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The Coke 16’s fight against racial discrimination in Coca-Cola plants

May 18, 2012

This article is re-posted from the site

Coca-Cola workers at Coke operations in New York State have linked up with the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke/Corporate Campaign, Inc. to help in their fight for justice. The Coke 16 is a group of black and Latino workers employed at plants in Maspeth (Queens) and Elmsford (Westchester). The New York Daily News dubbed them the Coke 16, although the group is growing much larger. We are also working with victims alleging racial discrimination at Coke’s operations in Smithtown (Long Island).

Here is an except from the opening statement in the Coke 16 lawsuit:

1. Coca-Cola may be an enjoyable refreshment for most, but its black and Hispanic workers produce Coca-Cola’s beverages in a cesspool of racial discrimination. There is an endemic culture of racism at Coca-Cola that runs through its management and supervisors at its New York bottling plants in Elmsford and Maspeth. The 16 Plaintiffs herein have suffered from the worst of its ills in terms of biased work assignments and allotment of hours, unfair discipline and retaliation, and a caustic work environment.

2. Black and Hispanic production workers at Coca-Cola are typically assigned to the most undesirable and physically dangerous positions, and to tasks that are outside of their job descriptions. Meanwhile, the managers contravene the established seniority system by giving better jobs and more overtime hours to white workers with less seniority than minority workers. As several of the Plaintiffs have found, opportunities for advancement and promotion within the company are routinely biased against minority workers. Finally, the truck drivers among the Plaintiffs have had their hours unfairly limited and prevented from working overtime, while white drivers do not have to face these problems.

3. Those among the Plaintiffs who have dared to speak up about the discrimination to managers or human resources have not only found no resolution to their concerns, but instead have faced swift retaliation from the white managers. This retaliation has come in the form of unwarranted scrutiny and unfair disciplinary actions, up to the point of suspension and termination for some of the Plaintiffs.”

On April 16, the Coca Cola Company hosted its annual shareholders meeting, but the Coke bosses did everything they could to avoid discussing the Coke 16 case.

At April’s Coca-Cola annual meeting, in an orchestrated effort to avoid any tough questions about the Coke 16 racial discrimination lawsuit, Coke Chairman/CEO Muhtar Kent tried to take the offense by claiming a question on the Coke 16 had been emailed to the Company.

The question was submitted through the Shareowner Forum by a user named ELV1152. “I’ve been following the lawsuit against your company in the paper that claims some of your employees in New York are once again subject to racial discrimination at work. How do you explain this and what are you doing to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen?”

Kent had his answer prepared although he tried to make it seem as though he had never seen the question. During his answer, he looked around at the audience and, in a poor acting job, asked:

“…Is there anyone in the audience that are from those two locations?” pretending as though he did not know that they were present. Five Coke employees WERE present and they stood. Kent stated: “If there’s anybody who’d like to, afterwards, talk to our representatives, associates, from those two locations, please feel free to do so.” Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Director Ray Rogers went up to one of them, Pat Dixon, at the end of the meeting, but he adamantly refused to speak to Ray.

See the video of Kent addressing racial discrimination; Ray addressing racial discrimination and the Coke 16, and Kent responding to Ray. The five Coke “representatives” stood up at 1:57 of the video; Dowin Lewis is the second person on the left.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 11, 2012 8:46 pm

    it’s discrimination everywhere, in this instance i’m glad your standing together. It could be worse like in pennsylvania where mandatory minnimum wage is being forced on employee’s whose worked and earned every cent they made over the years i hope your in they’re corner as we are in yours!

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