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Coca-Cola's murderous record of anti-union activity in Colombia exposed

Saturday, May 22, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Coca-Cola, Colombia, health news

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(NaturalNews) Coca-Cola: to many, it is simply the all-American cola that everyone grew up drinking. Originally created in the late 1800s as a medicine, Coca-Cola eventually evolved into one of the world's most popular soft drinks. Besides being a very unhealthy beverage, Coca-Cola has another dirty secret for which few people are aware; the Coca-Cola Company has been involved in a series of kidnappings involving union leaders and organizers at its Colombia bottling facilities. Many of those kidnapped have been severely tortured and even murdered by company thugs.

As shocking and unbelievable as all of this sounds, there is a trail of documented evidence against Coca-Cola for its crimes against union officials. In fact, back in 2001, the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund, filed a joint lawsuit on behalf of SINALTRAINAL to address the problems in Colombia.

Javier Correa, President of the National Union of Food Industry Workers, and William Mendoza, President of the Barrancabermeja location in Colombia, have joined together with Ray Rogers, Director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, to bring light to the issue and push for an end to the atrocities.

How did it all start?
Most people recognize that unions are formed to protect workers from unfair treatment and abuse by employers. Though some do not operate as intended, the general idea of unions is to ensure that workers are receiving fair pay for their labor and that they are not being grossly extorted by those for whom they work.

U.S. laws have been designed to protect American workers who form labor unions from being threatened or silenced by the companies for whom they work, and while they are not perfect, their intent was for the best interests of American workers.

When workers at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia began to step up and organize unions, the Coca-Cola Company allegedly began to contract with paramilitary security forces to deal with leaders and organizers, something they would not legally be able to do in the U.S. Even today, these forces are using extreme tactics to silence anyone who would dare attempt to organize workers to form a union. These tactics include violent detention efforts, torture and even murder.

Internal Pentagon records that were eventually required to be made public revealed that Colombian troops connected with Coca-Cola's paramilitary forces were also being trained at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (SOA) in Fort Benning, Georgia, to torture and murder those who conduct "union organizing and recruiting", distribute "propaganda in favor of workers", and "sympathize with demonstrators or strikes."

Is this an isolated incident?
This is not the first time, or the first country, in which Coca-Cola has been responsible for severe human rights abuses. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the company was responsible for similar behavior in Guatemala, where eight workers in Guatemala City were murdered or otherwise killed for trying to keep their union alive.

Thanks to massive international protests against Coca-Cola following campaigns that brought the truth to light, the multi-national giant was forced to concede and the Guatemalan union survived. But at the time, even the government of Guatemala was unwilling to address the issue; it took the efforts of concerned citizens around the world to win the battle against Coca-Cola and achieve some sort of justice.

The Coca-Cola Company has also been accused of similar human rights abuses in other countries today, including in developing countries like India and China where it has plants. Because the company is so large and powerful, it exerts considerable sway on governments worldwide that turn a blind eye to its abuses.

What is being done to stop Coca-Cola?
The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke has been working for years to bring awareness of these atrocities to light, but unfortunately not much has been resolved in Colombia. And the fact that certain sensitive documents reveal that the U.S. government is playing a role in protecting Coca-Cola adds fuel to the fire. Fortunately, the campaign has been able to successfully initiate some positive steps towards ending Coca-Cola's Colombian tyranny.

In 2006, the University of Michigan, New York University, and a handful of other colleges and universities in North American and Europe cut ties with Coca-Cola because the company would not agree to an independent, third-party audit of its human rights, labor and environmental abuses in both Colombia and India.

Also in 2006, as the World Cup was coming to London with Coca-Cola as one of its primary sponsors, "War on Want" issued a report detailing some of Coca-Cola's abuses around the world. These included:

-Massive drilling efforts in India that exhausted local water supplies and wells, leaving Indian farmers with no water to irrigate their crops.

-Ecosystem contamination in El Salvador and India due to plant waste discharge.

-The human rights abuses taking place in Colombia, as well as in Pakistan, Turkey, Russia, Peru, Chile, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Demonstrators obstructed the torch relay at the 2006 winter Olympics, exposing many to the truth about Coca-Cola, and held protests at the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver as well. Since Coca-Cola is the exclusive non-alcoholic beverage provider to the Olympic Games through 2020, the Games are a primary target for demonstrators.

The Coca-Cola Case, a new documentary
A new documentary called The Coca-Cola Case, which highlights the human rights abuses of the Coca-Cola company, was recently screened in a few Canadian theaters. Hundreds of people, including many students, viewed the movie which, hopefully will make its way into the U.S.

Directed by German Gutierrez and Carmen Garcia, the film tracks labor-rights lawyers Daniel Kovalik and Terry Collingworth, as well as Ray Rogers from the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, in their efforts to hold the Coca-Cola company accountable for its atrocities. Part of the film highlights the 2001 lawsuit hinged upon the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreigners to sue American companies in American courts for violating "the law of nations or a treaty of the United States."

This film has the potential to ignite a firestorm of pressure against the Coca-Cola Company and force the company to change its ways.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke resources
The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke also has a variety of useful resources on its website, including informational flyers, articles and special reports. The group also issues a periodic newsletter to keep interested parties aware of current events that pertain to campaign efforts.

The Campaign's offensive tactics against Coca-Cola are having an impact. Considering that Coca-Cola is one of the most powerful multi-national corporations in the world, it is impressive that numerous institutions of higher learning have already banned Coca-Cola products, and many more are taking steps to ban them as well. As awareness continues to increase, a point of critical mass will be achieved for which Coca-Cola will have to acknowledge and address the issue.

It is also important to note that the Coca-Cola Company owns numerous other beverage brands, including the healthy juice brand, Odwalla.

To learn more about the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and to get involved in the efforts to stop the human rights abuses of the Coca-Cola Company, please visit www.killercoke.com.

Sources for this story include:

http://www.killercoke.org/

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