January 24, 2008

Beating Up On Killer Coke!

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I'm hardly the best one here at FotM to blog about the student movement, but lately Modern Pitung has been ricocheting between schadenfreude and naked rage on the Suharto Death Watch. Soon I'm sure he'll have some things to say about the startling off-the-media-radar growth of the new SDS.

Me, I'm not going there. But today my email in-box featured the latest issue of the Stop Killer Coke Newsletter, and I decided to give this excellent campus-based corporate campaign against Coca-Cola some play. You can check out their website at killercoke.org but I strongly suggest signing up for their infrequent and informative newsletter.

So far, they've driven Coca Cola products out of over 45 campuses, protesting a range of corporate outrages, but focusing on the death-squad murders of trade unionists at Coke-affiliated bottling companies in Colombia. As usual, the newsletter reports on lively protests, more than 20 this time, and a few new campus victories. I want to highlight one in the City University system here in NYC, because of the moving letter they sent to give Coke the bad news:

As an Institute of the City University dedicated to the education of union members and New York City workers, we want you to know that we are removing all Coca Cola products from vending machines in our facility. We cannot support a company in blatant violation of the basic right of all workers to organize for just, humane, and decent working conditions. In solidarity with workers in Colombia, we refuse to buy any of your products, and ask that you stop your violent reprisals against those seeking their rights as workers and as human beings.

As an individual, I must add my voice to those who object to your treatment of Colombian workers because my father worked for Coca Cola Bottling Company in Asbury Park, New Jersey for more than 40 years, and served as a Teamster shop steward for some of that time. I owe it to his memory to speak out against actions he would deplore by a company to which he gave so much of his life.

Deborah D'Amico, Senior Program Developer, PhD
Joseph Murphy Institute


The spotlight generated by this campaign, which has also involved many US and European unions has undoubtedly saved the lives of trade unionists, not just at Coke bottlers, but throughout Colombia, the deadliest country in the world for trade union activists. So again I urge you to support the campaign (I've been adorning vending machines with their little Killer Coke stickers for years) and subscribe to the newsletter, which will drop a shot of struggle and success in your inbox when you least expect it.

[Formal disclaimer: As far as I know Quiero Club has no formal connection with the campaign against Killer Coke, but this nifty little video can't hurt. Plus which, I think it rocks. Sue me.]

1 comment:

Chris said...

The Coke campaign keeps on rolling. I ran into support for the campaign at a small Catholic college my daughter was attending where there was no other noticeable activism.

And speaking of Colombia, now's the time to weigh in on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Condi Rice is shepherding Congressional Democrats on 2 day stops in places like Medellin skyscrapers with the aspiring petit-bourgeois, explaining that all is well in the most dangerous place on the planet to be a trade unionist. Medellin has a bustling middle class in a town where national policy is to turn the city into a health care center--for the upper classes from throughout South America who can fly into town for plastic surgery to rid themselves of those pesky wrinkles--while the poor do without the privatized health care and public hospitals in Bogota are shuttered. Health care, too, has a future as an export commodity in the frozen neoliberal future.

Similar to the impact on corn in Mexico, the Colombia FTA will flood rice and poulty producing areas of Coolombia with US subsidized product and put several hundred thousand folks out of the work. If they head North to work, the same free-traders will be screaming some more about "illegal" immigrants.

Fortunately, on this one the AFL-CIO has held strong, gaining the appreciation of some Colombian skeptics who are usually understandably wary of the federation. Two union presidents, Larry Cohen of the CWA and Leo Gerard of the Steelworkes (who is Canadian actually) are headed for their own visit to Colombia in a couple of weeks and will do their own lobbying of wayward Democrats. If this one passes, the paramilitares get the final green light and we can offically declare human rights dead in the hemisphere.

At a Jobs with Justice protest in Boston yesterday, we dropped a coffin in front of the Colombian Consulate. Try that, or call your Congressman, or write a letter to the editor, or the internvention of your choice.