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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Students Organize Against Coca-Cola

    Last Thursday, Jan. 25th, the ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Coke’ called on a day of action, as 16 schools from around the country, including Stony Brook University students, voiced their opposition to the purchasing policies of their institutions. The campaign is part of a world-wide effort by students at hundreds of schools to shed light on several unethical practices used by the Coca-Cola Company. To date, 14 U.S. schools have cut their ties with all Coca-Cola products, Swarthmore being the latest to join in.

    Labor unions in Columbia, whose workers are employed in Coke’s bottling factories, have charged the corporation with complacency over kidnappings, death threats and murders. Last year over 150 trade unionists were murdered in Columbia. The story has received little attention abroad until recently, when a trade union called SINALTRAINAL alleged, in court, that one of the world’s largest multi-national corporations was involved in the killing and persecution of union activists.

    In a Miami court, the Union is suing Coca-Cola and some of its bottling partners in Columbia, arguing that the defendants hired, contracted or otherwise directed Para-military forces in kidnapping, murdering or silencing union leaders whose goal was to defend workers’ rights. SINALTRAINAL Vice President Juan Carlos Galvis has said, ‘If we lose the fight against Coca-Cola, we will first lose our Union, next our jobs and then our lives.’

    The Columbian Government says Carlos Castano, leader of the Right Wing United Self-Defense group of Columbia, is the mastermind behind most of the killings. The ultra violent paramilitary group has around 12,000 armed fighters and is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization. Labor Unions such as SINALTRAINAL and social activists alike are seen as threats by the group, standing in the way of minimizing labor costs.

    One of the group’s objectives is to do away with rights that workers have enjoyed due to collective bargaining agreements. Coca-Cola is not accused of direct involvement in the alleged crimes but the Union claims Coke is aware of the situation and has failed to act accordingly. Coca Cola has denied the allegations in an open letter saying, ‘The Company respects the laws of the countries in which it operates and requires its bottling partners to do the same. The union’s effort is nothing but an effort to besmurge the company’s reputation.’

    The Coca-Cola Co. has also been under fire in other areas of the world. In India, Coke’s largest plant has been shut down, while thousands protest the company’s pollution of scarce water resources and high levels of pesticides in its drinks. Some note that Pepsi Co. has shown a similar disregard for human rights and working conditions.

    However, the fact remains that Coke is the world’s largest beverage cooperation and so must set the standard of operations for other companies to follow. Stony Brook University officials have yet to take notice. Hopefully the on campus demonstration last Thursday, along with the recent surge in schools around the country banning Coca-Cola products will force them to take action. For more information regarding the Killer Coke Organization or the paramilitary in Columbia, visit www.killercoke.org.

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