform allowance, better language for temporary workers and
severance packages. After over a month on the picket lines, a deal was finalized in December
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2003.
El Salvador – A 2004 report by Human Rights Watch found that sugar used in drinks for
domestic consumption in El Salvador is regularly processed from Sugar Cane harvested by child
labourers. The report found that El Salvador’s largest sugar mill, which supplies Coke with one of
its main ingredients, is supplied with sugar cane from at least four plantations that regularly use
child labour. The report stated that: “In Coca-Cola’s case, child labor helped produce a key
ingredient in its beverages bottled in El Salvador. In that sense, Coca-Cola indirectly benefits
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from child labor.”
Guatemala – In 2002 PANAMCO, Coke’s biggest bottler in Latin America now owned by CocaCola FEMSA, used questionable tactics during a difficult collective bargaining situation with
Guatemala’s food and beverage workers’ federation FESTRAS. PANAMCO’s demands would
have eroded conditions protected by an existing collective agreement. In order to sway the
negotiations in their favour, PANAMCO pursued legal action to dismiss eight union
representatives from the plant who were taking approved leave to participate in the bargaining.
They also filed a court order alleging that the workers’ vote authorizing strike action should have
included confidential and management employees essentially asking the court to declare
unconstitutional a section of the labour code that specifies that confidential and management
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employees are not included in this type of voting.
A collective bargaining agreement was
reached in December 2002 that provided for general wage increases of 3% effective 1 March
2001, 4% on 1 March 2002, 5% on 1 March 2003 and 6% on 1 March 2004. In addition the union
244
retained full paid union leave for elected executive committee members.
Coke has a horrible record of labour abuses in Guatemala dating back to the late 1970s and early
1980s. In 1976, workers at a Coke bottling plant in Guatemala began a nine year struggle against
their employer. During that time three general secretaries of their union were assassinated while
members of their families, friends and legal advisors were threatened, arrested, kidnapped,
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“Coke workers walk off job”, Herald Sun, September 5, 2001
“Coca-Cola ‘knew of danger at venue’ $3m compo for shot contractor”, The Mercury, December 24, 2004
United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Locals 175/633 Press Release, “At Last, Cobourg Coca-Cola Workers
Win a Fair Settlement”, December 11, 2003
242
“Turning a Blind Eye: Hazardous child labor in El Salvador’s sugarcane cultivation”, Human Rights Watch, June 2004,
http://hrw.org/reports/2004/elsalvador0604/elsalvador0604simple.pdf
243
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
Press Release, “Trade Union Rights at Risk at Coca-Cola Guatemala, September 24, 2003, http://www.iuf.org.uk/cgibin/dbman/db.cgi?db=default&uid=default&ID=487&view_records=1&ww=1&en=1
244
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
Press Release, “Coca-Cola Bottler And IUF Affiliate STECSA Sign New Collective Agreement In Guatemala”, December
23, 2002, http://www.iuf.org/cgi-bin/dbman/db.cgi?db=default&uid=default&ID=656&view_records=1&ww=1&en=1
240
241
43
25
beaten, tortured, shot or forced into exile. After a long battle combined with the support of
international solidarity campaigns, STEGAC, the Coke workers union, won its fight against the
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corporation.
Russia – In August 2001, the administration of Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Eurasia
plant in Moscow fired the chairperson of the local trade union after being informed of the union’s
existence. In October, the Moscow labour inspectorate declared the dismissal illegal and ordered
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the worker reinstated. It was not until August 2003 that the worker was reinstated after plant
management announced it would respect the court’s decision as well has provide the worker
350,000 rubles to cover two years’ back pay. As of September 2003 the worker had only received
15,000 rubles while Coca-Cola HBC Eurasia Moscow filed an appeal for the reconsideration of
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the July agreement that reinstated the worker. Coke HBC has a history of actively fighting the
unionization of its operations in Russia.
Russia – Approximately 20 Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Eurasia employees picketed a
St. Petersburg plant on May 20, 2005, demanding management index their salaries to inflation,
adhere to labour laws and observe the rights of trade unions. The Chair of the plant’s trade union,
Vladimir Okhrimenko, said that employees are sometimes ordered to work six or seven days a
week as well as long working hours. He said salaries at the plant, which employs 300, have not
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been indexed to inflation for several years. Coca-Cola has 11 bottling plants in Russia.
United States – In April 2004, 470-500 production, warehouse employees, Drivers and
maintenance workers at Philadelphia’s Coca-Cola Bottling co. went on strike over pay, benefits
and respect at work. Workers believed that a strike was the only way they would gain respect on
the job. After a week-long strike workers won a 35-cent per hour pay raise increased pension
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benefits and a bonus of up to $900.
United States – On May 23, 2005, workers at Coca-Cola bottling and distribution facilities in
Hartford Connecticut and Los Angeles went on Strike. The workers are striking over the
breakdown of contract negotiations and Coke’s continuing push to have workers pay more for
their healthcare benefits. In Connecticut Approximately 345 production workers, drivers and
merchandisers at a Coca-Cola Enterprise (CCE) bottling plant were on strike while In California
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close to 1,700 workers at six Southern California CCE locations. All of the workers were
members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union. The strike ended the two-week
strike on June 7 after the union approved a five-year contract giving workers improved health251
care benefits and an 85 cent-an-hour annual pay raise.
Layoffs – In January 2000, Coke laid off 6,000 workers from its global workforce. A large scale
job cut had not happened at Coke since 1988 when the company terminated 200 jobs. In 2003
Approximately 3,700 employees were laid off by Coca-Cola and its subsidiaries.
4.5 Environment
Water Takings (see social profile above for information on Coke’s water takings in India)
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For more information on this case please refer to, Gatehouse M., Reyes, M.A., “Soft Drink Hard Labour: Guatemalan
Workers Take On Coca-Cola”, London: Latin American Bureau, 1987
246
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
Press Release, “Coke Fights Unions in Russia”, November 26, 2001, http://www.iuf.org/cgibin/dbman/db.cgi?db=default&uid=default&ID=71&view_records=1&ww=1&en=1
247
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
Press Release, “Coca-Cola Continues to Oppose Union Organization in Russia”, September 18, 2003,
http://www.iuf.org/cgi-bin/dbman/db.cgi?db=default&uid=default&ID=1057&view_records=1&ww=1&en=1
248
“Workers picket Coca-Cola bottler in Russia over pay, labour rules”, Associated Press, May 20, 2005
249
Von Bergen, J., “Coca-Cola Bottling workers end strike”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 30, 2004
250
Spano, J., “Coca-Cola plant workers go on strike”, Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2005
251
White, R., “Teamsters’ Coca-Cola contract includes better pay, benefits”, Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2005
44
26
Australia – Coca-Cola Amatil, Coke’s main Australian bottler of which it owns 34%, has come up
against fierce resistance by city councillors in Gosford in eastern Australia. Coca-Cola Amatil is
hoping to expand its bottling operations at a nearby plant and is hoping to triple its water
extraction to 41 million litres a year. In May 2005, the company filed an action against the Gosford
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council with the Land and Environment Court over the access to underground water. City
Councillors from neighbouring Wyong have pledged their support for Gosford council in its legal
battle with the corporation. The region is in the middle of its worst drought in 100 years. Gosford
is situated approximately 110 kilometres north of Sydney.
Recycling – Each day in the United States, Coke sells 25 million plastic (PET, or polyethylene
terephtalate) bottles. Coke’s bottlers use new PET bottles from non-renewable resources to
manufacture millions of bottles of soda and juice each day. According to the Grass Roots
Recycling Network, 10 billion plastic Coke bottles containing over 800 million pounds of virgin
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plastic are discarded in one year. Sixty four percent of all plastic bottles are thrown into the
garbage largely because companies like Coke refuse to take their bottles back. Ten years after
Coke pledged to use more post consumer plastics, they substantially downgraded their plans,
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announcing that they would use only 10% recycled content in 25% of their plastic soda bottles.
Legislation in the United States does not hold beverage companies accountable for the waste
they produce, thus removing responsibility from companies like Coke and Pepsi. The beverage
industry consistently lobbies against recycling bills (bottle bills) in order to continue using the
cheaper and more wasteful option of producing new bottles. New bottles are cheaper in part
because of Coke’s signal to the plastic bottle industry that they were moving back to using only
virgin plastic. This, in turn brought down the price of recycled plastic driving many recyclers out of
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business.
Coke’s practice of using only virgin plastic and actively opposing bottler bills in the United States
is aimed at ensuring more profits for the company. The switch to recycled plastic in the US is
completely feasible for the company whose bottler’s in other countries uses recycled plastic and
refillable bottles.
Drought – Coke’s carbonated and bottled water beverage lines rely on large volumes of water
taken directly from municipal water systems which in turn rely on the capacities of local
watersheds. As described earlier, Coke’s bottling operations in parts of India have had
deleterious impacts on the water tables where bottling plants are located. Similar affects may be
likely in Coke’s bottling plants in American States where drought is a major problem. For a list of
locations for Coke bottling plants located in drought sensitive States please see Appendix 2
below.
252
Elbra, T., “It’s Gosford and Wyong v Coca-Cola”, Daily Telegraph, May 19, 2005
As You Sow Website, http://www.asyousow.org/
254
Aftandilian, D., “Coke’s Broken Promise,” Conscious Choice, February 2000
255
Grass Roots Recycling Project, Coca-Cola Campaign, Just the Facts, http://www.grrn.org/coke/cc-facts.html
253
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I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
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.
To date, there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola’s workers,
including nine murders. Family members of union activists have been abducted and tortured.
Union members have been fired for attending union meetings. The company has pressured
workers to resign their union membership and contractual rights, and fired workers who refused
to do so.
Most troubling to the delegation were the persistent allegations that paramilitary violence against
workers was done with the knowledge of and likely under the direction of company managers.
The physical access that paramilitaries have had to Coca-Cola bottling plants is impossible
without company knowledge and/or tacit approval. Shockingly, company officials admitted to
the delegation that they had never investigated the ties between plant managers and
paramilitaries. The company’s inaction and its ongoing refusal to take any responsibility for the
human rights crisis faced by its workforce in Colombia demonstrates—at best— disregard for
the lives of its workers.
Coca-Cola’s complicity in the situation is deepened by its repeated pattern of bringing criminal
charges against union activists who have spoken out about the company’s collusion with
paramilitaries. These charges have been dismissed without merit on several occasions.
The conclusion that Coca-Cola bears responsibility for the campaign of terror leveled at its
workers is unavoidable. The delegation calls on the company to rectify the situation
immediately, and calls on all people of conscience to join in putting pressure on the company to
do so.
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II. DELEGATION HISTORY, PARTICIPANTS AND MANDATE
New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate and five labor and community activists
traveled to Colombia from January 8th through January 18th to investigate allegations by
Colombian workers at Coca-Cola bottling plants that Coke is complicit in the violence against
union leaders and members. This trip was the result of an investigative process and a dialogue
with the company that began almost a year ago.
Monserrate, representing the large and growing Colombian community in Jackson Heights and
Elmhurst, Queens, organized the New York City Fact-Finding Delegation on Coca-Cola in
Colombia—a coalition of students, human rights activists, and U.S. trade unionists and members
of the Colombian immigrant community living in the New York City—to ensure that one of
Coca-Cola’s largest markets, New York City, is not underwriting labor abuses beyond our
borders.
At Monserrate’s request, the councilman and others from the delegation met with top Coca-Cola
officials in July 2003 to discuss the human rights crisis facing Coke workers in Colombia.
During that meeting, company officials testified that the allegations of company ties to the
paramilitaries carrying out the violence, threats and intimidation were false.
The delegation asked Coca-Cola to sponsor an independent fact-finding mission to Colombia to
investigate and assess the workers’ allegations of company involvement in the extra-legal
violence against them. Following the July 2003 meeting, Coca-Cola responded in writing that the
“Company does not anticipate supporting in any way any form of ‘independent fact-finding
delegation to Colombia,’” and that allegations would only be reviewed locally. Believing firmly
that the matter demanded an investigation, Monserrate and other delegation members then
undertook to organize the trip that took place in January 2004.
The delegation participants in that trip were: Monserrate, representing the 21st City Council
district in Queens; Dorothee Benz, representing Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Local 1180; Lenore Palladino, the national director of United Students Against Sweatshops
(USAS); Segundo Pantoja, representing the Professional Staff Congress-City University of New
York (PSC-CUNY); Jose Schiffino, representing the Civil Service Employees Association
(CSEA); and Luis Castro, assistant and community liaison to Councilman Monserrate.
The New York City Fact-Finding Delegation on Coca-Cola in Colombia’s mandate for the
January 2004 trip was to investigate the violence against Coca-Cola workers, to talk first hand
with officials and workers from the company, and to assess the allegations of company
complicity in the violence.
The delegation returned on January 18, and released a preliminary report on January 29. It also
initiated follow-up correspondence with the company. Following the release of the initial report,
delegation members reviewed the voluminous documentation in the case they had received, and
sought additional documentation that had been promised the delegation by the company.
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The present report represents a comprehensive review of the material in hand at the time of this
writing. The delegation considers the evidence conclusive, though it continues to seek out
additional documentation that might shed additional light on the situation.
III. NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. More unionists are
killed in Colombia every year than in the rest of the world combined: 169 in 2001, 184 in 2002,
92 in 2003. In all, some 4,000 union members have been assassinated since 1986, and to date no
one has been arrested, tried and convicted for a single one of these murders. In addition to
murder, unionists have been subject to other forms of violence and terror, including kidnapping,
beatings, death threats and intimidation.
The bulk of the violence is committed by members of paramilitary units, also known as death
squads, primarily the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Collusion between the state
military and paramilitary forces is an open secret in Colombia, and the total impunity of those
who terrorize union activists only underscores the connection between legal and illegal actors
seeking to suppress union activity.
Colombia has been in the midst of a civil war for over four decades. Colombian unions are
overwhelmingly independent and not involved in the armed struggle of the leftist guerrillas, but
they are often branded by the rightist paramilitaries as guerrillas for their advocacy of social
justice and social equity. Such accusations are frequently preludes to assassinations and other
violence.
The persecution of social justice advocates under the guise of prosecuting terrorists has also
given the Colombian government an excuse to curtail the rights and liberties of unions. Unions
are increasingly the subject of legal attack as well as extra-legal killings and threats. Changes in
Colombian law in 1990 provided the framework for eliminating permanent employment and
replacing it with contingent labor, increasing job insecurity and also greatly inhibiting the ability
of unions to organize the temporary workers who now form the vast majority of the Colombian
workforce. Meanwhile, a series of laws passed in December 2003 reduced social benefits and
curtailed labor rights and civil liberties. The infringements on rights were passed as an “antiterrorist” statute, with arguments now familiar to those of us living in the post-9/11 U.S. The
social cuts were in line with IMF “structural adjustment” demands for austerity, as are massive
ongoing privatization efforts. Some 30,000 government workers have been fired; the government
projects another 40,000 will also lose their jobs.
The result of these trends is that unemployment stands officially at 20% while real
unemployment is much higher, and underemployment is higher still. Union density has
plummeted from 12% a decade ago to a mere 3.2% now.
Both legal and illegal repression of unions is widely perceived in Colombia as serving the
interests of multinational corporations. Indeed, the delegation heard many stories while in
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Colombia about the collusion between companies and paramilitaries -- stories of terror
campaigns where thousands were killed or driven off their land by paramilitaries preceding the
entry of a multinational company into an area. Thus, the allegations against Coca-Cola about its
role in the violence against its workers are typical, rather than exceptional.
Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Industrias Alimenticias (SINALTRAINAL) is the
National Food Workers’ Union, which represents Colombia’s Coca-Cola employees. In July of
2001, SINALTRAINAL in conjunction with the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) and
the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) began proceedings in the United States South
Eastern District Court in Florida against the Coca-Cola Company and its Colombian subsidiaries.
The lawsuit, an Alien Claims Tort Act (ACTA) civil suit filed in the Federal District Court for
the Southern District of Florida, No. 01-03208-CIV, on July 21, 2001, alleges that Coca-Cola
subsidiaries in Colombia were involved in a campaign of terror and murder towards its unionized
workforce through the use of the right wing paramilitary troops of the AUC. Shortly thereafter,
Coca-Cola filed charges in Colombian court against the U.S. plaintiffs for slander and
defamation and calling for 500 million pesos in compensation.
IV. DATA SOURCES AND COLLECTION
While in Colombia, the delegation went to Bogota, Barranquilla, Barrancabermeja, Cali, and
Bugalagrande. It met with Coca-Cola workers that had been victims of violence, intimidation,
retaliation and threats, and workers and others who had been witnesses to these actions. The
delegation also met with human rights organizations and activists, other unions, community
organizations, and a variety of governmental officials. These additional meetings provided
context and in some cases independent verification of union’s allegations against the company.
The delegation videotaped all of the testimony it received from Coca-Cola workers, and upon its
return to the U.S., reviewed the entire videotaped documentation in preparation for this report.
Coca-Cola workers and immediate family members that we interviewed included:
Person 1 [anonymous], Barranquilla, January 11
Limberto Caranza, Barranquilla, January 11
Person 2 [anonymous], Barranquilla, January 11
Person 3 [anonymous], Barranquilla, January 11
Person 4 [anonymous], Barranquilla, January 11
Oscar Giraldo, Bogotá, January 12
Hernán Manco, Bogota, January 12
William Mendoza, Barrancabermeja, January 14
Jose Domingo Flores, Barrancabermeja, January 14
In addition, the delegation met with national leaders of SINALTRAINAL, in particular Javier
Correa, the president of the union, and Edgar Páez, secretary for International Affairs. It received
a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Capital Accumulation and Human Rights Violations” that
analyzed Coca Cola’s corporate structure, economic strategies, labor practices and profits on
January 12, and was given a copy for its documentary records. Additionally, we obtained a book
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detailing Coca-Cola’s history in Colombia, Una Delirante Ambicion Imperial, Universo Latino
Publicaciones, Bogotá, 2003.
On January 13th, the delegation met with two representatives of Coca-Cola/FEMSA1 in Bogota,
Juan Manuel Alvarez, Director of Human Resources, and Juan Carlos Dominguez, Manager of
Legal Affairs. Delegation members had tried, while still in New York, to arrange visits to CocaCola bottling plants. This request was reiterated in the January 13th meeting, and the delegation
at that point asked specifically for access to the plant in Barrancabermeja. Company officials
flatly refused. In the course of the meeting with Alvarez and Dominguez, they promised to send
several pieces of documentation that they referred to. To date, none of this material has been
received despite a letter from corporate headquarters in Atlanta testifying that these materials
will be provided (Appendix H).
The delegation received information about Coca-Cola’s labor practices and the violence against
its workers from several other parties as well, helping to provide a larger social, economic, and
political context. In Barrancabermeja, the delegation met with CREDHOS, a regional human
rights organization, on January 14, and with the Organizacion Femenina Popular, a women’s
organization, on January 15. In Cali on January 17, it spoke to Diego Escobar Cuellar, a
representative of ASONAL JUDICIAL, the association of judicial workers. Escobar provided
chilling insight into the problem of impunity, describing in detail the corruption within the
judicial system and its increasing ideological alliance with the paramilitaries. “Colombian justice
is an oxymoron,” he told delegation members.
The delegation also met with a variety of government and political officials with whom it
discussed the Coca-Cola situation. These meetings included: Congressmen Wilson Borja and
Gustavo Petro; Daniel Garcia Peña, aide to Bogotá Mayor Lucho Garzón; members of the
executive board of the Frente Social y Politico, a left-wing political party; Cali Mayor Apolinar
Salcedo Caicedo; and the City Council of Cali.
At the outset of the trip, the delegation also met with two staff members of the U.S. Embassy,
Craig Conway and Stuart Tuttle, who at the time was in charge of Human Rights.
V. FINDINGS
Coca-Cola’s employment practices in Colombia, both those within the letter of the law and those
in contravention of the law, have had the effect of driving wages, work standards and job
security for Coca-Cola workers sharply downward, and simultaneously, of decimating the
workers’ union, SINALTRAINAL. Both trends are reinforced by the appalling human rights
violations that workers have suffered at the hands of paramilitary forces.
The company denies any involvement in the threats, assassinations, kidnappings and other terror
tactics, but its failure to protect its workers even on company property, its refusal to investigate
1
FEMSA, the largest bottler in Latin America, owns 45.7% of its stock, while a wholly-owned subsidiary of
the Coca-Cola Company owns 39.6%, and the public 14.7%. Coca-Cola/FEMSA stock is listed on the
New York Stock Exchange.
32
persistent allegations of payoffs to paramilitary leaders by plant managers, and its unwillingness
to share documentation that might demonstrate otherwise leads the delegation to the conclusion
that Coca-Cola is complicit in the human rights abuses of its workers in Colombia.
Employment practices
During the past decade, Coca-Cola has been centralizing production at its Colombian facilities at
the same time that it has decentralized its workforce. In doing so, it has closed or consolidated
several of its bottling plants and relied increasingly on subcontracted labor. As denounced by the
Union, such practices are in violation of current law. By September 2003, Coca-Cola FEMSA
had closed production lines at 11 of its 16 bottling plants.
Meanwhile, workforce restructuring has slashed the ranks of Coca-Cola workers. From 1992 to
2002, some 6,700 Coca-Cola workers in Colombia lost their jobs. Eighty-eight percent of the
company’s workers are now temporary workers and not part of the union. Wages have been
reduced by 35% for those temp workers in the last decade, and they make one-fourth what union
workers earn. Temp workers have no job security, no health insurance, and no right to organize.
The company has continually pressured workers to resign their union membership and their
contractual guarantees. Since September 2003, they have pressured over 500 workers to give up
their union contracts in exchange for a lump-sum payment. In Barranquilla, the delegation also
heard testimony from three Coke workers who said they had been fired for attending union
meetings. Two of them said that they and their families are now hungry and do not have enough
to cover the necessities of life.
Most of the union leaders at Coca-Cola have resisted this pressure and refused to resign. Since
the delegation’s return from Colombia, the company has turned up the pressure on these leaders,
successfully petitioning the Colombian Ministry of Social Protection for authorization to dismiss
91 workers, 70% of whom are union leaders. SINALTRAINAL has called this “Coca-Cola’s
effort to essentially eliminate the union.”
In response, SINALTRAINAL began a 12-day hunger strike on March 15th in eight Colombian
cities to protest 11 plant closings last year. These closings resulted in the forced resignation of
500 workers, despite Colombian law and a union contract that guarantee the right to transfer
from one plant to another. Two hunger strikers were hospitalized before Femsa, a Coca-Cola
subsidiary, agreed to negotiate with union leaders. Negotiations are scheduled to begin on the
same day this report is released, April 2nd.
Extra-legal violence
The destruction of the union, and with it the ability to slash wages and eliminate benefits, is also
the aim of the campaign of violence and terror that has been directed at union members at CocaCola facilities. Overall, there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coke
workers, including nine murders. Although violence is carried out by paramilitary rather than
company actors, the union has documented the concurrence of labor negotiations with the
periods of greatest violence against workers.
33
The delegation heard testimony from dozens of Coke workers and family members who had
either been the victims of violence and terror or who were eyewitnesses to them. The volume of
this testimony was overwhelming, and the pattern that emerged was undeniable: union workers
and especially union activists and leaders were targeted again and again in a systematic effort to
silence the union and destroy its ability to negotiate for its members.
In Barranquilla, the delegation heard from the son of a Coca-Cola worker Adolfo Munera, who
was assassinated in August 2002. He told the delegation:
My father was an honest, hard-working and friendly person. He began working at CocaCola in 1993. He joined the Coke union and began working for the rights of his coworkers. Due to that, an accusation came from the company. They [government security
forces] raided the house on March 6, 1997; they came to the house, broke-in and searched
the entire place. They then falsely accused my father. With the union’s help, my father
got a lawyer and put up a defense. At that time, the company declared my father absent
from work. During that time, my father was in exile and had to move from location to
location. They fired him for being absent, at which time we asked for support. Thanks to
the union who gave us that support we put up a defense. Unfortunately the company
handed him a letter of termination and he then went into internal exile for five years. In
August 2002 he was assassinated at the door of the house of his mother.
Limberto Carranza, a Coke worker and union activist in Barranquilla, described the abduction of
his 15-year old son, Jose David:
I’m speaking to the international commission as the father of a son. My son was taken
September 11 of last year [2003]. A couple of hooded men took him off his bicycle as he
was riding home from school. They detained him and they rode him around the city of
Soledad, where we resided at the time. He was beaten; that is to say, tortured. Afterwards,
he was left in a drainage ditch stunned and semi-conscious. They questioned my son
about me. From the moment they started hitting him, they asked him where I was and
what was I involved in. Afterwards, they told him in any case they were going to kill his
father. My son was beaten…to this day…he hasn’t recovered from the effects, he can’t
go on. He can’t get over the psychological affects.
What concerns us the most is that on the 9th we had what could be called a major battle
with management when the company put forth their plan to close the plants in Cartegena,
Montería and Valledupar. We organized the workers to reject the plan proposed by the
company for so-called “early retirement.” They played a game of intimidation by
bringing the workers to different hotels in these cities, to convince them to accept the
plan and abandon their job security rights in their contracts. What was the response to our
organizing? The next day they kidnapped my son.
This was by no means the only incidence of violence against family members that the delegation
heard about. This is perhaps the most horrifying form of terror; Cardinal Richelieu, the 17th
century chief minister to Louis XIII, is said to have remarked, “a man with a family can be made
34
to do anything.” Among the other stories of threats against families was that of William
Mendoza, the local president of the union in Barrancabermeja. He recounted how three men tried
to kidnap his four-year old daughter on June 8, 2002, but were foiled by her mother, who held on
to the child fiercely. The men then began to beat the mother, but her repeated screams attracted
attention and the would-be abductors let go. After this incidence, Mendoza says a local
paramilitary commander called him:
He said, “listen, you were lucky today, we were going to take your kid.” He said, “we
were going to kill her so that you stopped talking shit about the paramilitaries and about
Coca-Cola.” This is because we here in Barranca have spoken out about the
paramilitarism and their probable connections with Coca-Cola. They say if I keep
talking, if I don’t silence myself, something will happen with a member of my family. I
alerted the police to this and I haven’t seen even one person detained, and the police
official has not talked to me about where the case is at…. My kids go to school in the
armored car to protect them. This is a very difficult situation.
It was not the last time that Mendoza’s family was threatened:
The 17 of January of last year [2003] I received a call to my house to my daughter Paola.
They asked her if her mother and father were there. They told her to tell them to be very
careful. They asked her where she studied, she told them a certain school, and they told
her she was lying, that they know that she went to a different school, and also that “right
now your brother is doing chores right now in the front yard.” And at that moment, my
ten-year old son was actually outside in the front washing the front of the house. So they
were obviously staking out our house.
The delegation talked to two survivors of the paramilitaries’ campaign to destroy the union in
Carepa, in the Uraba region, in 1995-1996. It was here that union leader Isidro Gil was shot
seven times by paramilitary gunmen inside the Coke bottling plant. Hours later, the union’s
office in town was burned down. And two days after that, paramilitaries returned to the plant,
lined up all the workers, presented them with prepared letters resigning their union membership,
and made them sign under threat of death. The letters had been written and printed on the
company’s computers. The result, not at all surprising, was that the union was destroyed, and its
leaders fled in fear for their lives.
Gil’s murder was one of five from the Carepa plant, along with many disappearances and
kidnappings. Oscar Giraldo was at the time the vice president of the local union. Before Gil was
assassinated, the union’s first executive board had been driven out of town and Giraldo’s own
brother, Vincente Enrique Giraldo, had been killed. Giraldo described the complete impunity of
Gil’s killers: “The police came to pick up the body and they never did any investigation. The
same thing happened with my brother, they came to pick up his body and never did any, any
investigation.”
It was not just impunity from state prosecution that Giraldo witnessed, however. He also
observed ties between the company and the paramilitaries. He told the delegation that “a
supervisor told me that Mosquera [the plant’s director] was going to squash us, and three days
35
later was the assassination of Isidro Gil.” Ariosto Milan Mosquera had left town shortly before
the murder, right after the union had presented its bargaining demands to the company. Recalled
Giraldo:
The paramilitaries could walk into the company with no problem, they would just come
in and walk in, and the director kept saying that he had to get rid of the union. And he
would drink with the paramilitaries and hang out with them, and everyone would tell us
this. And I was told by a supervisor that the director just left to stall, and that the plan
was really to get rid of the union. And I am sure that is was the paramilitaries that were
told by the company to destroy the union. There was army, there was police in the town,
the paramilitaries live right in the town, the police never made any attempt to stop them.
And you would see the military and the paramilitary hanging out together. The
paramilitaries would go around in civilian clothing with arms and they would stay in
hotels. Some of them were from our own towns and some of them were from the outside.
And Coca-Cola was a patron of the paramilitaries.
Attacks and threats have continued. For example, Luis Eduardo Garcia and Jose Domingo
Flores, union activists from Bucaramanga whom the delegation interviewed in Barrancabermeja,
told the delegation that they were victims of physical attacks on September 11, 2003. Juan Carlos
Galvis, the vice president of the union in Barrancabermeja, survived as assassination attempt on
August 22, 2003.
Coca-Cola inaction and complicity
Circumstantial evidence of Coca-Cola’s complicity in the raw repression of its union workforce
abounds. This consists in the suspicious coincidence, reported to the delegation by multiple
union sources in Colombia, of waves of anti-union violence and contract negotiations between
the union and the company. The union’s analysis also reveals that the company’s peak profits
have come at times of the most intense repression.
Beyond these correlations, there are troubling eyewitness accounts of paramilitaries having
unrestricted access to Coke plants and of paramilitaries consorting with company managers.
When the delegation traveled to Barrancabermeja, it conducted a physical assessment of access
to the bottling plant there in order to understand more precisely what paramilitary access to
company property entails. The plant in Barrancabermeja is surrounded by a 10-foot high iron
fence. Entry is limited to a guarded gate, which remains closed. It is simply impossible to gain
access to the plant without company knowledge and permission. It is impossible to avoid the
conclusion that paramilitaries in Coke’s bottling plants were there with the full knowledge and/or
tacit approval of the company.
The delegation also heard testimony from multiple sources that there are payments made by local
Coke managers to paramilitaries. In the delegation’s meeting with Coca-Cola/FEMSA
representatives Juan Manuel Alvarez and Juan Carlos Dominguez on January 13, these
allegations were vigorously denied. Yet, Alvarez and Dominguez acknowledged that Coke
officials had never undertaken any internal or external investigations into these assertions, nor
into any of the hundreds of human rights violations suffered by the company’s workers.
36
The company’s representatives also acknowledged there was a possibility that persons employed
by the company—but acting without authorization—could have worked with, or have had
contact with, paramilitaries. This admission makes the failure to investigate ties to the
paramilitaries all the more shocking. Alvarez and Dominguez also maintained that the company
assisted workers in filing complaints with the government about paramilitary harassment for
union activity and promised to provide documentation thereof; to date, however, no such
documentation has been received by the delegation, despite follow-up correspondence.
The January 13 exchange mirrors the delegation’s experience with Coca-Cola throughout its
dialogue with the company. Multiple requests for documentation have gone either unanswered or
unfulfilled. Coke has shown—at best—disregard for the lives of its workers, who have been
threatened, beaten, kidnapped, exiled and killed while the company has not seen fit to investigate
this highly disturbing pattern affecting its workforce.
Legal reprisals
Suspicions that the company’s response to the plight of its workers crosses from indifference into
outright intimidation is fed by Coca-Cola’s repeated resort to criminal charges against union
activists.
In 1996, six union members from the Bucaramanga plant were arrested after the chief of CocaCola’s security accused them of placing a bomb at the plant. Criminal charges were brought
against three of them, and they were detained for over six months until the charges were
dismissed as without merit by the prosecution. The delegation heard testimony from several of
these workers, who recounted the ordeal of their unjust incarceration, sometimes under inhumane
conditions, in horrid detail. The workers and their families were never compensated for damages
suffered, and some report suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder incurred from their
experience in prison. Coca-Cola has failed to condemn these workers’ imprisonment or the false
charges brought against them by their own subsidiary.
More recently, the company has brought criminal charges against some of the plaintiffs in the
federal lawsuit filed in 2001 against the company in the Federal District Court for the Southern
District of Florida under the Alien Claims Tort Act (ACTA). In the January 13 meeting in
Bogota, Dominguez characterized these criminal charges as a “consequence” of the ACTA case,
which the delegation interpreted to mean that the company intended the charges as a direct
reprisal. Shortly after the delegation returned from Colombia, on January 26, 2004, the
Colombian prosecutor involved in Coca-Cola’s case against the workers who filed the U.S. suit
dismissed the charges of slander and defamation as without merit. This represents the second
time Coca-Cola’s charges against its employees have been dismissed by Colombian courts. Yet
Coca-Cola continues its legal strategy unabated; the company has brought similar charges
against employees in Valledupar.
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VI. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The delegation found both the quantity and the nature of Coca-Cola workers’ allegations
shocking and compelling. It seems indisputable that Coke workers have been systematically
persecuted for their union activity. It seems equally evident that the company has allowed if not
itself orchestrated the human rights violations of its workers, and it has benefited economically
from those violations, which have severely weakened the workers’ union and their bargaining
power.
In the face of this evidence, Coca-Cola’s continued insistence that it bears no responsibility
whatsoever for the terror campaigns against its workers is highly disturbing, as is its complete
failure to investigate company ties to the paramilitaries. The delegation has engaged in an earnest
dialogue with the company on these issues for almost a year now, and has yet to receive any
documentation backing up its denials of complicity in the situation. The delegation will continue
to press for the specific documents it has been promised and to exhort the company to take
urgently needed action to address the human rights crisis faced by its Colombian workforce.
Specifically, the delegation reiterates its calls for:
(1) Dropping all retaliatory criminal charges against its employees. The delegation is concerned
about the chilling effects of a company such as Coca-Cola filing retaliatory charges against
workers who have used the legal system to address their grievances.
(2) A public statement from Coca-Cola supporting international labor rights in Colombia,
denouncing anti-union violence, and initiating a long-overdue investigation of workers’
allegations. The delegation believes that Coca-Cola’s apparent refusal to investigate charges of
such a serious nature against their employees appears to undermine their support for human and
labor rights. Such a statement and investigation would serve to bolster international consumer
confidence in the company’s corporate behavior.
(3) An independent human rights commission. An independent human rights commission is
necessary to evaluate all allegations and plant conditions to determine credible threats and
identify potential means to protect both workers’ rights and verify Coca-Cola’s standing as a
good global citizen. In order to maintain credibility and objectivity, the commission should be
made up of equally participating partners from Coca-Cola, SINALTRAINAL and other relevant
labor representatives and internally recognized human rights experts.
The delegation will continue its efforts to persuade Coca-Cola to take these urgently needed
steps and to demonstrate that it will not tolerate profits subsidized by terror.
The delegation also urges all people of conscience to join in these efforts. We call on consumers
to contact the company and add their voice to the call for corporate responsibility. We call on
shareholders to exercise their power of ownership in the company. We call on churches, student
organizations, community groups and civic associations to get involved. We issue a special call
to unions to stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Colombia being persecuted for
their exercise of internationally recognized labor rights. And we call on government bodies,
38
representing all of these constituencies, to stand up for human rights and for the ideals of
American democracy, which guarantee freedom of association.
Together as stakeholders in Coca-Cola, all of us must challenge this company, the symbol of
American enterprise throughout the world, to end its complicity in the persecution of Colombian
workers.
39
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How Credible is Coca-Cola?
Beyond Coke’s Crimes in Colombia
Coca-Cola’s massive human rights violations in Colombia — including the toleration and
encouragement of murder, torture and kidnapping by paramilitary thugs who frequently
collaborate with Coke’s bottlers — have been well documented by the Campaign to Stop Killer
Coke and the International Labor Rights Fund (see www.laborrights.org). Many other aspects of
Coke’s business operations around the world are receiving close scrutiny. Below is a summary of
some of the abusive and criminal conduct in which Coke continues to engage.
•
Coke’s history of racially discriminatory practices. In November 2000, The CocaCola Co. in Atlanta paid $192.5 million to settle a highly publicized class-action
lawsuit involving about 2,000 African-American employees who alleged wide
disparities in pay and promotions. In terms of illustrating racial bias as corporate
policy, the settlement represented just the tip of the iceberg.
Many similar lawsuits are pending. Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. (CCE), the world’s
largest bottler of Coke products, is currently battling one such suit that accuses the
company of “creating a hostile, intimidating, offensive and abusive workplace
environment” at its Cincinnati plant. At least 500 current and former employees at the
Duck Creek Rd. bottling plant in Cincinnati are involved, and this number could
increase to several thousand if the court allows minorities who applied for jobs to join
the class.
(The Coca-Cola Co. is the largest single owner of CCE, holding about 37.5% of
its stock. Three executives from The Coca-Cola Co. currently serve on the CCE board
of directors: Steven Heyer, president and chief operating officer; Gary Fayard, senior
vice president and chief financial officer, and Deval Patrick, executive vice president,
general counsel and secretary. CCE owns 454 facilities in 46 states and employs
about 74,000 people.)
As reported on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” (6/18/02),
current and former employees of the local Coca-Cola bottler in Dallas accused the
company of stocking store shelves in black and Hispanic neighborhoods with expired
soft drinks. (Canned soft drinks have about a nine-month shelf life before going flat.)
The current and former delivery drivers said the dumping of outdated products
reflected the company’s contemptuous attitude toward minorities.
•
Aggressive marketing to children of nutritionally worthless and damaging
products. Coke paid Warner Brothers, a subsidiary of Time Warner, $150 million for
exclusive global marketing rights to the Harry Potter movies, the first of which was
released in November of 2001. Obviously, the whole point of Coke’s investment was
to entice kids to consume more soft drinks. “It’s outrageous that Coca-Cola is using
the magic of Harry Potter to lure kids to drink more (of its products)…contributing to
the doubling in the percentage of obese teenagers,” said Dr. Patience White, professor
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of pediatrics at George Washington University Medical Center. What she and other
critics of Coke term the childhood “obesity epidemic” in turn fuels a growing
“diabetes epidemic.”
•
Pediatricians urge school officials and parents to eliminate or revise contracts. A
new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, published in the
January 2004 issue of its journal, Pediatrics, calls for the elimination of soft drink
sales in schools. As the Associated Press reported (1/5/04): “While some schools rely
on funds from vending machines to pay for student activities, the new policy says
elementary and high schools should avoid such contracts, and those with existing
contracts should impose restrictions to avoid promoting overconsumption by kids.”
•
Canadian school contracts under fire. In the Toronto Globe and Mail (11/27/03),
columnist Margaret Wente wrote: “Step right up, boys and girls, and get your soft
drinks here! We’ve got a brand-new vending machine just outside the gym. Sure, pop
may rot your teeth, make you even fatter than you already are, and give you a threeespresso dose of jitters. But there’s something more important at stake here. Money!
Your school is starved for cash. So now we’ve signed a swell little incentive deal with
Coke. We get a whopping signing bonus for selling exclusive rights to market to our
students. We keep 30% of the sales, and we even get a bonus if we meet our targets.
The more pop you drink, the more money we make!”
She added: “It’s likely that you’ve heard by now about the lucrative deals that
Canada’s school boards are cutting with the soft-drinks industry…(and) we now
know the details. Ontario’s huge Peel School Board has bagged $5.5 million to date
from its 10-year contract with The Coca-Cola Bottling Co…In the U.S., by one
estimate, more than 40% of all school boards have signed soft drink contracts. In
Colorado, one school board administrator was so gung-ho he sent a memo warning
schools that they were in danger of falling short of their consumption goals. He
offered to have different electrical outlets installed so that they could add more
vending machines, and he suggested that they change the rules forbidding students to
consume soft drinks in class. He signed himself ‘The Coke Dude.’”
British Columbia’s Education Minister, Christy Clark, told the Vancouver Sun
(11/18/03) that she has been “deluged with e-mails and phone calls and people stopping
me in the street to tell me they want junk food out of their kids’ schools.” Gordon Comeau,
British Columbia School Trustees’ Assn. president, said local school officials, not
international corporations, should make decisions about what is sold to students.
“Public policy shouldn’t be made by Coca-Cola,” he said. Canada’s soft drink
industry (dominated by Coca-Cola and Pepsi) was so shaken by this type of adverse
publicity that the bottlers announced on Jan. 6, 2004, that they would “voluntarily”
stop selling carbonated beverages in elementary and middle schools by the start of the
next school year. However, the changes do not involve vending machines in high
schools.
•
Image-enhancing partnerships (and payoffs) with U.S. dentists, National PTA. In
the New York Daily News (10/26/03), columnist Lenore Skenazy told how the
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American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (not to be confused with the American
Academy of Pediatrics, cited above) happily accepted “a cool $1 million in
bribe…er…grant money from Coca-Cola” and the National Parent-Teacher Assn.
(PTA) unveiled a new “proud sponsor,” Coke. As Skenazy points out, the “real
problem with corporate sponsorship” is not that it demands outright endorsement of
unhealthy products, but that respected organizations like the pediatric dentists and the
PTA are “far more likely to turn a blind eye on soda issues…if Coke was really so
bad for kids, would the National PTA take its money? Would the American Academy
of Pediatric Dentists? Apparently, they would. And they did.”
In spite of Coke’s attempts to forge strategic alliances with respected groups, the
movement against soft drinks in schools is rapidly gathering steam. California has
passed a law that will soon ban junk food and soft drinks in schools entirely, and
more than 20 other states are contemplating restrictions. Reuters reported (1/16/04)
that the Philadelphia School District, with more than 214,000 students, voted to end
the sale of carbonated soft drinks in vending machines and lunchrooms. Starting July
1, schools must sell fruit juice, water, milk and flavored milk drinks instead.
•
Coke admits marketing fraud, settles ‘whistleblower’ lawsuit. In June, 2003, the
public got a rare glimpse of Coke’s corrupt business practices when the company
acknowledged that employees manipulated the results of a marketing test of Frozen
Coke at Burger King restaurants. The company thus confirmed a key accusation by
Matthew Whitley, former finance director in the fountain division, who was fired in
May and then sued the company for $44.4 million in damages. In two lawsuits,
Whitley charged that the fountain division engaged in $2 billion in accounting fraud,
created slush funds and manipulated inventories.
Coke’s audit committee, which includes financier Warren Buffett and Home Depot
CEO Robert Nardelli, acknowledged that some Coke employees “improperly
influenced” sales results from a marketing test conducted at Burger King restaurants
in Virginia. Coke also admitted that the fountain division improperly valued some
equipment. As The Wall Street Journal reported in a front-page lead article (8/20/03),
“Millions of dollars in sales were at stake for Coke. The company was trying to
persuade Burger King to run a national promotion for its slushy dessert drink…” In
admitting that Coke officials paid $10,000 to a Virginia consultant to take hundreds of
children to Burger King to buy “value meals” that included a free serving of Frozen
Coke, Steven Heyer, president of Coca-Cola, said: “These actions were wrong and
inconsistent with the values of The Coca-Cola Co.”
In August, upon learning that both the Securities and Exchange Commission and
federal prosecutors were looking into Whitley’s allegations, Coke demoted Tom
Moore, the president of the fountain division who was named a “co-conspirator” in
one of Whitley’s lawsuits. (Moore remains with Coke in an unspecified “transitional
role,” the company said.) “There was an inevitability to some kind of sacrificial
lamb,” commented Marc Greenberg, a beverage analyst at Deutsche Bank. “Typically
in these situations, a mishap like this results in senior management casualty.”
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In addition to issuing a public apology, Coke agreed to pay Burger King and its
franchisees “up to $21 million” to patch up relations with its second largest fountain
drink customer (after McDonald’s). On Oct. 7, Whitley agreed to dismiss his
complaints against Coca-Cola and the individuals named in his lawsuits after the
company agreed to pay him $100,000, the severance benefits to which he was entitled
(approximately $140,000) and his attorney’s fees. In a joint statement, Whitley and
the company promised to “continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney and the SEC
in their respective investigations.”
•
Echoes of Enron. By investing almost three-quarters of the assets of its 401(k) plan
in its own stock, Coke has compromised the vital interests of its own employees in
the same irresponsible manner as Enron, Worldcom and other companies. According
to New York Times business columnist Gretchen Morgenson (10/5/03), Coke’s 401(k)
holders lost more than $71 million in 2002. In her front-page column, entitled
“Lopsided 401(k)’s, All Too Common,” Morgenson bemoans the fact that “some
companies force their own stock on employees by using the shares, as Coke does, to
match workers’ contributions to a 401(k) or by requiring workers to hold company
shares until they reach a certain age.”
It is well to remember that 70% of Coca-Cola’s revenue already comes from
markets outside the U.S. Because of declining soft-drink sales in North America and
Coke’s spotty overall financial picture, many U.S. workers have lost their jobs or
suffered needless anxiety over retirement planning. Three years ago, for example,
Coke laid off 6,000 employees while providing former CEO Douglas Ivester with a
$17 million golden parachute. In 2001, current CEO Douglas Daft’s compensation
totaled $105,186,544., including stock option grants, according to the AFL-CIO’s
PayWatch website.
•
Shortchanging U.S. employees. Under a May 2002 agreement with the U.S. Dept. of
Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Coke agreed to pay $8.l
million in back compensation to more than 2,000 current and former employees. The
federal agency’s and Coke’s own internal reviews revealed large salary discrepancies
from Dec. 31, 1998 through Dec. 15, 2000.
•
Safety and health problems in U.S. plants. On June 19, 2001, Eric Meissner, a 30year employee at the Auburndale, Florida plant that produces Coke’s Minute Maid
and Hi-C products, was fired after alerting a U.S. Agriculture Dept. inspector about a
dead rat found under an orange juice capping machine. The president of Meissner’s
Teamsters local commented, “(Coke) would rather fire a worker with 30 years
experience than address serious product safety concerns.”
Since 1996, when Coke brought in Cutrale Citrus Juices USA, a subsidiary of a
Brazilian company, to produce juice products in Florida, there have been frequent
reports of rats, pigeon feathers and droppings found on conveyor belts, roaches
swarming juice feed tanks, and mold growing inside production lines that aren’t shut
down for regular cleanings. Conditions were so bad by January 2000 that workers
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struck to protest unsafe conditions. Inspectors from the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA) found 15 violations, including 13 that were
considered “serious,” in 1999 and 2000. There were two major chemical leaks which
caused plant evacuations, numerous complaints of air pollution and one worker killed
on the job in an electrical accident.
Coke’s overall record on safety, as monitored by OSHA, is both less than
admirable and worse than many of its competitors (such as Pepsi). In an article
headlined “OSHA Cites Coke for 222 Violations,” the Atlanta Business Chronicle
(4/14/03) provided details. For example, in 2002 “The Coca-Cola Co. and its network
of bottlers were cited for 222 violations of federal OSHA standards and fined
$156,831. In 2001, OSHA cited Coke and its bottlers for 212 violations and fined
them a total of $170,091. Over the past decade, the companies have been cited for
2,264 violations.” In February 2003, OSHA identified 14,200 U.S. facilities
(workplaces) that had accident and illness rates at twice the national average of about
three illnesses or injuries for every 100 workers. Ninety-six of these workplaces were
owned by Coke bottlers. (To read the entire article, go to
http://www.bizjournals.com.)
•
Overexploitation and pollution of water sources in India. Of the 200 countries
where Coca-Cola is sold, India reportedly has the fastest-growing market, but the
adverse environmental impacts of its operations there have subjected the parent
company and its local bottlers to a firestorm of criticism and protest. There has been a
growing outcry against Coca-Cola’s production practices in India, which are draining
out vast amounts of public groundwater and turning farming communities into virtual
deserts. The company was a major target of protesters and the subject of much
discussion among the nearly 100,000 people from 100 countries who gathered at the
January 2004 World Social Forum in Mumbai (Bombay), India. Coca-Cola and Pepsi
products were barred from the refreshment stands at the six-day conference, timed to
run concurrently with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual
meeting of pro-business politicians and executives.
On Jan. 18, 2004, more than 500 protesters, including about 150 residents who
live near Coke’s bottling facilities in India, marched and rallied to condemn the
company. According to Amit Srivastava of the organization Global Resistance,
“Three communities in India — Plachimada in Kerala, Wada in Maharashtra and
Mehdiganj in Uttar Pradesh — are experiencing severe water shortages as a result of
Coca-Cola’s mining of the majority of the common groundwater resources around its
facilities. Coke’s indiscriminate dumping of waste water into the ground has polluted
the scarce water that remains. In Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu, residents are opposing a
proposed Coca-Cola facility because of fears that they too will face water shortages
and pollution.”
“The Indian Parliament has banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in its
cafeteria,” Srivastava added. “The parliamentarians should take the next logical step,
and ban the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in the entire country.” He said the ban
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came as a result of tests by the Indian government and private laboratories which
found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides in the colas, making them
unfit for consumption. “Some samples tested showed the presence of these toxins to
be more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union. Tests of samples
taken from the U.S. of the same drinks were found to be safe,” he said.
Coca-Cola India has hired a public relations firm, Perfect Relations, to rebuild its
tarnished image. To add insult to injury, the scarce water than remains in the Indian
communities has become so polluted that Coke, in a “gesture of goodwill,” now
trucks in water tankers for local residents. Coke is also giving away the toxic sludge
from its plant in Kerala to farmers — as fertilizer! Tests on samples of the toxic
sludge commissioned by the British Broadcasting Co. found high levels of lead and
cadmium. Meanwhile, letters or e-mails to Coke on this issue invariably yield form
letters that smear Indian protesters as “a handful of extremists.”
Coca-Cola, along with the Indian government, seems to believe that the use of
force will make the problem go away. On Aug. 30, 2003, 13 activists were arrested in
Kerala during a peaceful demonstration and a leader of the movement was severely
beaten by police. On Sept. 11, armed security forces violently attacked a peaceful
demonstration of more than 1,000 community members in Mehdiganj.
As a follow-up to the World Social Forum, nearly 5,000 environmental activists
were expected to attend the Jan. 21-23 World Water Conference in Plachimada, a
village north of Cochin, Kerala state’s business hub. In December, the top court in
Kerala ordered a Coca-Cola plant to stop using local groundwater and arrange to get
water through other sources. The court also blocked the village council from shutting
down the Coke plant. The conference is intended to “redefine the poor people’s fight
for water for survival in India and the world,” environmentalist Vandana Shiva told
the Associated Press (1/19/04). “We will discuss the privatization of water, climatic
changes and environment, corporate control of water and dam implementation in
India.”
More background information on Coca-Cola and the environmental destruction it
has wrought in India is posted and updated frequently at www.IndiaResource.org.
•
Repressive, anti-worker policies in many foreign countries. Coke’s reputation has
already suffered because of the actions of its subsidiaries and/or bottlers in Brazil,
Guatemala, Zimbabwe, the Philippines and elsewhere. (According to reports that
seem to echo the horror stories from Colombia, Coke was misbehaving on a massive
scale in Guatemala in the 1970s and 1980s. Several leaders of a Guatemalan union
were murdered, and thousands of protesters throughout Latin America ripped down
billboards and, by changing one word, made them read: “Coca-Cola: The Sparkle of
Death.” Many aspects of Coca-Cola’s rampant callousness and greed in the
international marketplace are documented in “For God, Country & Coca-Cola” by
Mark Pendergrast and other books.)
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•
Inaction and neglect on health issues in Africa. Health care advocates around the
world have demanded that employees of Coke bottlers in Africa be provided with
access to care and medicine that would treat, or prevent the further spread of,
HIV/AIDS. Although Coca-Cola, the largest private-sector employer on the African
continent, has been barely addressing the problem, its public relations juggernaut puts
forth the lie that the company has all but solved it. An Oct. 27, 2003 press release
from the organization Health GAP (www.healthgap.org) is headlined: “Coke’s
HIV/AIDS Treatment Program in Africa Still Just a Public Relations Ploy.”
•
Anti-competitive practices around the world. Coke frequently gets in trouble because
of its trade practices and attempts to monopolize the beverage sector in many
countries, but Mexico — the home base of its huge Latin American distribution nexus
— is probably the most significant case. Coke controls more than two-thirds of the
soft drink market in Mexico, where the Federal Competition Commission found in
March 2002 that Coke and 89 of its bottlers were guilty of engaging in anticompetitive practices (such as entering into exclusive agreements with small
convenience stores and grocery stores). In Costa Rica, an anti-trust commission is
investigating whether Coke and Panamerican Beverages sought to squeeze out
competition through similar exclusive agreements with retailers. Anti-competitive
practices and environmental destruction often go hand-in-hand, as in Panama, where
Coke’s bottling partner, Coca-Cola de Panama, was fined $300,000 in May 2003 for
polluting the Matasnillo River.
•
Boardroom interlocks and influences. Some of the same individuals who serve as
Coke’s top policymakers also set policies for such multinational companies as
ChevronTexaco, International Paper, General Electric, Reebok International, BristolMyers Squibb, AT&T, Dow Chemical and IBM. Each of these companies has its own
well-documented record of irresponsible behavior and/or hostility toward human
rights and labor and environmental concerns here and abroad.
Does this sound like a responsible corporation?
Prepared by:
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke (www.killercoke.org)/Corporate Campaign, Inc. (www.corporatecampaign.org)
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke: (212) 979-8320; [email protected]
-7-
United Students Against Sweatshops Statement, 4/15
48
Cal-Safety Compliance Corporation is Not a Credible Monitor for Coca-Cola’s
Labor Practices
The Coca-Cola Company has recently released a report by the for-profit corporation Cal-Safety
Compliance Corporation as an “independent investigation” of Coca-Cola’s labor practices in Colombia.
This is a purely public relations move that is due to increasing student pressure on campuses throughout
the nation.
We want to make clear that we view this development as entirely unacceptable and unviable as a means
of moving forward the process of ensuring that workers’ rights are respected in Coca-Cola bottling
facilities in Colombia.
Cal-Safety is not regarded as a credible monitoring organization within the mainstream worker rights
advocate community as result of its track record of missing egregious violations in high profile cases and
its flawed monitoring methodology. This investigation by Cal-Safety funded by Coca-Cola will not be
taken seriously by the anti-sweatshop movement and does not put to rest our long standing concern about
human rights abuses in Coca-Cola’s plants in Colombia.
The document provides some background that informs our view of Cal-Safety and why the company
cannot be relied upon to find, report, and correct worker rights violations in this case.
Cal-Safety and the Case of El Monte
Cal-Safety is perhaps best known among worker advocates for its role in the case of El
Monte, the most infamous incident of sweatshop abuse in modern American history. In
this case, 75 women 5 men were kept in conditions resembling slavery in a factory
compound located in El Monte, California. For up to five years, the workers were
forbidden to leave the compound, forced to work behind razor wire and armed watch,
sewing garments for top American brands for less than a dollar an hour. The workers
worked from 7:00 am until midnight, seven days a week. Eight to ten people were forced
to live in rat infested rooms designed for two. 1
Cal-Safety was the registered monitor for the front shop, D&R. D&R transferred
hundreds of bundles of cut cloth to the slave sweatshop and delivered thousands of
finished garments to manufacturers and retailers each day, yet there were fewer than a
dozen sewing machines at the D&R facility. Cal-Safety's inspection of the facility failed
to uncover anything unusual, including the large volume of work being sent out to the
slave sweatshop. In addition, Cal-Safety even failed to identify the numerous wage and
hour violations of the 22 Latino workers employed by the D&R facility. 2 The
revelations of abuse at the El Monte factory was a major event in American labor history,
helping to spark the modern anti-sweatshop movement. The failure of Cal-Safety to find
abuses in this case is one of the most widely cited examples of the shortcomings of the
private monitoring industry.
1
For a detailed account of the El Monte case, see Robert Ross et al. 1997. No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade
and the Rights of Garment Workers.
2
Hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee of Education and the
Workforce, California House of Representatives, May 18, 1998. Statement of Julie A. Su, Attorney, Asian
Pacific Legal Center
49
Additional Incidents of Ineffective Monitoring by Cal-Safety
As a result of its failure to identify violations in the El Monte case, Cal-Safety was the
subject of extensive public criticism. However, even with this criticism, Cal-Safety’s
auditing practices continued to be exposed as inadequate. The following are additional
high profile cases in which Cal-Safety failed to find and/or report worker rights
violations.
ƒ
In 1998, Cal-Safety gave Trinity Knitworks, a garment factory in Los Angeles, a
clean report despite the fact that the factory failed to provide complete records and
had failed to pay employees for months. Cal-Safety reported to Disney, its client in
this case, that Trinity was fully compliant with labor standards at nearly the same
moment that investigators of the California Department of Labor were investigating
the factory and citing it with massive minimum wage violations, including $213,000
in back wages owed to some 142 workers. 3 In September, 1998, when the
Department of Labor seized 17,000 Disney garments from Trinity, the factory’s
checks to workers had been bouncing for five months. Cal-Safety had visited the
factory during this period. A December 1, 1998 Los Angeles Times article reported
that “as representatives of Disney and the other firms kept close watch over
production details, such as the placement of inseams, hemlines and zippers, monitors
hired by the companies failed to notice Trinity workers were not being paid.” The
article goes on to quote Joe A. Razo, California's deputy labor commissioner, who
said, "You'd have to be pretty blind not to know what was happening at Trinity”. 4
ƒ
In 1999, Cal-Safety was the monitor hired by John Paul Richard, a high-end garment
manufacturer producing in Los Angeles. Cal-Safety failed to identify and report
sweatshop conditions, including falsified time records, off-the-clock work and subminimum wages. In fact, following a visit from a Cal-Safety inspector, two Latino
garment workers who had spoken to Cal-Safety were fired in the presence of factory
managers. When Cal-Safety was contacted about this act of retaliation for
cooperating with a monitor, Cal-Safety refused to do anything, insisting that it wasn’t
Cal-Safety’s problem. After the workers filed a federal lawsuit against the
manufacturers and retailers in that case, formal discovery of Cal-Safety revealed a
thoroughly inadequate process for training, inspecting and reporting. 5
ƒ
In 1999, Cal-Safety was hired by Wal-Mart to audit a factory in China called Chun Si
which produced handbags for Wal-Mart’s Kathy Lee Gifford line. As revealed in a
lengthy expose by Business Week, the factory kept workers in virtual captivity,
locked in the walled in compound for twenty three hours a day. Management
confiscated workers’ identify guards, placing them in danger of deportation if they
left the factory. Factory guards routinely beat workers for talking back to managers
or walking too slow. Workers were fined as much as one dollar for infractions as
minor as spending too long in the restroom. Cal-Safety, along with Price Waterhouse
Coopers, audited the factory five times. Business Week reported that, while Cal-
3
Patrick McDonnell, Los Angeles Times December 1, 1998. “Industry Woes Help Bury Respected
Garment Maker”
4
Ibid.
5
Asian Pacific American Legal Center. September 20, 2000. “Settlement Reached With Major L.A.
Garment Manufacturers Who Ignored Reports of Sweatshop Labor”
Safety’s audits found some of the less serious violations regarding unpaid and
excessive overtime, Cal-Safety’s “audits missed the most serious abuses… including
beatings and confiscated identity papers”. 6
Cal-Safety’s Flawed Monitoring Methodology
Information about the above examples of Cal Safety’s monitoring track record is
complemented by the results of a thorough investigation into Cal Safety’s monitoring
methodology by Dr. Jill Esbenshade, presented in the recently released book Monitoring
Sweatshops. In her research, Esbenshade conducted extensive interviews with CalSafety auditors and directly observed the company’s labor auditing in practice. Given the
problematic practices documented, Cal-Safcty’s poor track record is perhaps not
surprising. In numerous key areas, Cal Safety failed to adhere to minimum accepted
standards for competent factory investigation.
•
Unannounced factory visits have been shown to be substantially more effective in
identifying worker rights violations, because they deny management the opportunity
to hide abuses. Yet the majority of Cal-Safety’s factory audits are announced,
meaning that factory management has full knowledge that the auditors will be visiting
the factory on the appointed date and time. 7
•
The process of identifying, documenting, reporting, and correcting worker rights
abuses is a difficult and labor intensive process. Department of Labor investigations
take roughly 20 hours to complete. WRC investigations often take hundreds of
person hours over a period of months. However, Cal-Safety purports to accomplish
the same work in just a few hours. Cal-Safety factory audits are generally scheduled
every three hours, including time to commute to a new site or take a lunch or rest
break, meaning that audits frequently take substantially less than three hours. 8
•
It is well established that interviewing workers outside of the factory in locations
workers choose is far more effective in getting candid information about working
conditions than interviewing workers inside of the factory where managers know who
is being interviewed and workers can become the subjects of reprisal and retaliation.
Yet, according to Cal-Safety auditors, Cal-Safety primarily conducts worker
interviews on the factory floor or in an office in the factory. A former Cal-Safety
monitor said, “There is no privacy in the conversation. The employer knew who was
being interviewed.” 9
•
The key area of concern in Coca-Cola’s bottling facilities is freedom of association
and the right of workers to unionize and bargain collectively, and thus expertise in
this area is critical to an effective investigation. Yet Cal-Safety does not consider
collective bargaining rights or freedom of association to be within the purview of its
audits in the United States, and does not investigate for violations of the National
Labor Relations Act. At the Cal-Safety office, researchers noticed anti-union
6
Business Week, Business News 2 October 2000. “Inside a Chinese Sweatshop: "A Life of Fines and
Beating"
7
Esbenshade, Jill. 2004. Monitoring Sweatshops: Workers, Consumers, and the Global Apparel Industry.
pg 73
8
Ibid. pg 72
9
Ibid. pg 77
50
propaganda posted on the wall voicing the message that monitoring is a substitute for
unionization. 10 No evidence could be found indicating that Cal-Safety has experience
or expertise investigating violations of associational rights overseas.
•
A basic principle of credible monitoring is that organizations that are beholden to the
industry they monitor as their principle source of income are not likely to produce
reports that are entirely unbiased or critical of their paymaster. However, Cal-Safety
has been contracted and paid directly by many of the world’s largest corporations,
including Wal-Mart, Walt Disney, the Gap, and Nike. 11 Cal-Safety’s annual revenue
through private for-profit monitoring is in the millions of dollars. 12 Corporate
contracts are its principle source of income.
•
A basic principle of the University’s anti-sweatshop policy is transparency and the
public disclosure of factory information – a practice to which Cal-Safety has never
submitted itself. Cal-Safety does not publicly disclose its monitoring reports to the
public or to the workers whom the audits are supposedly designed to benefit. Even
the names and locations of factories are a strictly held secret. Indeed, Cal-Safety’s
website states, “CSCC considers all of its monitoring interactions to be extremely
confidential; inspection data is strictly controlled and released only to the client of
record.” 13
Conclusion
In sum, based upon the information available, there are is ample grounds to conclude the
Cal-Safety is unfit to monitor Coca-Cola’s labor practices in Colombia. Indeed, given its
repeated failure to find egregious violations in high profile cases of worker abuse, its
status as a for-profit corporation, its practice of monitoring generating revenue from the
major corporations for whom it monitors, its lack of experience with the core issue of
freedom of association, its flawed methodology in visiting factories and conducting
worker interviews, and its utter lack of transparency, Cal-Safety should easily be ruled
out as a candidate for credibly investigating the case of Coca-Cola in Colombia.
We expect that if Cal-Safety does conduct a paid audit of Coca-Cola’s practices, the most
likely outcome will be that it finds minor violations – sufficient to slap Coca-Cola on the
wrist – but fails to adequately investigate and report on the serious violations, involving
violence and the threat of violence against trade unionists, that have prompted worldwide
concern.
The University should not lend its credibility or place any credence in this transparent
effort to whitewash a serious case of human rights abuse.
10
Ibid. pg 81
Source: National Labor Committee
12
Esbenshade, Jill. 2004. Monitoring Sweatshops: Workers, Consumers, and the Global Apparel Industry.
pg 65
13
From Cal-Safety’s website: http://www.cscc-online.com/faqs/container_faqs.shtml#
11
51
52
News Release from Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
April 17, 2006
For further information, contact: Pat Clark or Ray Rogers
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke (718) 852-2808
University of Michigan Falls Prey to Another Coca-Cola PR Scam
The University of Michigan, New York University and several other institutions in the U.S.,
Canada and Europe have recently severed relationships with The Coca-Cola Company because
Coca-Cola would not agree to an independent third party investigation of allegations of human
rights, labor and environmental abuses by its bottlers in Colombia and India.
On April 10, Coke informed Tim Slottow, Executive Vice President and CFO of the University of
Michigan, that independent investigations would take place in Colombia and India. According to
Coca-Cola, the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) has agreed to do an
“investigation and evaluation” in Colombia and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) was
developing an “impartial independent third party assessment of water resource management
practices at Coca-Cola facilities in India…”
The University of Michigan, apparently without even checking Coke’s claims, immediately
issued a statement that said it would resume purchases of Coca-Cola products that was suspended
in January. The decision was made by Mr. Slottow without any consultation with students or the
University’s Dispute Review Board (DRB). “Mr. Slottow has done a real disservice to students
and the entire University of Michigan community, as well as to workers and communities in
Colombia and India,” said Ray Rogers, director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. “He and his
advisors have foolishly failed to check out Coke’s claims or the close relationships that already
exist between Coke and its so-called ‘third party investigators’.”
ILO, Coca-Cola and Colombia
First, regarding the Colombia situation: In a letter to Mr. Slottow on April 10, Coca-Cola North
America President Donald Knauss wrote: “On March 2nd, the International Union of Food,
Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
announced that it requested the International Labor Organization (ILO) to investigate and
evaluate past and present labor relations and workers’ rights practices of the Coca-Cola
bottling operations in Colombia…”
Since the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke began in 2003, the IUF has opposed efforts by students
on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, the non-IUF union representing most unionized Coke workers in
Colombia, to ban Coke products from their campuses and student unions. The only union in
Colombia affiliated with the IUF that represents Coke workers is SICO, a company union with 40
to 50 Coke workers. SICO replaced SINALTRAINAL after SINALTRAINAL’s union officer
Isidro Gil was assassinated by paramilitaries inside the Carepa Coca-Cola bottling plant and his
local union was crushed. (See “Why Does the IUF Attack SINALTRAINAL?”)
In the April 10 letter, Mr. Knauss also wrote: “Questions concerning the ILO investigation and
evaluation should be directed to Ms. Sally Paxton, Executive Director, Social Dialogue.” In an
April 12 phone conversation with Ray Rogers, Ms. Paxton contradicted at least two crucial points
in Mr. Knauss’s letter. First, she emphasized that the ILO would only do an “assessment of
current working conditions,” not of past labor relations practices. Second, she insisted that
53
the ILO was not going to conduct “an investigation,” adding that there won’t even be an
assessment of the parent company Coca-Cola, only an “assessment” of the enterprises in
Colombia.
When asked who would fund the “assessment,” Ms. Paxton responded, “The money will come
from outside donors or the regular budget. That has not yet been decided.” Ms. Paxton said that
the model developed for Better Factories Cambodia, a project of the ILO, would be used in the
Colombia “assessment.” According to the ILO website, “Better Factories Cambodia aims to
improve working conditions in Cambodia’s export garment factories. It combines independent
monitoring with finding solutions, through suggestions to management, training, advice and
information.” The ILO website adds that the outside donors for the Cambodian project
included the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, whose council is entirely
composed of executives from the Cambodian garment industry. Does this mean that the ILO will
seek or accept funding from the American Beverage Assn., whose board includes Donald Knauss
himself and other Coke executives?
The ILO has a tripartite structure, consisting of 28 representatives of governments, 14
representatives of employers and 14 representatives of labor. Labor observers and advocates who
are familiar with the ILO say that the organization is heavily skewed against workers, since most
government representatives align themselves with the employer representatives. Imagine if this
multinational body was simply a U.S. body. What chance would workers have to advance any
part of their agenda? Because of the stranglehold over the Congress that corporate lobbyists
enjoy, U.S. labor can’t even get legislation enacted to protect workers’ basic rights.
Why is Coca-Cola so comfortable with Ms. Paxton overseeing this so-called “investigation and
evaluation”? “Ms. Paxton was a partner in private practice at Fulbright and Jaworski,
concentrating in civil litigation at both the trial and appellate levels in a variety of subjects,
including labor and employment law,” according to her biography on the ILO’s site. The
Fulbright & Jaworski website states that the firm “represents companies in lawsuits involving
disputes under collective bargaining agreements” and “defends employers before the National
Labor Relations Board” — not quite the resume of an impartial juror or an unbiased
administrator. The law firm has represented ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, Merck & Co and other
companies with questionable records on matters involving ethics, exploitation and/or
environmental concerns.
Coke’s Edward Potter and the ILO
Edward E. Potter, Coca-Cola’s Director of Global Labor Relations and Workplace
Accountability, serves on the Applications of Conventions Committee within the International
Labor Organization. He is currently the head spokesperson for the entire Employers’ Group,
a powerful position within the ILO structure to promote the interests of big business and
thus the interests of Coca-Cola. In addition, Potter leads the U.S. employer delegation to the
ILO’s annual conference that is coordinated through the United States Council for International
Business, which is on the ILO’s governing body.
Over the past year, Potter has demanded that any evidence uncovered by an investigation of
Coca-Cola and its Colombian bottlers that indicated Coke committed labor or human rights
abuses could not be used in the lawsuit filed by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and
the United Steelworkers on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, several of its members and the survivors
of Isidro Gil, one of its murdered officers. ILRF Executive Director Terry Collingsworth
54
responded to Mr. Potter’s demand in a November 14 letter: “We cannot prejudice our clients by
agreeing to bury evidence that would support their claims,” he said.
During the process of seeking an independent investigation of Coke’s practices, students asserted:
“The investigation in Colombia must include both CURRENT and PAST issues: issues relating to
the present lawsuit MAY NOT BE EXCLUDED from the investigation — as these are some of
the most egregious violations of our codes and also some of the most contentious issues in this
case. This includes issues such as the murders, torture and kidnapping of union workers.” Mr.
Potter insisted that there be no investigation of past abuses.
The proposed ILO assessment of current conditions — not an “investigation,” as explained by
Sally Paxton — is exactly what Mr. Potter and Coca-Cola have wanted all along: a blatantly
biased evaluation that will ignore past abuses and will not hold the company accountable in any
meaningful way.
Because of Coke’s partnerships and financial relationships with the United Nations, as well as the
above-mentioned conflicts of interest, no arm of the UN can be considered an impartial,
independent investigator or evaluator of Coca-Cola’s labor relations and labor rights practices.
Coca-Cola’s scheme for worldwide growth specifically includes partnerships with the United
Nations. For example, the company touts its $1.5 million fund to support up to 100 projects
over five years. The projects involve education, the environment, culture/arts and sports, but
essentially serve as vehicles to promote the Coca-Cola brand name and its beverages to young
people, the primary target group for Coke’s marketing. These projects include youth activities,
such as the national youth day in Turkey and a large music festival called Rock 'n Coke.
In another UN-related public relations scam, Coca-Cola announced in mid-March that it had
signed on to the UN Global Compact, which has been described by its senior officer, Gavin
Power, as “a voluntary initiative to promote and advance a principles-based approach to corporate
responsibility.” Mr. Power added: “It is not a regulatory body nor monitoring instrument…
The Global Compact is not a club for ‘perfect companies,’ if such organizations even exist. It is a
platform for companies to work on universal principles and related challenging issues and
improve their performance over time.”
“The Global Compact is another public relations vehicle for imperfect companies,” said Ray
Rogers. “Nothing is expected of them nor do they expect to do anything to become perfect or
even respectable.”
TERI, Coca-Cola and India
Regarding the situation in India, Coca-Cola North America President Donald Knauss’s April 10
letter to the University of Michigan’s Mr. Slottow stated: “We are in active dialogue with TERI, a
highly respected Delhi-based NGO with deep experience on sustainability issues to develop a
transparent and impartial independent third party assessment of water resource management
practices at Coca-Cola company facilities in India…”
One day later, Mr. Slottow wrote to Donald Knauss: “…(We) are supportive of your work with
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a highly respected nonprofit organization with
more than 30 years of experience and leadership on sustainability issues, to develop a transparent
and independent third party assessment of water resource management practice at Coca-Cola
bottling plants in India…”
55
How could the University of Michigan be duped into believing that TERI could develop an
impartial independent third party assessment? Consider the facts:
1. Coca-Cola India Ltd. is listed by TERI on its website as a corporate sponsor;
2. TERI Governing Council member Deepak S. Parekh is on the Advisory Board of Coca-Cola
India;
3. At least two current projects of TERI are sponsored by Coca-Cola India Ltd.;
• GIS-based diagnostic study for assessing availability and quality of water resources to address
community concerns using a watershed approach
— Sponsor(s): Coca-Cola India Limited
— Start date: January 2006
• Mobilizing youth for water conservation (MY WATER)
— Sponsor(s): Coca-Cola India Limited
— Start date: April 2005
Furthermore, the Coca-Cola Co. is publishing misleading articles and advertisements and
making misleading presentations to college audiences, claiming:
1. “For the third consecutive year, we were presented the prestigious Golden Peacock
Environment Management Award for environmental practices.” (Director of Global Labor
Relations and Workplace Accountability Edward E. Potter, Business Today, Spring 2006)
Mr. Potter neglects to mention that the award is given by the Institute of Directors and the World
Environmental Foundation. Sanjiv Gupta, President and CEO of Coca-Cola India sits on the
Executive Council of the Institute of Directors. The World Environmental Foundation is
sponsored by Coca-Cola, as the group’s website makes clear.
2. That the Coca-Cola India plant in Kaladrea won the “Innovative Project Award” from the
Confederation of Indian Industry for its contribution towards reduction in specific water
consumption.
Here Coca-Cola fails to disclose the fact that Tarun Das, Director-General of the
Confederation of Indian Industry, serves on the International Advisory Council of The
Coca-Cola Company.
3. That Coca-Cola India received recognition from the Indian Red Cross for its environmental
programs.
But we ask: Could that award have anything to do with the fact that Coca-Cola pledged $10
million to international and local relief agencies, including the International Red Cross, after the
tsunami disaster?
“This latest attempt by Coca-Cola to mislead the media, campus administrators and the public is
just another example of how the company announces deceptive initiatives just prior to its annual
shareholders’ meetings,” said Rogers. “Last year, it was the Cal Safety Compliance Corporation’s
56
bogus report clearing Coke of wrongdoing in Colombia, a report commissioned and paid for by
Coke. The Los Angeles Times, Business Week and other major media exposed Cal Safety’s lack
of credibility and the fact that it overlooked the most egregious violations in several high-profile
cases of human rights and labor abuses.”
A thorough investigation into Cal Safety's monitoring methodology by Dr. Jill Esbenshade,
author of "Monitoring Sweatshops," revealed that the company consistently failed to adhere to
minimum accepted standards for competent factory investigations.
“This year’s attempt by Coca-Cola to mislead the public is equally self-serving and deceptive,”
Rogers concluded. “If Mr. Slottow’s decision is allowed to stand, the University of Michigan’s
reputation for high ethical standards and careful consideration of moral and ethical questions will
have been compromised beyond any hope of repair.
Killer Coke vs. The Truth:
57
A Response to Denials and Distortions
The Coca-Cola Co. is sending form-letter responses to all those who write to complain
about its human rights abuses, its failure to provide safe workplaces and its collaboration with
paramilitary terrorists who seek to destroy the SINALTRAINAL union in Colombia. The
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke offers the following responses to Coke’s assertions.
Denial No. 1: Coca-Cola claims that “SINALTRAINAL’s oft-repeated allegations against
the Coca-Cola Company and its Colombian bottling partners are completely false. They are
nothing more than a shameless effort to generate publicity using the name of our Company, its
trademark and brands.”
The Truth: It’s simply preposterous to say that Colombian workers and their union are
suing Coca-Cola in order to “generate publicity.” Indeed, by seeking legal redress these
Colombians are risking their lives and livelihoods. Coca-Cola’s bottling partner, Panamco
Colombia, has responded to SINALTRAINAL by bringing criminal charges against all the
Colombian plaintiffs — with the acquiescence, if not the overt support, of The Coca-Cola
Company. In addition, the plaintiffs have been subjected to repeated threats. In August 2003,
Juan Carlos Galvis, a worker and union activist at the Barrancabermeja bottling plant, narrowly
escaped an assassination attempt after paramilitaries fired their weapons at him in an attempt to
retaliate for his involvement in the lawsuit and the international campaign against Coke’s
workplace abuses. Why would Galvis and the other plaintiffs risk their lives merely to seek
“publicity?”
Curiously, while Coca-Cola flatly denies all the allegations in the lawsuit, it never even
addresses the specific facts that are cited therein. For example, no one disputes the fact that union
leader Isidro Segundo Gil was murdered in cold blood while working at the Carepa bottling
plant. Nor does anyone dispute the fact that the same paramilitaries who killed Gil returned the
next day and tried to force all of the workers to sign union resignation forms prepared by CocaCola’s managers. It is also public record that three of the Colombian plaintiffs, as alleged in the
International Labor Rights Fund lawsuit, were thrown in jail for six months and subjected to
inhumane and brutal prison conditions, based upon false charges initiated by Coca-Cola’s
bottling partner, Panamco Colombia. A Colombian prosecutor later dismissed these charges as
frivolous, while suggesting they were brought in order to discredit and undermine the union. Yet,
to this day, Coca-Cola and its “bottling partners” continue to press baseless criminal charges
against the Colombian plaintiffs in retaliation for their lawsuit.
Denial No. 2: Coca-Cola claims that “the U.S. District Court in Miami dismissed The
Coca-Cola Company from lawsuits filed by SINALTRAINAL, finding that the plaintiffs failed
to offer any factual or legal basis to support their claims that the Company was responsible for
wrongful conduct in Colombia.”
The Truth: While the District Court on March 31, 2003 did dismiss Coca-Cola from the
lawsuit, it did so (1) prior to discovery and the accompanying ability of both sides to garner and
present evidence; and (2) on the basis of a single document — a “sample” bottlers’ agreement
-1-
that Coca-Cola admitted wasn’t the actual agreement with the Colombian bottlers cited in the
lawsuit.
58
The court found, we believe prematurely and in error, that Coca-Cola did not have
sufficient control of the Colombian bottlers to be held liable for their human rights abuses — in
spite of the fact that Coca-Cola was the largest shareholder in Panamco and owned 25% of its
outstanding Class A shares, 25% of its Class B shares and 100% of its outstanding Series C
Preferred Stock. Panamco’s “Definitive Proxy Statement” on its impending merger with
Mexican-based Coca-Cola FEMSA, filed on March 28, 2003, stated: “The Coca-Cola Company
has the right to prevent any merger transaction involving Panamco, by virtue of its ownership of
Panamco’s Series C Preferred Stock…” Six top executives and a former consultant at Coca-Cola,
a Coca-Cola board member and a chief policymaker for SunTrust Banks (the institution that has
been Coca-Cola’s financial bulwark since 1919) now sit on FEMSA’s board, and Coca-Cola
owns 46.4% of FEMSA’s voting stock.
The District Court also failed to take into account documents admittedly created by CocaCola (i.e., letters to consumers and a statement to shareholders) in which the company frankly
acknowledged its control over workplace practices and its right to inspect the plants to ensure
that local managers abide by human rights conventions and domestic law.
The plaintiffs intend to appeal the dismissal of the company. However, the court’s
technical ruling on Coca-Cola’s ability to be liable for human rights abuses in Colombia does not
change the fact that these abuses actually occurred. Indeed, the plaintiffs continue to pursue these
claims. Coca-Cola chooses to ignore the fact that the court did allow the lawsuit to proceed
against both Panamco Colombia (now merged into Coca-Cola FEMSA) and Bebidas y
Alimentos, the operator of the plant in which Isidro Gil was murdered. The court acknowledged
that the plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that these bottlers engaged in the same type of serious
human rights abuses (as defined under international law, or “the law of nations,” to include
extrajudicial killings, torture and unlawful detention) that the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 and
the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1992 are intended to correct.
Denial No. 3: Coca-Cola claims that “a court in Colombia, the Colombian Attorney
General, and two other major labor unions have all indicated that there is no evidence supporting
allegations made by SINALTRAINAL against our Colombian bottlers.”
The Truth: No court in Colombia has ever ruled on the human rights claims being
brought against Coca-Cola. And, while it is true that the criminal charges against the Coca-Cola
bottler in Carepa were ultimately dismissed before they got to court (after initially being found
meritorious by a Colombian prosecutor), these charges were ultimately dismissed based upon the
fact that the plant manager in Carepa, Ariosta Mosquera, who allegedly conspired with the
paramilitaries to murder Isidro Gil, left town shortly before the actual murder. Yet, the same
dismissal decision notes that Mosquera, as the family of Isidro Gil claimed, fraternized openly
with the paramilitaries and had threatened union workers prior to the murder. We believe that
Mosquera’s hasty departure before the murder is actually evidence of his guilt, not his innocence.
U.S. State Dept. human rights reports say that only a handful of the thousands of murders
of Colombian trade unionists in recent years have ever resulted in successful prosecutions.
“Cases where the instigators and perpetrators of the murders of trade union leaders are identified
are practically nonexistent, as is the handing down of guilty verdicts,” the State Dept. asserts. In
-2-
light of this, it is not surprising that the plaintiffs cannot secure justice through the Colombian
courts. That’s why they are seeking redress through the U.S. courts in the first place.
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And, while there are a couple of unions (most notably the one which took over at the
Carepa plant after SINALTRAINAL was wiped out by the paramilitaries there) which, for their
own reasons, are not in support of the campaign against Coca-Cola, SINALTRAINAL has
earned the active support of the largest union federation in Colombia, the CUT (Unitary Workers
Federation), and Colombia's National Labor School, which the U.S. State Dept. relies upon for
data about Colombian union matters. In the United States, the AFL-CIO, the United
Steelworkers of America, the International Labor Rights Fund, Witness for Peace, SOA Watch
and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are among SINALTRAINAL's leading
supporters — a list that is growing longer every day.
Denial No. 4: Coca-Cola claims that “Coca-Cola bottlers in Colombia have extensive,
normal relations with multiple labor unions, including SINALTRAINAL. Elsewhere in Latin
America, more than half of the employees of Coca-Cola bottlers are represented by different
labor unions.”
The Truth: Regarding the conduct of Coca-Cola bottlers in Latin America generally, it
must be noted that the Colombian occurrences were hardly the first serious human rights
violations attributed to Coke. In the early 1980s, a Guatemalan Coca-Cola bottler was
responsible for the brutal murders of at least eight union leaders. While The Coca-Cola
Company, as usual, denied all responsibility, it was ultimately forced by an international pressure
campaign to intervene in Guatemala.
Obviously, SINALTRAINAL would not characterize its relations with the Coca-Cola
bottlers as “normal.” To this day, SINALTRAINAL leaders are constantly living with threats by
paramilitaries whose leaders are permitted to freely enter Coca-Cola plants and to meet openly
with the local managers. There is also credible evidence that some Coca-Cola plant managers in
Colombia continue to make monthly payments to these same paramilitaries. Paramilitary leaders
have freely admitted (to National Public Radio reporter Steven Dudley, among others) that they
have established bases around every Coca-Cola bottling plant in Colombia in order to “protect”
Coke’s interests.
Denial No. 5: Coca-Cola incessantly claims that Panamco Colombia provides employees
and union officials with elaborate safety and security benefits.
The Truth: This simply isn’t true! While some union officials receive security measures
from the Colombian government and others pay for their own bodyguards and security
equipment, Panamco Colombia supplies no such security assistance. Coca-Cola is either illinformed on this score or is simply lying.
-3-
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Hofstra Faculty Passes Resolution to End Coke Monopoly
The Full Faculty of Hofstra University voted overwhelmingly on May 2 to support a
resolution against the University’s exclusive contract with Coca-Cola. The decision came
less than two weeks after 506 students voted on a Student Government referendum to
discontinue the exclusive contract garnering more support than any candidate on the
ballot.
The resolution was officially endorsed by members of Long Island Teachers for Human
Rights (LITHR), which is comprised of 129 members on Long Island. Thirty-six Hofstra
professors from LITHR officially pledged their individual support prior to the meeting.
My email mailbox was jam-packed of supportive responses from professors praising the
students’ muckraking and persistence.
The meeting itself was attended by approximately 130 professors from a wide variety of
departments. The Business Development Center was so full, additional chairs had to be
retrieved to meet the large attendance demand.
The resolution was proposed by Professor Greg Maney from the Sociology Department,
and an essential ally in ensuring the issue was on the agenda. The following is an excerpt
from his speech to the Faculty:
As educators, we often encourage our students to see how they are connected to the world
around them. How their fates are interconnected with the fates of people living and
working in different neighborhoods, different cities, even different countries. How human
practices of production and consumption are connected with the quality of the natural
environment… Moreover, as educators, we encourage our students to become aware of
and engaged in the pressing issues of our times. In so doing we seek to make our shared
vision of participatory democracy a meaningful reality…I was, therefore, particularly
pleased when Hofstra students overwhelmingly passed a referendum calling upon the
Administration not to renew our university’s exclusive vending contract with Coca-Cola
due to the corporation’s profiting from human rights violations and environmental
degradation…As an institution of higher education we are the voice of conscience in our
society. As an institution of over 10,000 people, we also have the consumer power
necessary to promote responsible corporate practices. I call upon my fellow faculty
members to express our strongest desire to no longer subsidize a corporation that profits
from the murdering of trade union leaders, that profits from the use of child labor, and
that profits from the sale of toxic chemicals.
He asked for permission for a student to speak, and I spoke for a few minutes about the
rising student movement at Hofstra against Coca-Cola. I explained that I helped start the
campaign at Hofstra after participating in a 2003 delegation with the Committee for
Social Justice in Colombia while visiting my family in Bogota. I also gave them a brief
outline of how the campaign has progressed since then through
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a) a series of speaker events and workshops including union leaders Luis Adolfo
Cardona, Juan Carlos Galvis, and Javier Carrera as well as Amit Srivastava from India
Resource Center and Ray Rogers from Stop KillerCoke;
b) circulation of a petition which collected over 1500 signatures
c) several meetings with the administration, including a meeting with President
Rabinowitz, the VP of Financial Affairs, VP of Campus Life and in which we presented a
comprehensive portfolio consisting of evidence of Coca-Cola’s human rights violations
in Colombia, India, and El Salvador, as well as detailed information on Student Activism
and alternative beverages
d) attending the Coca-Cola shareholders’ meeting in Wilmington, Delaware where
Hofstra students were able to confront the CEO of Coca-Cola
e) succeeding in the referendum, which is the official voice of the students
I explained that Hofstra students’ dedication to promoting human rights and corporate
responsibility has reached international recognition and their participation in this
campaign has really put the University on the map. I also expressed how impressed and
pleased we were by the level of support the faculty had already shown of the students.
There was some disagreement at first. One professor claimed that he needed to see more
proof, at which point Professor Maney distributed copies of NYC Council Member
Hiram Monserrate’s investigative report on Coca-Cola’s human rights violations against
union workers in Colombia, the Human Rights Watch report on Coca-Cola’s involvement
in child labor in El Salvador, as well as Indian court decisions against Coca-Cola.
Another professor made a motion to postpone the voting until the next meeting. The
Speaker of the Faculty, Professor Seabold quickly stepped in and explained that to
postpone the decision would make the resolution irrelevant for the contract was up for
renewal this summer and this was the last meeting of the semester.
Another professor claimed that this was the first she had ever heard of the issue, to which
Professor Silvia Federici of New College responded, saying that this campaign has had a
strong presence on campus for over a year, and that even though they are all busy, they
have all had ample amount of time to research and look into the issue.
Faculty member after faculty member stood up and made statements in support of the
resolution. Professor Varisco from Anthropology said that he had been perusing the case
against Coca-Cola for some time and has concluded that the human rights violations in
question have been proven as much as any human rights case can be. He also strongly
criticized the exclusivity of the Coca-Cola contract and how it promotes monopolies.
In the end, when it was called for a vote, the room overwhelmingly voted yes in favor of
the resolution, with only one professor against.
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Although the formal decision is left up to President Rabinowitz whether or not to renew
an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola this summer, the Students and Faculty have spoken,
and our voices will not go unheard. The movement must not end here. We will continue
to pressure the administration and we will continue our fight against Coca-Cola's
corporate colonial empire, which has caused environmental devastation in India,
assassinations in Colombia, and child slave labor in El Salvador.
The whole world is watching.
In solidarity,
Vanessa Cudabac
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
Hofstra University
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WHO objects to reference in Coca-Cola campaigns
Alok Sharma
(from: http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=141037)
New Delhi, Sept 20 Taking exception to its name being “unauthorisedly” used by Coca-Cola India in its
promotional activities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked the company to withdraw such
references.
In a letter to Coca-Cola’s president and CEO Atul Singh in the first week of September, the south east
Asia office of the global health agency pointed out that its name was being used for commercial purposes,
which is strictly prohibited.
Coca-Cola India’s print advertisements between August 13 and 18 claimed, “Our products across the
world follow a single system and undergo rigorous multiple barrier filtration process that is approved by
WHO.” The company claimed that the soft drinks in the country are absolutely safe and meet the most
strict safety norms.
WHO asked Coca-Cola India to “immediately” restrain itself from making any references to the
organisation in any of the company’s advertisements, products, communications, business cards or any
written or published material.
Confirming the receipt of letter, Coca-Cola India’s spokesperson said: “We stopped using WHO’s name
in our campaigns even before WHO wrote to us.” He said the last ad appeared on August 18.
In its response to WHO’s letter, Coca-Cola India wrote back, “We believe a bona fide reference to the
WHO was made not in order to promote or advertise our company or product or to make a commercial
gain, but was made in reference to the multiple barrier filtration process we use to process water used in
the manufacture of our beverages.”
Coca-Cola India had issued the ads to counter the allegations levelled by Delhi-based NGO Centre for
Science and Environment (CSE) that its soft drinks had high level of pesticide content.
In the promotion, the cola giant also said a government laboratory in the United Kingdom had tested its
product against the most stringent pesticide norms used for bottled water in Europe. The Central Science
Laboratories (CSL) had in its tests found the products were absolutely safe for human consumption, the
company asserted in the ad.
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Responsible Shopper Corporate Profile: Cadbury Schweppes
(from: http://www.coopamerica.org/programs/rs/profile.cfm?id=198)
Cadbury's chocolates and beverages are among the most popular on earth, and the company has
worked to gain some popularity in social responsiblity circles. Green and Black's, a part of CadburySchweppes, sells some chocolate made with fairly traded cocoa and the company has been working on
biodegradable trays for its milk chocolate candies sold in Australia. As positive as these moves may be,
Cadbury still has sizable chocolate sales outside of Green and Black's that incorporate no Fair Trade
certified cocoa, adding to the problem of poverty for cocoa farmers. The company has also been cited for
illegally dumping hazardous waste from its bottling plants in the United States. Bottom line: if one
Cadbury-Schweppes business segment can successfully use Fair Trade cocoa, then the company can
work to make Fair Trade the standard and not the exception.
-- Profile Updated 08/09/2006
About Cadbury Schweppes
Cadbury Schweppes is the holding company for a group of international companies engaged primarily in
the manufacture and sale of confectionery and soft drinks sold in more than 200 countries. Headquarted in
London, the company reported sales of $11.19 billion in 2005 and employ 58,581 people.
Contact Cadbury Schweppes
Cadbury Schweppes 25 Berkeley Square London, W1X 6HT UK Phone: 207-409-1313 Web:
www.cadburyschweppes.com
Complaints, Abuses, and Scandals
Contamination
Over a million Cadbury Schweppes chocolate bars were recalled in the UK after the Health Protection
Agency (HPA) found a rare salmonella strain in its products. A HPA investigation found that 37 of 56
salmonella cases reported between March and July were linked to Cadbury products. Products being
taken off the shelves include Cadbury Dairy Milk Turkish 250g, Dairy Milk Caramel 250g, Dairy Milk
Mint 250g, Dairy Milk Eight Chunk and Dairy Milk 1kg. The contamination was attributed to a leaking
pipe at Cadbury’s Marlbrook plant, near Leominster, Herefordshire. Cadbury Schweppes estimated that
the cost of the recall will amount to ?20 million by the end of this year.
-- Reuters, 07/21/2006 Source URL:
today.reuters.com/business/newsArticle.aspx?type=consumerProducts&stor...
The 7-Up/RC Bottling Co. (part of Carbury Schweppes) pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Los
Angeles in November 2005 to 12 criminal counts of violating the Clean Water Act. Industrial runoff from
the bottling facility included petroleum-based substances harmful to the environment, animal life and
human health.
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-- United Press International, 11/11/2005 Source URL: none available
Corporate Influence
In January 2001 Cover Concepts, a company that claims to reach 30 million kids in grades kindergarten
through 12 in 43,000 schools nationwide by "working in tandem with school administrators to distribute
free, advertiser-sponsored materials such as textbook covers, lesson plans, posters, bookmarks, specialty
paks, lunch menus, and other fun educational materials" distributed 500,000 book covers for middle
schools nationwide with samples of Cadbury Schweppes' Sour Patch Kids.
-- Boston Globe, 01/12/2003 Source URL: none available
Ethics
Cadbury Schweppes is among 34 large companies shunned by the share index, FTSE4Good, which is
aimed at helping ethical investors. The companies were excluded after receiving poor publicity for their
environmental, social, and human rights activities -- the three areas FTSE4Good focuses on.
-- Daily Star, 07/11/2001 Source URL: none available
Executive Compensation
In 2005, the CEO of Cadbury Schweppes received a salary of $4,562,237 USD.
-- Cadbury Schweppes, 06/27/1905 Source URL: www.cadburyschweppes.com/EN
Brands and Affiliates
Brands: 7UP, A&W Root Beer, Allan, Aquaveta, Barratt, Bassett, Bazooka, Beldent, Bim Bim, Bouquet
d'Or, Bubbas, Butterkist, Cadbury, Cadbury Caramel, Cadbury Creme Egg, Cadbury Crunchie, Cadbury
Dairy Milk, Cadbury Dream, Cadbury Flake, Cadbury Miniature Heroes, Cadbury Roses, Cadbury
TimeOut, Canada Dry, Carambar, Choclairs, Clamato, Cottee's, Country Time, Crush, Crystal Light,
Dentyne, Diet Rite, Dirol, Dr. Pepper, Dulciora, Elegan, Fry's, Fuzzy Peach, Gini, Halls, Hawaiian Punch,
Hollywood, Jelibon, La Casera, La Pie Qui Chante, MacRobertson, Mantecol, Mauna La'i, Maynards,
Miss, Mistic, Mott's, Nantucket Nectars, Nehi, Oasis, Olips, Orangina, Pascall, Peter Paul, Piasten, Picnic,
Poulain, RC Cola, Red Tulip, Relax, Relax (Kent), Schweppes, Sharps, Snapple, Solo, Sour Patch Kids,
Sportlife, Spring Valley, Squirt, Stani, Stewart's, STIMOROL, Sun Valley Squeeze, Sunkist, Swedish
Fish, Trebor, Trident, Trinaranjus, Turbo, V6, Wave, Wedel, Welch's, WhipperSnapple, YooHoo, York
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Responsible Shopper Corporate Profile: Coca-Cola
(from: http://www.coopamerica.org/programs/rs/profile.cfm?id=204)
Coca-Cola is known the world over for producing a variety of tasty beverages from carbonated
sodas to water. Promoting the company philosophy to "make every drop count," Coke officially
encourages people to do the same in their own lives. Unfortunately, Coke continues to work against
human rights, the environment, and the health of consumers, showing few signs of meaningful change. In
Colombia, working at Coca-Cola bottling plants has cost lives and the personal safety of those trying to
unionize. Eight union organizers have been murdered by Colombian paramilitaries and at least 100 others
have been detained and beaten, and Coca-Cola has yet to conduct a full investigation of the claims. Coke's
bottled water operations have made it the focus of at least two international water rights campaigns, as the
company continues high-volume pumping in areas such as Kerala, India, where extreme shortages of
potable water are already a problem. Coke signed onto the United Nations Global Compact, which aims
to make companies more responsible corporate citizens, but the soft drink giant has taken no concrete
steps toward remedying abuses currently tallied against it. Coke continues to reject the call to use its
wealth and international status to set new standards for sustainability and respect for human rights in the
countries where it operates. Bottom line: help the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, Polaris Institute,
and Corporate Accountability International stop Coke's abuses by taking action now. Use the
Green Shift section to find alternatives to Coke.
-- Profile Updated 09/22/2006
About Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola manufactures ice cream, frozen deserts and flavored syrups in addition to its well-known line
of carbonated beverages. Based in Atlanta, the company employs 49,000 people. Coca-Cola’s revenues
for 2005 were $23.1 billion.
Contact Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola 1 Coca-Cola Plaza Atlanta, GA 30313 USA Phone: 404-676-2121 Web: www.cocacola.com
Current Campaigns
India Resource Center Coke Campaign India Resource Center is working to end Coke’s corporate
abuses in India. Water shortages, pollution of groundwater and soil, exposure to toxic waste and
pesticides is having impacts of massive proportions in India. Over 70% of the population makes a living
related to agriculture, and thousands of farmers in India have been affected by Coca-Cola's practices.
According to the India Resource Center, Coca-Cola has destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people
in India; however, the extent of the damage as a result from exposure to the toxic waste and pesticides is
yet unknown, as these are long term problems.
India Resource Center needs increased public involvement to stop Coke’s abuses in India. Click on the
URL to learn more and take action now. www.indiaresource.org/action/faxcoke.php
Corporate Accountability International Water Campaign Coke, Nestlé and Pepsi are misleading
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consumers to believe that bottled water is healthier than tap water--but bottled water is actually less
regulated than public water sources. Corporate Accountability International urges the public to tell Coke,
Nestlé and Pepsi to end the deceitful promotion of their bottled water brands and to stop interfering in
policies that protect public water. Take action now by clicking on the URL below.
www.stopcorporateabusenow.org/campaign/exposebottledwater
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke The campaign is working to stop the cycle of murders, kidnappings and
torture of SINALTRAINAL (National Union of Food Industry Workers) union leaders and organizers at
Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. Since 1989, eight union leaders have been killed. The campaign
aims to force Coca-Cola to prevent further bloodshed and to provide safe working conditions.
www.killercoke.org
Complaints, Abuses, and Scandals
Health and Safety
According to a September 22nd 2006 BBC article, the Kerala High Court overruled southern state’s ban
on Coca-Cola and Pepsi products on the basis that such a decision did not “within the legal powers that
rest with the government.” The southern state of Kerala banned the sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi products
after the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found high levels of pesticides and other hazardous
chemicals in their products. Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan expressed great disappointment on this
decision: "We hope the judges will hear our detailed arguments and correct their judgment, saving the
health and lives of people.”
The state government of Kerala has banned the production and sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi in early
August 2006. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan announced this decision in response to scientific
studies, primarily by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), revealing hazardous chemicals, such
as lindane, chlorpyrifos, and heptachlor, in the companies’ products. The decision also comes in the wake
of a four-year campaign by the community of Plachimada to permanently close the soft drink giants’
operations in the region. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are now being banned in government and educational
institutions by several states in India, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chattisgarh,
Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi. Regulations to govern consumer safety for soft drinks are underway
in India.
On July 1, 2006 community leaders from Mehdiganj, India ended a seven day hunger strike protesting
Coca-Cola’s bottling operations. Activists were asking that Coca-Cola take responsibility for the negative
ramifications its bottling plant had on surrounding villages, including water shortages, pollution of
agricultural land and groundwater, illegal occupation of land, tax evasion, and poor treatment of its
workers. The Central Pollution Control Board of India (CPCB) has agreed to set up an inquiry regarding
Coca Cola's role in water contamination. Nearly 1,000 people from over 40 surrounding villages attended
events and activities in support of the campaign.
-- India Resource Center, 09/22/2006 Source URL: www.indiaresource.org
Contamination
The Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) comprehensive study, covering 25 different
manufacturing plants over 12 Indian states, found dangerous levels of pesticides in all samples of the
Coca-Cola and Pepsi products tested. On average, Coca-Cola drinks contained 27 times higher pesticide
residues than the standards outlined by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). According to CSE this
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poses serious health effects; even small doses of pesticides such as lindane, chlorpyrifos, and heptachlor,
are known to cause cancer, neurological problems, and other health disorders.
-- Centre for Science and Environment, 08/02/2006 Source URL: www.cseindia.org/misc/colaindepth/cola2006/pdf/cola-presentation.pdf
Health and Safety
According to the India Resource Center’s June 2006 report “Ground Water Resources in Plachimada,”
there are harmful long-term effects to Coke’s operations, such as extreme water shortages, harvest
shortages contamination of soil and groundwater, and serious health problems for local villagers and
former workers. All 9 water samples, collected within a one kilometer radius of the plant, failed to meet
the safety standards for drinking water as outlined by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as the samples
contained excessive levels of dangerous toxic chemicals. Coca-Cola has avoided answering to the Indian
government and people on the issue of water contamination due to cadmium in the Plachimada plant’s
sludge. Two previous orders by the Kerala Pollution Control Board were ignored: one called for Coke to
build an effluent treatment facility to deal with wastewater, the other required the company to pipe
potable water into communities for residents most vulnerable to water shortages.
Coca-Cola breached Indian law at its Plachimada bottling plant in southern India by continuing its “trial
operations” on August 8, 2005. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board subsequently ordered Coke to
"stop production of all kinds of products with immediate effect" at the plant on August 19. The
Plachimada plant was originally pressured to stop operations in March 2004 due to complaints from the
local community about pollution and an alarming loss of potable water.
In January 2004, the Indian parliament banned Coke and Pepsi products from being sold in its cafeteria.
According to the non-profit group CorpWatch, "The ban came as the result of tests, including those by the
Indian government, which found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides, including lindane,
DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos, in the colas, making them unfit for consumption. Some samples tested
showed the presence of these toxins to be more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European
Union."
The India Resource Center also notes that Coca-Cola was implicated in a bribery scandal involving
Kerala Pollution Control Board member K.V. Indulal. In 2003, Mr. Indulal maintained that the level of
pollution coming from Coke’s bottling plant in Plachimada met acceptable standards. Shortly thereafter,
the BBC and the Kerala Pollution Control Board launched separate investigations, both of which found
environmental conditions beyond tolerable levels.
-- India Resource Center, 06/01/2006 Source URL: www.indiaresource.org/
Ethics
KLD Research & Analytics Inc has removed Coca-Cola from its Broad Market Social Index (BMSI), a
listings of companies which pass KLD’s standard for corporate responsibility. Large institutional
investors will ban Coca-Cola from its CREF Social Choice Account. As of December 2005, the CREF
Choice Account held more than 1.25 million shares of Coca-Cola common stock, valued at over $50
million.
-- Common Dreams Newswire, 07/18/2006 Source URL: www.commondreams.org/news2006/0718-22.htm
Shareholder Resolutions
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At the 2006 shareholder meeting, the New York City Employees Retirement System and Presbyterian
Church are calling on Coke to "establish a special committee of independent directors, with authority to
retain independent experts as needed, to oversee the company’s sponsorship of an independent delegation
of inquiry to Colombia to examine the charges of collusion in anti-union violence that have been made
against officials of Coca-Cola’s bottling plants in that country; and that the delegation includes
representatives from U.S. and Columbian human rights organizations and be charged with preparing and
presenting to the special committee and the Board a report on its findings, which will be made available
to the shareholders by the next annual meeting of the Company."
-- Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, 05/01/2006 Source URL: www.iccr.org
At the 2006 shareholder meeting, the As You Sow Foundation is calling on Coca-Cola to "review the
efficacy of its container recycling program and prepare a report to shareholders, by September 1, 2006, on
a recycling strategy that includes a publicly stated, quantitative goal for enhanced rates of beverage
container recovery in the U.S. The report, to be prepared at reasonable cost, may omit confidential
information."
-- Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, 05/01/2006 Source URL: www.iccr.org
Water Rights
The Supreme Court of Panama issued a $300,000 fine to Coca-Cola for a massive chemical coloring spill
in the Bay of Panama and a nearby river. According to Panama's National Environmental Authority,
4,500 liters of chemicals spilled from a Coke processing facility turning a portion of the bay and river red,
causing contamination and negatively impacting the environment.
-- Polaris Institute, 04/20/2006 Source URL: none available
Human Rights
The London-based anti-poverty group, War on Want, released a new 'alternative report' on Coca-Cola,
exposing the company's abuse of human rights and natural resources in Mexico, El Salvador, India,
Guatemala, Colombia and Turkey. Cited abuses include suppressing unions, toxic dumping on
agricultural lands, and exhausting water resources for its bottling operations.
-- War on Want, 03/20/2006 Source URL: www.waronwant.org/?lid=11807
Ethics
Lawyers representing thousands of apartheid victims at an appeal hearing in New York will revive 2002
compensation claims against foreign multinationals they accuse of aiding and abetting apartheid violence.
Implicated corporations include BP, Barclays, Hewlett-Packard, Credit Suisse, Coca-Cola,
DaimlerChrysler, Ford and Shell Oil. The plaintiffs and some 29 civil society groups and individuals
allege that companies that supported the apartheid state violated the Sullivan code and US's constructive
engagement policy designed to fight descrimination. Violations involved such activities as providing the
regime with armoured vehicles for patroling townships, and creating the pass book which non-whites
were required to carry to authorize their passage in otherwise white areas.
-- Independent Online, 01/22/2006 Source URL:
www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=14&click_id=6&art_id=vn200601221137...
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Discrimination
In August of 2005, Coca-Cola settled a discrimination lawsuit regarding its hiring practices in Harahan,
Louisiana. The Labor Department found that Coke’s hiring standards were not uniformly applied,
resulting in 800 women and minorities being unfairly bypassed for merchandiser positions. Coke
promotes itself as an equal opportunity employer, however an investigation by the Office of Federal
Contract Compliance Programs proved otherwise in the cases of these men and women. The company
settled on paying $340,000 in back wages to those subjected to hiring discrimination, and has agreed to
hire 42 of the women and minority applicants who were originally rejected.
-- BizNewOrleans.com, 08/11/2005 Source URL: bizneworleans.com/109+M54242af9de3.html
Water Rights
Coke, Danone, Pepsi and Nestle werethe major targets of a 2005 Polaris Institute report exposing the
darker side of the water industry. “Inside the Bottle: An Exposé of the Bottled Water Industry” highlights
the abuses of these corporations, ranging from fraudulent advertising and ruthless water privatization to
the distribution of unsafe water. These companies dominate the world’s bottled water market.
-- Polaris Institute, 01/01/2005 Source URL: www.polarisinstitute.org
Human Rights
The US-based International Labour Rights Fund, and the US United Steelworkers filed a lawsuit against
Coca -Cola accusing its franchised bottle plant in Colombia of using paramilitaries that allegedly have
killed union organizers who tried to unionize workers at the bottling pla. In March 2004 a ruling by the
Florida federal court dismissed Coca-Cola, while finding that the plaintiffs may continue with the suit
against local bottling companies. The plaintiffs say they plan to appeal the ruling, claiming that a new
agreement between Coca-Cola and its bottlers justifies the suit's claim against all the original defendants.
-- Ethnic NewsWatch, 06/04/2004 Source URL: none available
Toxic Emissions or Discharges
In July 2003 a BBC investigation revealed dangerous levels of toxic metals and a known carcinogen-cadmium--in a waste product from the company's plant in Kerala India and which the company had given
to local farmers to use as fertilizer. The BBC radio show "Face The Facts" took water samples from the
wells surrounding the company and had the fertiliser analyzed in Britain. Analysis conducted at the
University of Exeter revealed that not only was it useless as a fertiliser but it contained a number of toxic
metals, including cadmium and lead. The water in near-by wells also had levels of lead "well above those
set by the World Health Organisation," the BBC said.
The plant had also come under attack from local community members because of its use of water
resources. In April the Kerala government revoked the water-use permit of the plant because of fears that
the exploitation of groundwater would lead to serious ecological damage and drought. A Parliament
member from a local district warned that disruption of water supplies could affect not just drinking water
but also irrigation in an area known for its rice paddies. Since May 2002 there have been daily pickets
outside the plant. Coke denied the charges and insist that groundwater levels have not been affected by it
facility. The revocation was overturned in court.
71
-- BBC News, 07/24/2003 Source URL:
www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2003/07_july/24/face_f...
Unfair Competition
Coca-Cola is the focus of criticism for targeting children and schools with their aggressive marketing
campaigns. Coke secures exclusive distribution rights in schools across the country by pressuring
institutions with greater budgetary needs. The corporation unabashedly waves advertising dollars in the
face of school districts to gain visibility and lock young consumers into a life of brand loyalty to CocaCola. By cornering the market, opposition groups claim that children are not given any healthy options to
choose from. As of 2005, a handful of school districts and universities have successfully broken from
commitments to exclusively sell Coke products on their campuses. Some of these schools include the
following: Bard College, New York; Carleton College, Minnesota; Lake Forest College, Illinois; National
College of Art and Design, Ireland; Trinity College, Ireland; University College, Dublin; Salem State
College; College Dupage (Illinois); Oberlin College (Ohio).
-- Polaris Institute Source URL:
www.polarisinstitute.org/corp_profiles/public_service_gats_pdfs/coca_c...
Worker Rights
Coca-Cola workers in Turkey and Indonesia have had to face mass firings for their efforts to improve
labor conditions. Employees of at least two of Coke’s bottling facilities in Turkey have found themselves
jobless after openly working to initiate union activity. When workers protested the firings, they were met
with police violence. Turkish laborers and their family members were attacked by police again while in
the midst of talks with the management at one plant.
In Indonesia, Coca-Cola is PT United Can Company’s largest and most important customer. Therefore,
when the packaging company decided to intimidate 48 workers for openly forming a union, Coke could
rightfully have intervened, using economic incentives to get PT to act ethically. The 12 leaders of
unionization efforts have been fired, and the other continue to be harassed by PT management. Coca-Cola
has yet to take action or make a statement regarding the ill treatment of workers.
-- United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Source URL:
www.unionvoice.org/campaign/coketurkey/wniggsu2z763nx7
Legal Disputes
Coca-Cola has allegedly conspired with the government of Uzbekistan against Mansur Maqsudi’s
company after he fell out of favor with the nation’s authoritarian ruler Islam Karimov. The arbitration
claim seeks more than $100 million in damages, claiming that Coca-Cola actively aided Karimov’s
government in stripping Mr. Maqsudi of his majority share in Coke’s bottling facility in Tashkent.
-- CorpWatch, 06/13/2006 Source URL: www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=13721
Executive Compensation
In 2005, E. Neville Isdell, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Company, earned $12,350,336 in
compensation including stock option grants from the Coca Cola Co.
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-- AFL-CIO, 04/05/2006 Source URL: www.aflcio.org
Worker Benefits
In October 2002 AIDs activists worldwide planned demonstrations and rallies to protest Coca-Cola,
which they insist must do more to help and treat HIV-infected workers and their families in Africa.
Although the company had recently increased its benefits to provide anti-retroviral drugs to employees
and spouses of its bottling companies in Africa, activists allege that the initiative will cover only 35
percent of Coke's bottler workforce in Africa and that its proposed 50 percent cost-sharing scheme will be
too expensive for small and medium-sized bottlers.
-- OneWorld.net, 10/17/2002 Source URL: www.oneworld.net
Discrimination
In May 2002 Coca-Cola agreed to pay $8.1 million to more than 2,000 female employees who were
underpaid by the company. Forty-two million will be paid under an agreement the company struck with
the U.S. Department of Labor and will go to 980 current and former employees in Coke's Atlanta-based
corporate operations, mostly in professional-level jobs. An additional $3.9 million will be paid voluntarily
by the company to 1,100 current and former female employees in Coke's North America operations.
-- Savannah Morning News, 05/26/2002 Source URL: none available
Health and Safety
In August 2003 the head of the India-based Center for Science and Environment told reporters the levels
of pesticides in Coca-Cola products in India was 30 times higher than guidelines used by the European
Union. Levels of pesticides in rival PepsiCo brands tested were 36 times higher than European Union
standards. The Center acknowledged that Indian brands also have high pesticide levels, because
agricultural pesticides are in the country's ground water, but said the focus was on Coke and Pepsi
because they account for more than three-fourths of the bottled soft drinks consumed in India. India has
no laws banning pesticides in soft drinks. Top executives of Coke and Pepsi held a rare joint news
conference denying the allegations and demanding to know what laboratories did the testing, and how the
research was conducted.
-- Environmental News Network Source URL: www.enn.com/news/2003-08-06/s_7241.asp
According to CorpWatch, Coca Cola laces the beverages its sells in India with large doses of caffeine,
which is known to be addictive, without citing it on the labels. The Indian group, Centre for Science and
Environment, reportedly demanded that Coca-Cola display labels with "advisory statements to the effect
that the beverage contains caffeine and the same is not recommended for children, pregnant or lactating
women and individuals sensitive to caffeine."
-- CorpWatch, 02/06/2004 Source URL: www.corpwatch.org
Ethics
In October 2003, Coca-Cola paid $540,000 to former finance manager, Matthew Whitley, an employee
who claimed the company inflated its profits and knowingly sold contaminated drinks. Whitley, who lost
his job one month after making “whistleblowing allegations,” sued Coca-Cola for unfair dismissal. That
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same year, an Iranian court levied a 7.15 million dollar fine against the Coca-Cola Company for violating
its contract with an Iranian soft drinks counterpart, Nushab Soft Drinks Company. Chairman of the
Iranian company accused Coca Cola of using the United States’ sanctions against Iran as pretext for
suspending the investments specified in their contract with Nushab.
-- BBC News, 10/08/2003 Source URL: none available
Legal Disputes
In August 2003 Coca-Cola offered to pay up to $21.1 million to Burger King and its restaurants to repair
damage caused by allegations that Coke's employees rigged a marketing test of Frozen Coke at the fastfood outlets. The announcement came after a former Coke manager claimed the company rigged a
marketing test of the popularity of the new drink and artificially boosted equipment sales. Under the terms
of the proposal, Coke will pay $1,000 to each restaurant that had a Frozen Coke machine installed as of
May 2000, part of any repair costs for the machines and make up any losses that Burger King franchisees
had with the equipment. Eighty percent of the Burger King franchises who tested the equipment have to
agree to the terms of settlement.
-- Associated Press, 08/12/2003 Source URL: none available
Toxic Emissions or Discharges
In May 2003, Coca-Cola de Panama was fined US $300,000 for polluting Matasnillo River in Panama.
-- CorpWatch, 07/10/2003 Source URL: none available
Disclosure
In March 2004, Coca Cola admitted the UK version of Coca-Cola's Dasani brand bottled water is really
treated water from London’s public supply.
-- CorpWatch, 03/04/2003 Source URL: www.corpwatch.org
In 2002 Coca-Cola was among the first companies to deduct the value of executive stock options as an
expense.The action was taken in response to increasing public demands for clear and complete financial
statements. Prior to the corporate accounting scandals many companies relied heavily on options to
compensate executives but did not deducted them as expenses. Analysts blame the use of large numbers
of options that aren't reflected in earnings for creating incentives for executives to artificially inflate stock
prices.
-- San Jose Mercury News, 08/06/2002 Source URL: none available
Corporate Influence
Danone Waters North America, now fully-owned by Coke, has partnered with the American Academy of
Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) to promote flourinated bottled water for children. The Center for Science in
the Public Interest has expressed concerns that the AAPD is endorsing Coca-Cola, "a company whose
products cause tooth decay, obesity, and other health problems in children."
-- Polaris Institute, 04/20/2006 Source URL: www.polarisinstitute.org
74
Special Awards
Coca-Cola was named as one of the "Worst Corporations of 2004" by Multinational Monitor. The
company was named to the list for the "extensive documentation of rampant violence committed against
Coke's unionized workforce by paramilitary forces." The publication cites an April 2004 report from a
delegation headed by New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate that says, "To date, there have
been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola's workers, including nine murders. Family
members of union activists have been abducted and tortured. Union members have been fired for
attending union meetings…Most troubling to the delegation were the persistent allegations that
paramilitary violence against workers was done with the knowledge of and likely under the direction of
company managers…Shockingly , company officials admitted to the delegation that they had never
investigated the ties between plant managers and paramilitaries"
-- Multinational Monitor, 12/01/2004 Source URL: none available
Fraud
In January 2004 Coca-Cola announced that it was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC) over allegations against the company in a wrongful-termination lawsuit. The
investigation stems from a lawsuit filed by a former finance director in Coke's fountain division who
accused the company of committing $2 billion in accounting fraud, discriminating against minorities and
women and manipulating inventories.
-- SocialFunds.com, 07/23/2004 Source URL: none available
Ethics
In 2002 nine former and current Coca-Cola workers filed three class-action lawsuits against the company
claiming it bilked workers out of $200 million in pay over a four year period. In the lawsuits workers
alleged the company had managers manipulate an electronic timekeeping system and to eliminate
overtime hours worked by merchandisers. Other workers claimed they were harassed out of claiming
overtime hours by managers, who would berate and belittle them. In 2001 Coca-Cola paid $20.2 million
to settle a lawsuit filed by salaried employees claiming they were cheated out of overtime pay.
-- Reuters, 12/04/2002 Source URL: none available
In May 2002 several Coca-Cola workers in Dallas claimed the company was re-packaging and selling
nearly-expired soft drinks to minority neighborhoods at lower prices. One worker who made deliveries
for the company to both white and black neighborhoods said that soda in the white neighborhoods which
was a month short of its expiration date was shipped back to the bottler for re-packaging with new
expirations dates and then delivered to minority neighborhoods where it sold for almost half the price.
The company denied the claims.
-- CBS News, 05/21/2002 Source URL: none available
Brands and Affiliates
Brands: A&W, Barq's, Caffeine Free Coca-Cola Classic, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Citra, Coca-Cola
C2, Coca-Cola Classic, Crush, Dasani, Diet Barq's, Diet Cherry Coke, Diet Coke, Diet Mello Yello, Diet Sprite, Dr.
Pepper, Fanta, Five Alive, Fresca, Fruitopia, Georgia Coffee, Hi-C, Mello Yello, Minute Maid, Mr. Pibb, Nordic
Mist, Odwalla, Powerade, Santiba, Simply Orange, Sprite, Surge, Tab
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Col lege s , Un i v e r s i t ie s and H igh Sc hool s
Act i ve in the Campaign to S top K i l l er Coke
Colleges and Universities active and those who have already cut contracts (*) :
American University, Washington, DC
Amherst College, Massachusetts
Antioch College, Ohio
Bard College, New York*
Beloit College, Wisconsin
Boston College, Massachusetts
Bowdoin College, Maine
Brandeis University, Massachusetts
Bristol University, UK
Bryn Mawr College
California State University — Dominguez Hills, California
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Canada
Cardiff University, UK
Carleton College, Minnesota *
Carleton University, Canada
Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania
Christ College, India
City University of New York, New York
City University of New York Law School *
Clark University, Massachusetts
College of Charleston, South Carolina
College of DuPage, Illinois *
The College of William & Mary, Virginia
Connecticut College, Connecticut
Cordozo Law School, New York
DePaul University, Illinois *
DePauw University, Indiana
Dominican University, Illinois *
Duke University, North Carolina
East Los Angeles College, California
Emory University, Oxford, Georgia
Felician College, New Jersey
Evergreen State College, Washington
Fordham University, New York
Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Georgian Court University, New Jersey
Grinnell College, Iowa *(6)
Hampshire College, Massachusetts *
Harvard University, Massachusetts
Haverford College, Pennsylvania
Hofstra University, New York*(1)
Holyoke Community College, Massachusetts
Hunter College, CUNY, New York
Illinois State University, Illinois
Illinois University, Illinois
Indiana University, Indiana
Indiana University Northwest, Indiana
Iowa State University, Iowa
Kennesaw State University, Georgia
Kankakee Community College, Illinois
Kent State, Ohio
Lake Forest College, Illinois *
Lakehead University, Canada
Leeds University, UK
Loyola University, Illinois
Loyola University, Louisiana
Macalester College, Minnesota *(1)
Malaspina University College, Canada
Manhattanville College, New York *
Maynooth University, Ireland
McMaster University, Canada (2)
Miami University, Ohio
Michigan State University, Michigan
Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee
Middlesex University, UK
Mt. Holyoke College, Massachusetts
Nassau Community College, New York
National College of Art and Design, Ireland *
National University of Ireland, Ireland
New College of Florida, Florida
New York University, New York *
Northeastern Illinois University, Illinois
Northern Arizona University, Arizona
Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin
Oberlin College, Ohio *
Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma
Oklahoma University, Oklahoma
Oxford University, UK (Wadham*, St. John's*,
St. Hilda's* JCR)
Portland State University, Oregon
Purdue University — Calumet, Indiana
Purdue University — West Lafayette, Indiana
Queen College, CUNY, New York
Queens University, Canada
Queensborough Community College, CUNY,
New York *
Roma Tre, Rome, Italy *
Rutgers University, New Jersey *
Ryerson Univeristy, Canada
St. John's University, New York
St. Joseph's University, Pennsylvania
St. Louis University, Missouri
Saddleback College, California
Salem State College, Massachusetts *
San Francisco State University, California
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),
UK *
Simon Fraser University, Canada
76
Smith College, Massachusetts
Suffolk County Community College, New York
SUNY Geneseo, New York
SUNY Oswego, New York
SUNY Stony Brook, New York
Sussex University, UK *
Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania * (5)
Trinity College, Ireland *
Truman State University, Missouri
Union Theological Seminary, New York*
University College Dublin, Ireland *
University of Alberta, Canada
University of Arts, Berlin, Germany
University of Birmingham, UK
University of Bonn, Germany
University of British Columbia, Canada
University of California — Berkeley, California
University of California — Santa Barbara, California
University of California — Santa Cruz, California
University of Chicago, Illinois
University of Cincinnati, Ohio
University of Cologne, Germany
University of Connecticut, Connecticut
University of Detroit Mercy, Michigan
University of East Anglia, UK *
University of Edinburgh, Scotland
University of Georgia, Georgia
University of Guelph — Student Union, Canada *
University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois
University of Illinois — Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
University of Iowa, Iowa
University of Lethbridge, Canada
University of London, UK
University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts
University of Michigan, Michigan, Flint, Dearborn (4)
University of Minnesota, Minnesota
University of Missouri (Kansas City), Missouri
University of Montana, Montana
University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire
University of Ottawa, Canada
University of Portsmouth, UK
University of San Diego, California
University of San Francisco, California
University of Santa Clara, California*
University of Southern California, California
University of Toronto, Canada
University of Vermont, Vermont
University of Washington, Washington
University of Waterloo, Canada
University of Western Ontario, Canada
University of Wisconsin — Madison, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee, Wisconsin
University of Wuppertal, Germany
University of York, UK
Valparaiso University, Indiana
Vassar College, New York
Washington University, Missouri
Wayne State University, Michigan
Wesley College, Bristol, UK
West Virginia University, West Virginia
Western Michigan University
Wheaton College, Illinois
Wilkes University, Pennsylvania
York University, Canada
High Schools active in the Campaign to Stop
Killer Coke include:
Ames High School, Iowa
Cretin-Derham Hall, Minnesota
Golden Valley School, Minnesota
Loyola Academy, Illinois
Marquette University High School
Minoa Central High School, East Syracuse, NY
Notre Dame High School, Canada
Rocky Mountain High School, Colorado
St. Michael's Catholic Secondary School, Canada
St. Peter's Prep, New Jersey *
Staten Island Academy, New York
Stratford Central Secondary School, Canada
The Student School, Canada *
Turners Fall High School, Massachusetts (3)
Vincent Massey Collegiate, Canada
Waukesha South High School, Wisconsin
Xavier High School, Canada
* Campuses that have terminated major
contracts with Coca-Cola due to the company’s
human rights abuses in Colombia. Many labor
unions and other institutions (such as the Park
Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, NY) have also
terminated contracts and/or removed Coke
machines or banned the sale or distribution of
Coke products from their premises.
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(1) Did not renew its exclusive contract with Coke.
(2) Passed a non-binding resolution to not renew its contract with Coke.
(3)The Gill-Montague (Massachusetts) School Committee voted to not accept Coke's offer of a new scoreboard for the
high school athletic field in exchange for a 7-year contract to sell Coke products in the schools. Gill and Montague are
two small towns (populations of about 1,000 and 8,000) in Western Massachusetts. The school district is composed of
several elementary schools (Gill, Hillcrest, Montague Center and Sheffield Elementary Schools), 1 middle school (Great
Falls Middle School), and 1 high school (Turners Fall High School).
(4) "Temporarily" suspended business with Coke until the Company agrees to an independent investigation of human
rights and environmental abuses. U of M Chief Financial Officer Tim Slottow decided on his own to resume sale of Coke
products based on false information from The Coca-Cola Co. (See the Campaign's response to this decision.)
(5) "…Coca-Cola products will be replaced with Pepsi drinks at Essie Mae’s Snack Bar and the Science Center and
Kohlberg coffee bars over spring break as the first step in eliminating Coke from Swarthmore’s campus."
(6) Ended its exclusive contract with Coke. "There are now 10 Coke vending machines on campus, down from 26 last
year. Pepsi has installed 11 machines and Doctor Pepper/7-Up has 12."
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Further Resources:
The following websites provide current and in-depth information on the Coca-Cola
campaign and related issues:
• United Students Against Sweatshops: www.studentsagainstsweatshops.org
• Campaign to Stop Killer Coke: www.killercoke.org
• CokeWatch: www.cokewatch.org
• CorpWatch: www.corpwatch.org
• International Labor Rights Fund: www.laborrights.org
• United Steel Workers of America: www.uswa.org
• Colombia Watch: www.colombiawatch.org
• U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project: www.usleap.org
• Committee for Social Justice in Colombia: www.socialjusticecolombia.org
• Health Gap Global Access Project: www.treat-your-workers.org
Coca-Cola Campaign Contacts:
Ray Rogers
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
[email protected]
(718) 852-2808
www.killercoke.org
United Students Against Sweatshops
(212) 332-9351
www.studentsagainstsweatashops.org
Amit Srivastava
[email protected]
www.indiaresource.org
Dan Kovalik
United Steelworkers of America
[email protected]
(412) 562-2518
Terry Collingsworth
International Labor Rights Fund
(202) 347-4100
[email protected]