Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Shopkeeper took on Coke - and won

· Accusation of bullying tactics ends in record fines
· Multinational appeals against Mexican rulings

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
Thursday November 17, 2005


The 49-year-old owner of a tiny corner shop in a rundown part of Mexico City has done what few of her compatriots thought possible: taken on Coca-Cola and won. "Everybody got scared and told me I was crazy and I'd be ruined," Raquel Chavez recalled. "I said I'd rather die with my dignity intact than be trampled on."
Mrs Chavez's allegations that the soft-drink giant was trying to bully her into taking other products off her shelves lie at the heart of a 157 million peso fine (£8.6m) imposed by the federal competition commission against a Coke subsidiary and 15 distributors after a two-year investigation. A second fine of £31m prompted by a complaint from Pepsi followed; the largest fine ever imposed by the watchdog.

The cases revolved around allegations that Coca-Cola and its distributors abused their dominant position in the market, threatening shopkeepers with taking away promotional fridges and other material if they continued to display, or in some cases stock, rival products.

Although decided in the summer, neither penalty was announced owing to the watchdog's policy of keeping quiet until the appeals process is completed. Spokesmen from both it and Coke have confirmed the rulings, but said appeals are under way. "We're presenting arguments that our business practices do comply with Mexican competition laws," a Coca-Cola spokesman, Charlie Sutlive, told the Guardian.

These are the multinational's first fines in Mexico, a country governed by a former Coke executive and where more Coca-Cola products are consumed per capita than anywhere else in the world. Coke accounts for about 70% of a carbonated drinks market that is so ingrained in daily life that police use "for my softdrink" as code to ask for a bribe, and fizzy drinks have become part of religious rituals in some indigenous communities.

The fines, if upheld, would be of little economic concern for Coca-Cola in Mexico, but represent a blow to the company's image. They delight Mrs Chavez, who, as she told her story on an upturned Coke crate outside her shop, showed little concern that she will not see any of the cash.

Years of resentment about the company's tactics, she said, developed into confrontation in 2003 when her distributor sought to stop her selling Big Cola. Cheaper than Coke and sold in extra-large bottles, the Peruvian brand is becoming popular in working-class areas like her own. Mrs Chavez alleged that Coca-Cola had tried to make her and other small shopkeepers stop stocking the Peruvian upstart by threatening to take away their fridges, awnings and the free gifts used to entice clients. "I told him I may only have a tiny shop, but I would be ashamed to practise business the way you do."

Mrs Chavez claimed such run-ins prompted the distributor to refuse to supply her, a move that led to her decision to lodge a complaint at the competition commission. The complaint was later expanded by Big Cola. Aware that no shop in Mexico can survive without selling Coke, Mrs Chavez borrowed money to buy from more expensive wholesale outlets. She hauled the crates up the hill to her shop by herself as her husband watched, furious at his wife's stubbornness.

"I thought that they were going to be able to say to me, 'Look, ant, we stamped on you,'" she said. "I am so proud." Read more!

Mathrubhumi wins suit against Coca Cola

A sub court in Kochi has dismissed a suit filed by Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Ltd, Palakkad, seeking Rs 50 lakh damages from Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi for publishing a news report against it.

Coca Cola had alleged in the suit, filed before the Ernakulam sub court, that the newspaper had carried a report on December 21, 2003, stating that its soft drink contained toxic materials, including insecticides, which was damaging to the company.

The company had stated that most of the imputations made by Mathrubhumi were 'baseless' and were a 'calculated' move to curb the sale of the soft drink. The news item contained a message that people should abandon Coca Cola and switch over to tender coconut, the soft drink major alleged.

Justifying their stand, the newspaper filed a detailed reply refuting all the allegations.

It submitted that the said news report was published in public interest and was based on scientific reports, findings of the Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment and the Joint Parliamentary Committee headed by Sharad Pawar, which looked into the Coca Cola affair.

The suit was dismissed by sub judge Ragini on Monday after the counsel for Coca Cola failed to turn up. Read more!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

CONVERGE on ATLANTA at the WORLD OF COCA-COLA on Friday, November 18


Join the international movement for justice and human rights against the Coca-Cola Company for murder, torture, pollution, and union-busting throughout the world!

CONVERGE on ATLANTA at the WORLD OF COCA-COLA on Friday, November 18 on the way to SOA demonstration!

At the Entrance of the World of Coca-Cola - Friday, November 18, 2005, noon
55 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (at Central Ave) Atlanta, GA

Noon - Rally & Press Conf with William Mendoza, Coca-Cola Worker & Vice President of SINALTRAINAL (Colombian Food & Beverage Workers' Union)

We are preparing for what we believe will be a turning point in the campaign to hold Coke accountable for violence in Colombia & India as well as Turkey, Indonesia and Guatemala. Coke has been doing everything it can to not only discredit the union SINALTRAINAL in Colombia and grassroots movements in India and elswhere, but also to deflate the global student movement. Coke's arrogance and blatant negligence has only expanded the campaign and fueled student militancy on campus - victory is near and we need your support! Come to the World of Coca-Cola to protest with hundreds of folks coming down to demonstrate against the School of the Americas!

The Press Conference & Rally is the culmination of the North American Speaking Tour with SINALTRAINAL Vice President William Mendoza and United Students Against Sweatshops that has hit schools and communities from Tallahassee to Seattle, Toronto to Los Angeles, Chicago to Knoxville! At the the World of Coca-Cola on November 18, we will see people of conscience and action, including workers from Colombia & the United States, gather to say "Stop Killer Coke"!

Since 1986, roughly 4,000 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered. The vast majority of these murders have been carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups, known as 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. The Colombian Food & Beverage Workers 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. and labor and social justice movements have answered their call.

In India communities living next to Coca-Cola bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages and polluted groundwater resources and soil. In at least two communities, Coca-Cola was distributing its toxic waste under the guise of fertilizer and repeated tests have confirmed that Coca-Cola was selling sub-standard products in the Indian marketplace with levels of pesticides exceeding 30 times those allowed by the European Union standards.

A massive grassroots movement has emerged in India to hold Coca-Cola accountable for its crimes, and literally tens of thousands of community members, primarily from rural India, are taking action to put an end to Coca-Cola's abuses. The community opposition to Coca-Cola in India continues to grow and no amount of misinformation by Coca-Cola is going to stop it.

Demand: Coca-Cola Take Responsibility & Immediate Action for Truth, Justice, & Reparations!

Contact information: Camilo A. Romero || 510.7174227 || ||

Join us in taking an important and historic step for local peace and global justice! Spread the word about the Stop Killer Coke campaign and the November 18 action in Atlanta! Read more!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Coalition Against Coke Contracts invites you to two public talks by Amit Srivastava

Venue: Allen Hall, South Rec. Room (1005 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana)
When: Thursday, November 3, 2005, 5:00 pm

Venue: Urbana Independent Media Center (202 S. Broadway, Urbana)
When: Friday, November 4, 2005, 6:00 pm

About Amit Srivastava:
Amit Srivastava is the Coordinator of India Resource Center and the Director of Global Resistance. Amit coordinated the Climate Justice Initiative and International Programs at CorpWatch from 1997-2002. Prior to CorpWatch, he worked as Community Organizer with the Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA) in California, working with low-income, Chinese immigrant women working in the garment industry. He has also served as the National Organizer and Training Director with the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), the largest student environmental organization in the US at the time.
Read more!