Activist debate: Can we drink Coca Cola?

Submitted by AWL on 22 July, 2003 - 11:11

By Mark Osborn

The Colombia Solidarity Campaign (CSC) has called a big protest in London, 22 July, to mark an international day of action against Coca Cola (6pm, Piccadilly Circus).
The CSC says:
“The World Social Forum has declared 22 July as the International Day of Action against Coca Cola and the start of a year-long boycott of their products, in solidarity with Sinaltrainal, the Colombian food and drink workers’ union.

“The union has suffered the assassination of eight of their leaders, killed by death squads hired by Coca Cola’s management, since 1990. The union has also seen the imprisonment, arbitrary detention, torture and forced displacement of hundreds of workers at Coca Cola bottling plants throughout Colombia.”

The CSC quotes Carlos Julia from Sinaltrainal as saying: “We ask Coca Cola to stop the killing… and you to stop drinking Coke.”
However, the International Union Federation, IUF, has come out to oppose a boycott.

They state: “Sweeping, unsubstantiated allegations and assertions of the type found in the boycott appeal do nothing to help the cause of the unions that organise and represent Coca-Cola workers around the world, the majority of which are members of the IUF.

“The call for a boycott of Coca-Cola was unanimously rejected at the recent IUF global meeting that included 27 IUF-affiliated organisations from 23 countries representing more than 100 Coca-Cola workers’ trade unions around the world.”

They comment: “The IUF and its affiliates have consistently protested at the Colombian government’s failure to provide protection to all union leaders and activists… We have always called for a full investigation of these crimes and vigorous prosecution of the perpetrators and those responsible for their actions

“Our record of struggle at Coca-Cola, and our commitment to trade union rights within the Coca-Cola system, is a matter of public record… In Russia, after nearly a decade of anti-union practices following Coca-Cola’s implantation in the former Soviet Union, workers have recently signed a first collective agreement in Moscow, with the support of the IUF and its affiliates

“It is worth noting that Coca-Cola has a significantly higher trade union membership density than its major competitor PepsiCo, a company which can more accurately be described as consistently anti-union. A serious, sustained campaign for global respect for trade union rights must take account of the global environment in which the company operates, a factor overlooked by supporters of the boycott.

“The collective efforts of the IUF and our affiliates are not assisted by unsubstantiated and unverified assertions about the company which cannot be credibly defended and which The Coca-Cola Company has little difficulty in refuting. Serious accusations against the company over issues relating to trade union rights may now lose credibility because of misleading information being circulated in various versions of the boycott call.”

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