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Victories and Losses in the Killer Coke campaign

February 22, 2012

Over the past decade there has been an international campaign to hold the Coca Cola Company accountable for its complicity in the murder of union organizers in Colombia.

This campaign has included unions from all around the world, student groups, environmentalists and religious groups, all of which opposed Coca Cola’s dismal human rights and environmental record.

There have been some recent victories that are worth mentioning in this campaign. First, a Killer Coke supporter and union member found out that Coca Cola had given a $10,000 donation to the United Farm Workers. Members of the Killer Coke campaign contact the UFW and after sharing information about their work and the anti-worker practices of Coca Cola, the UFW terminated their relationship with the multinational beverage company and removed any references to Coca Cola from their website.

Second, after several years of organizing on campus, a student group in Vermont finally got the University of Vermont to terminate its 10-year contract with Coca Cola. The student group worked hard to educate and mobilize students and faculty to exposed Coca Cola’s human rights and environmental record. This was no small feat and it results in Coca Cola losing an estimate 1.1 million bottles of their beverages not being consumed on campus. The student group used many of the great educational resources available through the Killer Coke Campaign, like the one here on the right.

Sadly, there continues to be human rights abuses against union organizers in Colombia. On January 26, in Barranquilla, reports indicate that Ricardo Ramon Paublot Gomez, a leader from Sinaltrainal, the National Union of Food Workers, who was employed by the National Industry of Sodas-Industria Nacional de Gaseosas S.A. (Coca-Cola) was murdered by gunfire.”

Sinaltrainal is the union that represents Coca Cola workers in Colombia and has been the target of numerous assassinations over the years. For decades the Coke union in Colombia has been fighting against unfair labor practices and repression by Coca Cola, the Colombian military and death squads, which has resulted in the numerous union worker deaths.

This most recent murder prompted AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka to send a letter to President Obama urging him to postpone the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia that was signed last fall. Trumka writes, “I am both alarmed and outraged by these murders, especially as they have taken place in such quick succession. I fear that the passage of the Colombia FTA has now given a green light to the enemies of democratic labor unions in Colombia to launch a new wave of anti-union violence, just as happened in Guatemala after the signing of DR-CAFTA.”

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