Thursday, December 29, 2005

University of Michigan Suspends Business with Coca-Cola: Students' Response

After more than a year of student campaigning by the University of Michigan’s Coalition to Cut the Contract with Coca-Cola, the University of Michigan has temporarily suspended University purchasing of Coca-Cola products effective January 1, 2006. While the Coalition to Cut the Contract with Coca-Cola is elated that the university has finally taken this necessary step to enforce its Vendor Code of Conduct, the Coalition is concerned that the University still asserts that the Coca-Cola Company is acting in “good faith” concerning their environmental and human rights violations.

Since April 2005 when the University of Michigan’s Dispute Review Board recommended that the contract with Coca-Cola be cut if reforms were not made by certain deadlines, the Coca-Cola Company has been found guilty of several additional human rights violations, such as union busting in Turkey. Since May 20, 2005, over 100 members of the union DISK/Nakliyat-Ls who distribute Coca-Cola in Turkey have been fired, a move clearly targeted to remove the union from the plant, then beaten violently when they tried to camp out in cardboard boxes in front of the plant to try and win back their jobs. At the same time, in the United States, the Coca-Cola Company has stalled the process of an independent investigation by demanding that the results of any independent investigation be inadmissible as evidence in a Miami lawsuit against the company. Several other universities around the world, the most recent being New York University, have cut or suspended their contracts because of these blatant acts of bad faith, yet Tim Slottow and Peggy Norgren, University of Michigan’s Chief Financial Officer and Associate Vice President for Finance respectively, claim that the Coca-Cola Company has acted in good faith during the last six months.

The Coalition to Cut the Contract with Coca-Cola congratulates the University’s decision to suspend the contract with Coca-Cola in response to Coca-Cola’s past and continuing human rights and environmental violations. The Coca-Cola Company’s efforts to treat those violations as public relations issues, instead of taking the necessary steps to become a socially responsible corporation should not be considered good faith. It is our hope that the University will clearly articulate that the contracts were suspended because Coca-Cola is violating the ethical standards of the University and that the company has done nothing to change.