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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 Speak Out Against Coca Cola’a Human Rights Violations

    We are writing this letter to take part in their invitation to engage in ‘open dialogue’ and refute some of Coke’s public relations propaganda. In addition, if Coke does propose to engage in dialogue with students, we would like to invite representatives to take time and visit our campus in order to engage in this open and transparent dialogue.

    Yes, it is true that Colombia experiences significant challenges, and Coca-Cola is taking advantage of these situations. The Colombian government, multinational companies like Chiquita and Coca-Cola, and the paramilitary death squads all have something in common: they don’t want any social movements, particularly a strong labor or human rights movement that can challenge their authority, profits or brutality. In January 2004, New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate led a fact-finding mission to Colombia to investigate allegations of intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders. The delegation’s report concluded: ”hellip;there are troubling eyewitness accounts of paramilitaries having unrestricted access to Coke plants and of paramilitaries consorting with company managers’hellip;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.’

    Coke frequently defends itself against such accusations by misleading students, faculty and administrators. For example, Coke lies about the percentage of Coke workers in unions; they falsely claim 31 percent. However, Coca-Cola considers that the vast majority of Coke workers in Colombia are not employees, but rather ‘flexible,’ subcontracted workers who have no chance of union representation, receive low pay and meager benefits (if any), have no job security and often are living under poverty. Due to Coke’s campaign of terror directed at union leaders, only about 4% of Coke’s workers in Colombia belong to unions. Recently, two groups of subcontracted workers attempted to join SINALTRAINAL, the major union representing Coke employees, but were fired.

    Since the start of the campaign against the Coca-Cola Company, it has found itself banned from many organizations and groups. The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) divested 1.25 million shares of Coca-Cola Company stock and has banned further investments because Coke does not meet TIAA-CREF’s standards as a socially responsible company. Students from at least 45 colleges and universities, including Rutgers and New York University, have spearheaded movements against Coke and over 30 have kicked Coke off their campuses. Many of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions, including the United University Professions (UUP), New York State United Teachers and the California Federation of Teachers, have banned Coke products from their facilities and functions and called on their members to boycott Coke. Many organizations at Stony Brook have also banned Coca-Cola. These include the Stony Brook chapter of UUP, the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) and the Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU).

    Coke’s responds to accusations regarding their imposed environmental damage in India by claiming that they are ‘committed to global water stewardship.’ They say that they have launched projects with the World Wildlife Fund ‘to help protect and preserve seven of the world’s most critical freshwater river basins.’ It is in India where the Coca-Cola company’s abuse of water resources have been challenged, and communities across India living around Coca-Cola’s bottling plants have organized in large numbers to demand an end to the mismanagement of water. In fact, it is the protests in India that have forced the company to announce the abovementioned project. Interestingly, this public announcement does not even include initiatives in India!

    In a long list of countries – including Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Turkey, and the United States – Coke has been, and continues to be, the target of much anger, criticism and protest. Coke responds as it always has when confronted with evidence of labor, human rights and environmental abuses. The Company practices damage control and spends billions of dollars annually to bolster an image that masks its ugly reality. Their submission to The Statesman is yet another tactic used to deceive students. We ask that you please do not allow yourself to be deceived. If you wish to learn more about the issues we have presented please visit www.killercoke.org and www.indiaresource.org.

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