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Croaker Cola

Repost | 26.03.2004 20:34 | Globalisation | Social Struggles

Here's an interesting article on Coca Cola business taken from the always excellent weekly Schnews issue 447.


Del-Boy would have been proud. Stick some tap water in a fancy bottle, give it a poncy name, brag about the "highly sophisticated purification process" based on Nasa spacecraft technology and then sell it back to the public with an astronomical mark-up! But in true Trotter style the scam seriously back-fired for Coca-Cola last week when its entire UK supply of Dasani water was pulled off the shelves because it has been contaminated with bromate, a cancer-causing chemical.

But while in the UK Coke are just busy ripping off their customers and encouraging people to drink a can which contains six sugarcubes, across the world their fizzy pop actions are a lot more life and death.

Colombia is not the place to be if you are a trade unionist - over 3,000 have been murdered since 1987 - eight of those trade unionists were working at Coke bottling plants. One of them Isidro Segundo Gil was killed inside a Coke bottling plant and his wife murdered by the paramilitaries for campaigning for justice. These colombian bottlers are now part of a legal action in the US under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which accuses the company of collaborating or hiring paramilitaries to murder, torture kidnap and disappear Coca Cola workers and trade unionists.

Last September Coca-Cola's largest Colombian bottler, closed the production lines at 11 of their 16 plants and launched a new offensive against union-affiliated workers in an effort to break support for the food and drink workers union, Sinaltrainal. The company imprisoned workers by force in factories or hotels and pressured them to renounce their employment contracts in return for a measly payout. Then the bottlers suddenly sacked 91 workers from their plants, 70% of whom are union organisers.

So twelve days ago to try to draw world attention to the situation 30 of these sacked workers began a hunger strike in front of six Coke bottling plants. One of them Juan Carlos Galvis, vice president of the local union said, "If we lose the fight against
Coca-Cola, we will first lose our union, next our jobs, and then our lives." He should know. Last August there was an assassination attempt against him, and just a few months ago, in December, his brother-in-law was brutally murdered in an incident that many
human rights groups have linked to anti-union thugs. Just a week into the protest and strikers are already being threatened by the paramilitary who issued a statement declaring "They must leave or they will become a military target and we will finish them off."

Coke of Secrecy

Insufficient rains for the past three years has pushed the state of Kerala in India to a severe drought-like situation. Reports from across the state say that the water levels in reservoirs are going down fast, crops are perishing and towns and villages have been hit by drinking water scarcity. So what are the caring Coca-Cola Company that "exists to benefit and refresh everyone it touches" doing? Sucking peoples water dry so they can produce their sugary crap of course.

Coke have been the focus of protests across India for the past few years. In Plachimada in the state of Kerla the company arrived three years ago, building a plant in the middle of fertile agricultural land because it had plentiful supplies of groundwater. But it wasn't long before problems began. Farmers living nearby began noticing changes in the quantity and quality of well water. Water from a well in the village of Plachimada became unfit for drinking, cooking and bathing with a district medical officer eventually telling the villagers their water was now toxic. Crop yields began to plummet. The water scarcity eventually hit Coke. Until recently, the company was drawing 1.5 million litres a day from the common groundwater resource - then it is only able to extract 800,000 litres - the remainder being brought in by truck from borewells from neighbouring villages. Fed up with this people recently blocked two of these transporters and instead distributed the water to local people and emptied the remaining water into paddy fields!

But while complaints and requests to the company and Government repeatedly fell on deaf ears locals began an indefinite picket (or 'agitation' as they call it) outside the factory gates demanding its closure. So far they've been there for nearly seven hundred
days with over 300 arrests. Now due to the severe drought the local authority has refused to renew the companies license to operate. The vice-president of Coca-Cola India, Sunil Gupta said:
"We have a long-term commitment to the people of Kerala. We hope the State Government would explore the possibility of finding a solution to the present problem of water availability due to deficient rain in the last couple of years." SchNEWS reckons that
solution would be for the company to stop stealing the peoples water and bugger off out of India".

When you look at just two examples of how Coke are behaving across the world you have to ask yourself - what would happen if any of us did the same. Intimidating and shooting people who joined trade unions, or stealing and contaminating peoples' water supply? But
then it's not people doing this but a powerful multinational whose actions Medha Patkar, coordinator of the Indian National Alliance of People's Movements says "are symbolic of the vulgar arrogance and criminal power of corporations." Or as Joel Bakan put it in
his new book 'The corporation: the pathological pursuit of profit and power' "As a psychopathic creature, the corporation can neither recognise nor act upon moral reasons to refrain from harming others. Nothing in its legal make-up limits what it can do to others in pursuit of its selfish ends, and it is compelled to cause harm when the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs." It's up to people to make sure that the costs to these psychopaths make it impossible for them to keep getting away with such behaviour.

For more about Colombia and the worldwide boycott campaign
For more on Indian protests

* There's a vigil this Friday (26) 7.30 p.m. onwards to coincide with negotiations between Colombian union and senior managers, followed by a picket tomorrow (27) 11 am to 3pm Both outside Coca Cola Great Britain and Ireland HQ, 1 Queen Charlotte Street,
Hammersmith, London W6 (adjacent to Hammersmith tube). 07743743041

* Former Coke Chief Executive Roberto Goizueta defined the world as ''Coke versus people who don't drink Coke yet.'' This sort of expansionist megalomania has meant that the company has willingly jumped into bed with anyone in order to expand its empire. One of
those was the Nazi regime, where Coke produced some impressive adverts that for some reason are now hard to come by. So comedian Mark Thomas has organised an exhibition to recreate Coke's Nazi adverts in May at the
Nancy Victor Gallery, 36 Charlotte Street,
London W1T 2NA and at
The Foundry, near Old Street Tube. Anyone is
welcome to submit artwork

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Picket Outside Coca-Cola HQ, London - TODAY (Saturday 27th)

27.03.2004 03:30

Outside Coca Cola Great Britain and Ireland HQ, 1 Queen
Charlotte Street, Hammersmith, London W6 (adjacent to Hammersmith tube).

Picket wil be out on the street at the back entrance of the building, where there is emblazoned a huge Coca-Cola logo above the street.
Directions: Turn immediate left out of shopping precinct and walk round the corner (tube station entrance is inside precinct).

The latest is that 5 hunger strikers have been hospitalised and union President Luis Javier Correa has lost a lot of weight.

Colombia Solidarity Campaign
- Homepage:

Colombia Solidarity Campaign web ref

27.03.2004 03:35

web ref didn't transfer in previous comment. It is:


Boycott Coca Cola

27.03.2004 04:22

Boycott Coca Cola (part of Boycott Israel Campaign)

- Homepage:

links for info + action

29.03.2004 11:14

Colombia Solidarity Campaign:

Justice for Colombia: