The Evil Behind Coca-Cola

by Natalie Fine

Coca-Cola, get off my campus. No more vending machines, no more cases in Pi Café, no more red-and-white umbrellas emblazoned with your logo. You are a multi-billion dollar corporation guilty of incredible human rights violations. It’s time for you to go.

On Feb. 25, a lawsuit against Coca-Cola was filed in New York on behalf of several Guatemalan trade unionists. Included among the claims against the company were rape, murder, attempted murder, and home invasion. One plaintiff, Jose Alberto Vicente Chavez, was a union leader of SITINCA (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria del Café y Bebidas Coca-Cola).   As part of a “campaign of violence” perpetrated against Vicente, his son and nephew were murdered, and his daughter was gang-raped.

Another plaintiff, Jose Armando Palacios, was forced to seek asylum in the United States after enduring a series of actions designed to intimidate the union member and coerce him into relinquishing his position. He received death threats from the Personnel Manager of the Coca-Cola processing plant where he worked. He was shot at. His home was invaded and his family threatened at gunpoint.  Alacios was nearly assassinated again and would have been shot had not the gunmen mistaken the man in the car just ahead for him. He fled Guatemala in 2006.

These unions are integral to life as a Coca-Cola worker in these countries. The unions advocate for reasonable work hours, fair pay, and safe working conditions. One of the largest unions, Sinaltrainal (National Organization of Food Industry Workers) was organized to combat the unfair policies of the Nestlé Company. They have since expanded their membership to workers from various Coca-Cola plants, and in 2001, they filed suit against Coca-Cola, claiming that several of their leaders had been assassinated by members of a paramilitary group at the request of the owners of the local bottling plant. In 2006, another lawsuit was filed after another union leader was murdered.

These are not the only lawsuits brought against the Coca-Cola Company. Human rights abuses have been reported at bottling and processing plants around the world in countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, China, and India. This is not a bloody trend begun and resolved in the 1970s and 1980s. It is still continuing today and the damage is very real.

Ever since the unions have begun raising awareness about the human rights issues, Coca-Cola has engaged in a series of questionable investigations into the allegations in an attempt to clear its name. In one such query, the company hired and paid a Los Angeles-based company, Cal Safety Compliance Corporation, to report on claims of “anti-union violence or intimidation at bottling plants,” an investigation which has been denounced by the international organization United Students Against Sweatshops. According to a USAS statement, Cal Safety has a “track record of missing egregious violations in high profile cases.”

Virtually none of the 3,300 drinks produced by Coca-Cola are healthy, since they are loaded with sugar and additives. Even VitaminWater, a drink marketed as a healthy alternative to sodas, has been targeted by several lawsuits for false advertising.

So why would Wesleyan want anything to do with this company?

Unfortunately, many of the products sold on-campus are made by Coca-Cola, including Sprite, Simply Lemonade, Mr. Pibb, Minute Maid, and Dasani water, just to name a few. While it is difficult to avoid these drinks, especially on a small campus where there are limited places to shop, it is not impossible to find alternatives.

There are many benefits to giving up processed drinks: namely, less sugar, less caffeine, and less cyanocobalamin (whatever that is) in your system. However, if giving up a soda habit is hard to do, there are several home-grown, all-American companies that you could take advantage of, such as Hansen’s, Blue-Sky Soda, Adirondack Beverages, and Hosmer Soda (made in Connecticut!).

I’d like to think that my school does not support companies who engage in the type of business practices that Coca-Cola does.  Every choice we make as consumers, as students, and as a campus has far-reaching effects beyond caffeine highs. As a campus, we can continue to give our business to a corporation guilty of awful business practices, or we can ask for change. What will you decide?

Fine is a member of the class of 2013.

  • Pablo Liang

    Where are you getting all this information? I should accuse YOU of plagiarism!!!

  • Anonymous

    check out this website about coca cola & union call. http://www.jeffreywrightbook.com

  • Alum '10

    Those umbrellas are ugly as hell! Anything to make them disappear...

  • Doug Parker

    Blue-Sky Soda. I've been Google searching for it for six years now. Where can I find it? --DP, Orlando, FL

  • Anonymous

    Op-Ed pieces don't require bibliographies.

  • Britt

    News to the Liberal crew. "Accused" is not the same as "guilty". If you don't like Coca-Cola products then don't buy them. To force other people to conform to your beliefs is, well, the mark of a fascist.

  • John

    We would be delighted to supply your campus with healthy alternatives. Check out our website http://www.healthyvending.ie

  • concerned
  • Anonymous

    You're right, Britt. Writing this Wesspeak was totally fascist of her.

  • Anonymous

    This is complete garbage!

  • Anonymous

    This feels like a segue to a Pepsi commercial moment.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like nothing more than an insane fantasy!

  • Really?

    Natalie, Your editorial is completely false and merits nothing less than criticism from everyone who reads it. First I would like to know if you are part of Killer Coke, in that case I would assume that they asked you to write this and talk about the human rights issues in Colombia. Every example you have used has been proven False and is in fact a problem with the governments in these countries. When is Pepsi hiring you?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, why don't we justify a taste convenience by pretending that nothing bad is going on and believing that all brown people are just trying to get attention and an easy way out. Also by attacking or otherwise derailing the author's appeal to that one part your conscience that's not jaded and numb. And let's never write and share our opinions ever again because to do so is to actively engage in fascism. Way to go Wesleyan. A liberal institution indeed.

  • '14

    screw this. I love coke more than colombian migrant workers, so SORRY

  • http://www.bschool.com/blog/2011/the-10-most-socially-irresponsible-big-brands/ The 10 Most Socially Irresponsible Big Brands | BSchool.com Business Schools Directory

    [...] Coca-Cola: It's likely that the products produced by this multi-national, multi-billion dollar company have crossed your lips at one point or another, yet there is a dark history behind the company that many aren't aware exists. Between 1989 and 2002, eight union leaders from bottling plants in Colombia were killed after they raised concerns about labor practices, and many members of the union and workforce there have been kidnapped and tortured to prevent them from supporting it. And that bottled water you drink? You might think twice before taking a sip when you learn where it comes from. Coca-Cola's plant in Kerala, India, gets that water from deep wells in the area, which is great for them – but not so great for residents who are left with little to drink or use for agriculture. While Coca-Cola's worst infractions occurred overseas, they aren't saints at home either, with over 2,000 African-American employees suing and winning a case against the company for race discrimination. [...]

  • Bear Johnson

    Man FUCK the illuminati!!! Jesus is coming back and FUcK whomever don't believe this shit real...... A COKE is a dollar and a FUCKING Apple juice is triple that Hummmm..... Doesn't make any Fucking sense. Tell these evil want to be bad guys to kill they FUCking self.

  • http://profiles.google.com/windydaley Windy Daley

    Great article! Another ingredient in Coke is high fructose corn syrup--and the corn refiners have a powerful lobby. Coke has also been damaging the environment in many countries. It takes so many more liters of fresh water to produce one liter of Coke.

    To give up this nasty addictive evil beverage, just use your visual mind and think of Coca-Cola as having squashed up cockroaches in it. (The real human cockroaches are the corporation officers who allow such atrocities). Imagine the cola having blood in it--the blood of all the people killed in its name. Use tea for caffeine to get over the addiction. The Coca-Cola Corporation thinks that it is a powerful god--and has the right to kill or maim people and the environment to have enormous profits.

    Just give it up. Why drink blood and cockroaches:)? Why have all that bad karma in your system?

  • http://www.richvillains.com/whotowatch/the-evils-of-coke-and-the-scandals-that-follow.html The Evils of Coke and the Scandals That Follow | Rich Villains

    [...] February 2010, a lawsuit was filed against Coke on behalf of several Guatemalan trade unionists. Plaintiff Jose Armando Palacios, was forced to flee his native country after receiving death [...]

  • claire

    I agree with getting Coca-Cola off campuses, and really just scaled down in general, which honesty about the health effects of their products would do pretty quickly. However, the allegations about the Colombian murders were pretty thoroughly proven to be unfounded, as well as the case being dismissed. It was the corrupt government, not Coca-Cola. Despite that, though, I try not to buy coca-cola products because of their massive lobbying and support of hundreds of anti-progressive causes, and their avoidance paying billions in taxes with offshore loopholes. It's particularly difficult to avoid them now that they own so many brands, like Zico Coconut Water, Honest Tea, Odwalla, Simply Orange, and "Vitamin" Water (worst name ever). Check out this great article about their acquiring of "health drink" brands http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ocean-robbins/the-dark-side-of-cocacola_b_4385446.html and this one about the Colombian case, though there are many more http://www.business-humanrights.org/Categories/Lawlawsuits/Lawsuitsregulatoryaction/LawsuitsSelectedcases/Coca-ColalawsuitreColombia.

  • http://moocgloba.skemapedia.com/?p=5204 Group 37@Sophia: Coca cola evil | Globalization : Overcoming the challenges

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