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Student Coca-Cola Boycott Gains Victory

Colombian Trade Unionists Deaths Will Not Be Ignored, Pollution in India Will Not Continue
by staff |
July 16, 2005
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Chicago, IL - Students boycotting Coca-Cola have won another victory. At Chicago’s DePaul University on July 7, university administrators from across the U.S. agreed to an independent investigation of the murder of nine Colombian trade unionists who worked at Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola uses death squads to break the Coca-Cola workers’ union - SINALTRAINAL - in Colombia. In India, Coca-Cola has been illegally polluting the water and land of poor peasant farmers.

The students came to DePaul to protest Coca-Cola and meet with administrators from the University of California system, DePaul University, University of Illinois, Duke University, Ohio State and others. These schools are questioning multi-million dollar contracts, most of them exclusive, with Coca-Cola.

Some colleges have already banned Coke products - for example, the College of DuPage and Lake Forest College in Illinois, New Jersey’s Rutgers University and Carleton College in Minnesota.

Coca-Cola is growing more worried and hiring more public relations people to combat the spreading student movement to Boycott Coke.

The University of Michigan, represented at the July 7 negotiations by an administrator and a student, decided in June to set a timeline for Coke to agree to an independent investigation and to take corrective action on both the Coca-Cola murders in Colombia and the pollution of water and farmers lands in India.

At the meeting, University of Michigan’s Clara Hardie announced, “I represent the Student Coalition To Cut The Coca-Cola Contract. We are 5,000 students of 20 student groups, ranging from environmental to human rights groups that have been working on the campaign for over seven months now.”

Colombian trade unionist Luis Adolfo Cardona said, “Twenty-five Colombia solidarity activists and students protested outside while Coca-Cola met with administrators and a few students. Coca-Cola does not want me, as a survivor of kidnapping by a Coca-Cola death squad to be in the same room, telling the truth about the crimes of their multi-national corporation. The students took a principled position.”

Ben Meyer of DePaul Students Coalition Against Coca-Cola reports, “The student representatives all stood up and walked out at 9:30 a.m. We said we were willing to return to the meeting if our demands were met and gave the group an hour to make a decision.”

Ben continued, “A little over an hour later a group of representatives from the commission came down to get us and told us that Coca-Cola was no longer part of the group that would decide on the methodology and logistics for an investigation. Instead, the group, which has been dubbed a ‘working group,’ will consist of students and administrators with advisors who have experience with labor investigations. Needless to say, this was a major victory for us. We returned to the meeting and continued to press our other points.”

Luis Adolfo Cardona said, “The Universities’ Working Group committed to meeting with representatives of my union, SINALTRAINAL, and with representatives from community and peasants groups in India on Aug. 9. Coca-Cola will have to change its policies not only in Colombia, but other parts of the world. The students are doing a very, very good job of campaigning for justice for the oppressed communities and workers of the world!”

Students will continue to press the Coca-Cola Boycott on campuses across the U.S. and Coca-Cola will continue to backpedal and to try to shift blame for the Colombian trade unionists’ deaths on to others. Students will struggle to broaden the scope of the investigation and seek redress for the victims of Coca-Cola death squads, especially victims in the union SINALTRAINAL. Coca-Cola will seek to limit the investigation to current conditions inside the plants where SINALTRAINAL is no longer allowed.

The Colombia Action Network launched the Coca-Cola Boycott here in the U.S. over three years ago, during the time when Coca-Cola death squads were active. Students across the U.S. have taken up the campaign and made it their own, kicking Coke off campus and publicizing the plight of workers and peasants in Colombia and India. The student organizing and activism on campus is the key to winning victories in the ongoing Campaign to Boycott Killer Coke.

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