Killer Coke, reloaded

 Mexico’s other Coke wars

That was the headline to a recent Dammit story which went on  to quote  an email from Marc, a friend of mine  in Montréal. He asked, “Wasn’t it you who wrote a few times about coke-a-cola depleting
underground water reservoirs that give clean drinking water to
thousands of people in Mexico, and other places? And also this water being used for farm land that coke-a-cola is stealing making farmland useless? Now a report comes out, years later, about how this is bad.”

And that’s not all that’s bad about Coca-Cola,  if trades union activists in Colombia and  elsewhere are to be believed.

I was intrigued by the possibility that Coke  was, and presumably still  is unconscionably hijacking scarce water supplies.  so I went looking for more  and,  as happens whenever you go exploring online,  I came across something completely different. In the process, I landed on the killer Coke web page, which states

“The Coca-Cola Case is a fascinating portrayal of corporate irresponsibility and greed… Remember that slogan — Have a Coke and a smile? Well, this doc will leave youUN-smiling.

– Rabble.ca — April 8, 2010

Says the NFB,  “In this feature-length documentary, directors German Gutiérrez and Carmen Garcia present a searing indictment of the Coca-Cola empire and its alleged kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders trying to improve working conditions in Colombia, Guatemala and Turkey. The filmmakers follow labour rights lawyers Daniel Kovalik and Terry Collingsworth and an activist for the Stop Killer-Coke! campaign, Ray Rogers, as they attempt to hold the giant U.S. multinational beverage company accountable in this legal and human rights battle.” 

Said Bloomberg Business Week at the beginning of 2006  under the heading
“Killer Coke” Or Innocent Abroad?

It goes on, “It’s early monday morning, but Ray Rogers has the full attention of some 70 students in a Rutgers University classroom. For nearly half an hour, the 61-year-old labor activist rails against Coca-Cola Co. (KO), taking the beverage giant to task for allegedly turning a blind eye as eight employees of Coke bottlers in Colombia were killed and scores more were threatened or jailed on trumped-up terrorism charges over the past decade.

“ ‘The reality is that the world of Coca-Cola is a world of lies, deceptions, corruption, gross human rights and environmental abuses!” thunders Rogers, a legendary union activist who cut his teeth organizing a highly publicized campaign against textile maker J.P. Stevens & Co. in the 1970s. He slams his hand on a desk. “But this is where it’s going to stop! We’re going to put an end to this once and for all! How many of you will stand up against Coke?” One by one, roughly half the students lift their hands. In response to Rogers’ charges, a Coke spokeswoman says the activist “has no facts to support his claims.’

“Despite the vast generation gap and Coke’s rebuttals, Rogers’diatribes are starting to resonate on campuses from New Haven to Ann Arbor, where his “Killer Coke” campaign has become the latest cause célèbre among student activists — “the new Nike,” as one puts it. At dozens of schools, small but feisty groups of students have demonstrated against the company — like the ones who staged a “die-in” during a 2004 Yale University speech by then-CEO Douglas N. Daft. Already, about 20 colleges in the U.S. and abroad have halted sales of Coke on campus, in part over the Colombia controversy.”

According to Fight Back News, the campaign to boycott ‘Killer Coke’was  “preading across college campuses and communities around the country. The Coca-Cola boycott was launched July 22 by the Colombian food and beverage workers’ union, SINALTRAINAL, to shine a light on the murders of nine Coca-Cola trade unionists there by company-hired death squads.

“Colombia is the world’s most dangerous place for labor activists. Trade unionists in Colombia have been threatened, disappeared and murdered by right-wing military death squads, financed by the Colombian government. Colombia is the third highest recipient of U.S. military aid.

“In response to the call from the workers, the Colombia Action Network has been organizing the boycott from coast to coast. They organized two days of student protest, Oct. 16 and Dec. 5, with enormous success. Over 80 student groups on more than 40 campuses participated in both or one of the days of action. The national days of action gave students the opportunity to stand together and demand that their universities break their exclusive contracts with Coca-Cola and helped to educate other students on the cooperation between Coca-Cola and the right wing paramilitary death squads in Colombia.

“In Chicago, 70 protesters gathered at St. Pious Church and marched to a Coca-Cola distribution center in the Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen. Colombian trade unionist Luis Adolfo Cardona said, ‘ We remember my friend and our lead union negotiator Isidro Gil, who was gunned down seven years ago today by Coca-Cola’s death squads. We build this shrine to Isidro Gil on the steps of Coca-Cola to commemorate him and all the other Colombian workers killed by the death squads of Plan Colombia. Our candles may be blown out by Coca-Cola’s management here tonight, but the struggle for justice will continue to burn in our hearts. Those who struggle for social justice in Colombia have a saying, ‘If you do not organize and fight back, then you are already dead!’ Thank you my friends for supporting the workers and those struggling for social justice in Colombia.’

“Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, students with the Student Labor Action Coalition have been pressuring campus administrators to end their contract with Coke. They have had several educational events on campus since the visit of Colombian trade unionist Luis Cardona. They also organized students to wear red armbands in solidarity with the workers in Colombia, to pass out literature, sign petitions and to drink alternative beverages to Coke.

“In Madison, Wisconsin, community members and students at the University of Wisconsin in the Colombia Action Committee organized a Latin America and Human Rights fair with Amnesty International. Earlier that day they tabled at the Community Action on Latin America’s Fair Trade Fair.”

[And more …]

Stay tuned …

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