Killer Coke Campaign Criticizes University of Michigan and Coke

An international group working to pressure Coke for its labor abuses in Colombia is criticizing the company’s response to a recent study by the International Labor Organization that examines Coke’s behavior in Colombia.

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The Killer Coke Campaign has issued a new report responding to both an International Labor Organization study about Coca-Cola’s labor practices in Colombia and the Coca-Cola’s response to the study.

For the past several years, student activists at the University of Michigan have been campaigning to get the University to stop selling Coca-Cola products due to Coca-Cola’s human rights abuses in Colombia. The campaign has gone through a number of ups and downs, with victories at some points such as temporarily suspending the sale of Coke products, and setbacks.

In October, a much anticipated study by the International Labor Organization was released. The University of Michigan and Coke both heralded the study as showing that concern over Coke’s labor abuses are misplaced. However, the Killer Coke Campaign has released a report thoroughly debunking the assessment. From the summary:

“Both The Coca-Cola Co. and the University of Michigan are trying to use the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO) Evaluation Mission report to whitewash the allegations of widespread labor and human rights abuses in Coke bottling plants in Colombia. Although the report is actually damaging to Coke, it in no way touches upon or was meant to be an investigation of human rights abuse allegations involving Coca-Cola bottlers in Colombia as was claimed by the company since Spring 2006.”

The Killer Coke report is highly critical of the limits of the study–it looks only at current and not past abuses–and the way in which it has been used by some to bolster the soft drink manufacturer’s standing. However, Killer Coke points out that regardless of the response of some, the ILO report shows serious labor relations problems with outsourced workers who are used by Coke as a means of preventing workers from forming unions.

Coca-Cola has downplayed this finding, pointing to information in the study showing that Coca-Cola respects the labor rights of “direct employees” hired by the company.

Elsewhere in Michigan, campaigns against Coca-Cola have been undertaken at Michigan State University and Aquinas College here in Grand Rapids. In response to student pressure, Aquinas stopped selling Coke products.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org