Thursday, March 22, 2007

Over 40 Detained for Protesting Coca-Cola on World Water Day

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2007

New Delhi (March 22): Over 40 people protesting Coca-Cola’s operations in India have been detained by police authorities in the capital city of New Delhi, India, today.

More than three hundred people had marched to the government of India offices of the Planning Commission to seek action from the government on water issues on World Water Day.

As of this writing, details of the police actions are still coming in and it is not clear what charges, if any, will be filed.

Protesters were demanding that the Planning Commission (chaired by the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh) take immediate action to curb the severe water shortages being experienced by communities across India as a result of Coca-Cola and Pepsico’s mining of groundwater.

“We are here on World Water Day to bring attention to one of the world’s worst abusers of water, the Coca-Cola company,” said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti and National Alliance of People’s Movements, one of the organizers of the march and also detained. “The Coca-Cola company has destroyed the lives of thousands of people in India as a result of its thirst for water.” Carrying signs such as “Coca-Cola Pani Chor” – “Coca-Cola Water Thief”, the protesters were indignant that the government of India has not taken actions to ameliorate the bleak water conditions facing thousands of Indians who live around Coca-Cola and Pepsico bottling plants.

Also detained was Medha Patkar, leader of the National Alliance of People’s Movements.

Coca-Cola's operations in India have come under intense scrutiny as many communities are experiencing severe water shortages as well as contaminated groundwater and soil, directly as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations. The company has also been found to sell products in India with dangerously high levels of pesticides.

“The world needs to know that the Coca-Cola company has an extremely unsustainable relationship with water, its primary raw material. Drinking Coca-Cola contributes directly to the loss of lives, livelihoods and communities in India. On this World Water Day, we encourage people around the world to think before they drink Coca-Cola,” said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization.

Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +91 98103 46161 E:
Rajendra Ravi, National Alliance of People's Movements (Hindi) +91 98682 00316
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Friday, March 16, 2007

Coalition Against Coke Contracts Statement to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Remarks made at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Board of Trustees Meeting on March 13, 2007.

Good morning. My name is Costa Nikolaides. I am a senior at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and I am also the president of the student organization the Coalition Against Coke Contracts. I have asked to speak today to inform the Board of Trustees about the concerns of my organization over the egregious record of human and labor rights violations and environmental degradation of the Coca-Cola company around the world. These concerns are relevant for all of us who are associated with UIUC, due to the fact that the only beverages available on the Champaign-Urbana campus are the products of the afore-mentioned corporation, which forces students, faculty and staff to continue to subsidize the violations of this company.

On September 12, 2006 the Coalition Against Coke Contracts, a broad coalition of students, faculty, staff, and community members in Urbana-Champaign, filed a formal complaint and submitted supporting research to bring to the attention of the university administration the available evidence regarding these allegations. In the over three hundred page documentation of Coca-Cola's outrageous record of human and labor rights violations, and environmental degradation, we outlined why the University of Illinois should take a stronger stance on this issue and join its peer institutions in expressing these concerns to the corporation through non-renewal of any further business relationship with the company. To date, the Chancellor's Office has not taken a leadership role by making a public commitment to upholding its business partners to highest standards of human and labor rights, and environmental stewardship.

The administration's continued public silence concerning its future business relations with Coca-Cola is tantamount to complicity with the company's malpractices, which is a matter of grave concerns for the campus community that support this campaign. We have provided documentation of Coca-Cola's unethical practices in Colombia, Turkey, India and Guatemala. For example, our report outlines the inexcusable manner in which the Coca-Cola company's bottling plants in India have depleted the water table in Plachimada, Kerala and indiscriminately discharged polluted waste water into the fields around its plant. We have also submitted overviews and briefs on Coca-Cola's financial support and active collusion with paramilitary groups to destroy Colombian workers' attempts to organize unions. We would be happy to provide this documentation to the members of the Board upon request.

I would like to stress to the Board that this issue requires urgent attention. In the coming month, the State of Illinois will announce its decision to enter into a state-wide exclusive pouring rights contract. The Chancellor's office has already verified in writing that the University can "opt-out" of the state-wide contract , and exercise the right to choose the vendors it would like to do business with. I would like to make the case that any continuing business relationship with Coca-Cola is damaging to the university's image and mission, and hence not in its best interest . By refusing to enter into business relationships with Coca-Cola, the University of Illinois will make sure that it does not condone socially irresponsible corporations. Additionally, such action will reaffirm the University's commitment to human rights and demonstrate that it takes its membership in the Worker's Rights Consortium and Fair Labor Association seriously.

In closing, we urge the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Herman and Associate Chancellor Bill Adams to conclusively state that the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will not do business with Coca-Cola until the company improves working conditions in factories around the world and addresses the human rights violations and environmental degradation caused by its business and manufacturing practices.

Thank you for your time.
Costa Nikolaides
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Students say no to Coca-Cola at Manchester University Students’ Union

Students say no to Coca-Cola at Manchester University Students’ Union
by Natalie Parkinson
March, 16, 2007

COKE will be in very short supply at University of Manchester Students’ Union (UMSU) after their AGM passed a motion banning it in their shops and bars.

Four hundred votes for the motion to twenty against means students will now be forced to drink another cola at nights out in their students’ union.

Cardiff University students attempted to pass a similar boycott of Coca-Cola last year and attempted to mandate the NUS’S bulk buying arm, to end contracts with Coca Cola. But the motion fell at the annual conference.

However, Manchester’s ban goes much further by resolving “to replace Coke products on sale in all students’ union outlets with Virgin Cola or a suitable alternative”.

The motion at Manchester was proposed as a result of accusations towards the multinational company of violating workers’ human rights and environmental welfare in Columbia, India and Turkey.

The company has also been accused of siphoning water from rivers in India for its factories, causing farmers to struggle without irrigation resources.

The ban comes as campaigners in the UK are trying to remove Coke products from university campuses using the internet to gain support; universities like Oxford, Edinburgh, Bristol, Bradford, Middlesex and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have already passed motions boycotting or banning the drink. Read more!

Union Cites Labor, Human Rights, and Environmental Abuses

March 16, 2007

(Washington, D.C.) – Teamsters rallied today at NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games in Chicago; Spokane, Washington and Columbus, Ohio to urge the NCAA to drop key sponsor Coca-Cola. The union cited concerns about Coca-Cola’s destruction of natural resources in developing countries, its worker and human rights abuses in the U.S. and abroad, and the elimination of good-paying U.S. jobs at Coke bottler and distributor Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE).

Throughout the March Madness playoffs, the Teamsters will hand out leaflets informing NCAA fans about Coke’s troubling environmental and human rights record—including Coke’s possible contamination of water and farmland in India, a current lawsuit against the company for allegedly allowing death squads to murder pro-union employees in Colombia, and a record-breaking $192 million Coke paid to settle a case involving widespread racial discrimination.

The NCAA has designated Coca-Cola as the first official NCAA Corporate Champion. Coca-Cola is a key sponsor of the tournament, and is paying the NCAA $500 million in an 11-year beverage marketing and media rights deal reached in 2002.

“The NCAA should stand for what’s best and brightest in college athletics, including fair play, integrity, and sportsmanship,” said Jack Cipriani, Director of the Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference. “Coke’s record sure doesn’t match those high ethical standards. A company that pollutes, discriminates, destroys good American jobs and may have played a role in the murder of workers is not a company that kids should be looking to as a role model. NCAA Tournament fans deserve to know the truth about a key sponsor of the games”

Here in the United States CCE, Coca-Cola’s largest bottler, plans to eliminate and restructure thousands of middle-class jobs in the U.S. under a new business model. Coke and CCE are engaged in a concerted campaign to destroy job security, pension benefits and health care coverage for the workers and their families. In February, CCE announced plans for job cuts during an investors’ telephone conference call despite Coke executives portraying their economic outlook as “solid.”

“For us, our members come first,” Cipriani said. “But, with Coca-Cola and CCE, workers get the short end of the stick. All this while the current CEO of Coca-Cola was given a 2006 salary, bonus, incentives and perks in excess of $20 million. And the former CEO of CCE was awarded $10 million in cash, stock and other perks in his lavish severance compensation package. The NCAA truly tarnished its image of a fair player when it teamed up with Coca-Cola.”

The Teamsters Union represents more than 14,000 Coca-Cola and CCE employees in the United States and Canada.
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Indian Government Admits, Colas Do Have Pesticides

March 15 from CNN-IBN

New Delhi: The Health Ministry on Wednesday submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court admitting that there are pesticide residues in cold drinks.

The N K Ganguly Committee, set up to study the issue of pesticide content in colas, suggested that a committee be set up to look into the issue of food safety.

The Health Ministry also told the apex court that the Committee had suggested that there are certain pesticides, which have to be monitored for a period for three years After the Health Ministry came out with that affidavit, Coca-Cola India has come out with an official statement.

In its press release, the company says, "Our products are safe and the analysis of the products for the pesticide residue is available on our website. We have always supported the setting up of standards on pesticide residue in soft drinks and welcome the move in that direction."

The Ganguly Committee was set up after Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment revealed that new tests have detected dangerous level of toxins in colas.

A similar CSE report in 2003 had led to a joint Parliamentary probe into the matter. Four years later, the NGO again went public with the findings of its studies, claiming that soft drinks were still not clean.

It claimed that compared to 2003, Pepsi contained 30 times higher pesticide residue on an average and Coca-Cola contained 27 times higher residue.

The NGO claimed that it found three to five different kinds of pesticide residues in all the 57 samples of 11 soft drink brands that it had collected from 25 different manufacturing plants of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, spread over 12 states.
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Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Cola Wars

By David Canfield
Metroland, Read Newspaper
SUNY Albany
March 10, 2007

Citing human-rights abuses, student and labor groups unite in an attempt to remove Coca-Cola products from UAlbany

"In Colombia, you could get killed for organizing a union," said Manuel Ortiz. "[Colombia has] the highest rate of assassinations and murders of trade unionists anywhere in the world. Coca-Cola knows what's going on, and they're just trying to ignore the situation."

Ortiz is a member of the local chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, which joined forces last Thursday (March 1) with local student and labor groups to support Killer Coke, a campaign led by longtime labor organizer Ray Rogers. Killer Coke alledges that Coca-Cola has has turned a blind eye to the brutal crackdown by paramilitary forces on union organizing efforts at their bottling plants in Colombia. The campaign aims to remove Coca-Cola products from college campuses by making students aware of the company's neglect for human rights abroad.

Locally, they are focusing on the University at Albany, which has an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola to sell Coke, Sprite, Vault, Fanta, Nestea, Minute Maid juices, and Dasani water.

The event was sponsored by University Auxiliary Services, which has the contract with Coca-Cola and handles various other UAlbany student services. UAS executive director Julia Filippone said that they want to present a variety of viewpoints in keeping with the university's goal of being a "marketplace of ideas," and that is why Rogers was brought in. "We encourage students to be responsible about their information," she said.

When he was first approached about Coca-Cola's record, Rogers said that the accusations seemed to be "off the wall," but after investigating and uncovering numerous cases where employees of Coca-Cola bottling companies had been murdered by paramilitary forces for trying to unionize, Rogers' organization, Corporate Campaign Inc., adopted the cause.

"We made a commitment that we would get involved," he said. "We're going to put a stop to what's happening in Colombia."

Rogers said that the campaign has gotten Coke products removed from 34 schools—most in the United States, but some in England, Ireland, Canada, and Italy, including some large universities like New York University and Rutgers.

The student groups have set an arbitrary deadline of March 27 for UAlbany to sever their contract with Coke, which expires in 2008. Jackie Hayes, a UAlbany doctoral student interning with the Killer Coke campaign, said that the students plan to make phone calls to university officials, protest outside administration buildings, and finally deliver to the administration, "preferably in a wheelbarrow," all the evidence of Coke's abuses.

The students groups said that it would be ideal for the university to deal with multiple companies instead of one exclusive contract. Hayes said that supporting local businesses would be a good choice. "It's a lot easier, I think, to hold local companies accountable, because it's really difficult when you find out a company like Coca-Cola is committing these human-rights and environmental abuses—they're impenetrable," she said. "They put a lot of money between themselves and their customers, and so there's really no way to hold them accountable for anything that they're doing."

"I don't know if [local companies] can meet our needs," said Filippone, needs that include 200 vending machines, more than 50 fountain mixes, and sales of 1.5 million bottles per year. But she said that, while bidding on the contract has yet to begin, bids will be accepted from any party and that local companies are not out of the question.

The Killer Coke press conference and panel discussion Thursday drew a crowd of about 35. Hayes said that a lot of students aren't even aware of the fact that UAlbany has an exclusive contract with Coke, let alone that the company has a poor human-rights record. "I think a lot of it is that people haven't heard what's going on," Hayes said, "because Coca-Cola does a really good job at fighting that getting out and puts so much money into public relations."

Ray Rogers agreed. "You have to understand that Coca-Cola is a company that spends billions of dollars a year—about 3 billion dollars a year, actually—in advertising to create an image or a reality that has nothing to do with the ugly reality that is the company."

That reality, according to Rogers, is the kidnapping, torture, and murder of union organizers by paramilitary forces. Rogers detailed the accusations during the panel, describing environmental abuses as well. He said that he would like to debate Coca-Cola representatives directly, but that they will not debate him. By the end, his lecture took on a decidedly anti-corporate tone, and Rogers suggested that perhaps they could take on ExxonMobil next.

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of corporate accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fresno City College students win a motion to end Killer Coke’s exclusive vending monopoly

Posted March 6th, 2007 by cdfierro

About 60 students showed up for the Board hearing. The march started at the free speech area and progressed to the district offices at Blackstone & Weldon. Two Fresno City Police Officers were on hand, the board drinking Dasani water with a long list of business for the board to take up. Everyone bunkered down in the hot cramped room, signs in hand that read such things as “Stop Killer Coke,” and “Killer Coke Off Our Campus”

The board members eyes rarely looked up from their agendas. Did this foreshadow the outcome? In fact, during the march to the district offices, several students expressed their muted excitement: “We already know the outcome.” I was also told, “They [the district board] are going to make some symbolic statement, but say they can’t support the students officially.”

When the time finally came for the board to take up the issue of vendor pouring rights, there was noticeable tension in the room. Most of the students present had worked months (or longer) on the campaign. First to speak was Jerry Bill, sociology professor at Fresno City College. Bill’s remarks were brief. He commented on a question asked at the previous board meeting, in which a board member asked, “If the students are concerned about the issue, where are the students?” Motioning with his hand, Bill said, “Here they are.” Bill went on to say, “It is a matter of conscience for the students and the board as well…. The students deserve the right to choose not to drink a beverage that conflicts with their consciences.” Rosanna Spicer, one of the student organizers, followed Jerry Bill to the podium. Spicer held up a petition with 434 signatures of Fresno City College students who wanted Coke’s exclusive rights revoked. Rosanna said, “they [vendors with contracts with the districts] are supposed to serve us; we’re not supposed to serve them.” One of the fears of the district was the loss of monies that might occur if the contract ended. Roseanna responded to these fears by telling the board that the campaign had spoken to other vendors and that they were willing to contract with the district. As Rosanna said, “ other schools have done this and they are still here.”

Nicholas Clark, another student organizer, then walked to the podium. He passionately asked that the board listen to the students on campus, just as the campaign had listened to the students after their initial campaign of having Coke banned on campus failed. The students on campus were in favor of allowing the students a choice of beverages, rather then banning any one beverage from campus. Clark asked the board to do the same.

After Clark finished, an administration official stated that the administration, after looking over the information provided by the campaign and reexamining the issue at the behest of the board, decided that the exclusive pouring rights of Coke should be maintained. The administration official said that their findings supported their decision.

What followed took everyone by surprise. First to speak from the board was board member Dorothy Smith. In a very brief statement, she said, “I support the students’ right to choose.” Board member William J. Smith likewise made his statement brief. “We are here to serve the students…. If it doesn’t hurt us…I don’t see why we can’t honor them.” Board member Phillip J. Forhan continued the sentiment, “I support the students’ choice. I would like to make a motion to support that….To remove the monopoly.” And before Isabel Barrenas, the chair, could ask for a second, student government member Kate Blanco said that in poll conducted on campus over 1000 students supported lifting the exclusive rights; only 26 opposed.

When procedure was reestablished, board member Patrick E. Patterson asked for clarification on the motion, a motion that was pretty straightforward. Forhen clarified that the motion was to “Remove the monopoly….Campuses can choose whatever vender they want, but our decision shouldn’t preclude the students choices for ethical considerations.”

The scene that was surreal for most of the students there, as they never imagined that they might win, became all the more surreal when the questions and comments from Patrick E. Patterson seemed to be dialogue from the robber baron days. Patterson asked Forhan in disbelief, “What you’re saying is that you want to get rid of the monopoly?” Forhan reiterated his earlier motion. Patterson continued in his disbelief, “I want to know what everyone has to say…there hasn’t been a school wide vote…the faculty senate hasn’t voted.” And in a classic red herring, Patterson made the impassioned case for banning all soft drinks on campus because of their sugar content. “This is want we should be worried about, not this [the issue of Coke having exclusive rights].”

Last to speak was the Reedley student government representative, Edward Rea. Rea stated that Reedley students want an exclusive contract. Rea went on to say, “I’m looking at it as a business decision.” Being that Reedley is a smaller campus, the amount of monies lost from the contract would be a larger percentage. Rea then went on to try to lecture the Fresno City student saying, “You say you don’t drink any Coke products? Do you know that Coke makes other products other than Coke? Do you drink any of those?” The respective answers from the students were “Yes!,” “Yes!” and “No!”

After that little exchange the board asked for a roll call and vote. Yea…yea…yea…no…no…yea…yea. With that, board chair Isabel Barrenas said “Motion passed.”
Rosanna Spincer, who happened to be standing in front of me, looked extremely confused. She asked the administration representative, who spoke earlier in favor of the exclusive contract, “what happened?” “The motion passed,” he replied. Still, Rosanna seemed unsure, that was until one of the other student hugged her saying “We did it, I can’t believe it, we won!” A quick thank you to the board, which I don’t think they could hear or see, what with the students clapping and filing out of the board room, and the board continued with their business.

The student campaigners congregated outside for a while, excited and still a little unsure as to what had just taken place. Some were talking on cell phones, telling someone on the other end, “We won…no really we won…yeah, we won.” Expecting to lose, they left with unexpected smiles and hope.
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