It’s advertised as bottled happiness, but behind the cheery face of Coca-Cola lurks scandals and human rights abuse that seem more akin to bottled scandal.
“The world of Coca-Cola is a world full of lies, deception, corruption, immorality and wide spread labour rights and environmental abuses,” said Ray Rogers, founder of New York based Corporate Campaign Inc.
For the last 30 years, Rogers has been championing the worker’s plight through CCI, putting him at odds with most of the globalized world’s heavyweights. For the greater part of the last decade, Rogers has targeted Coca-Cola as “a company that’s not about happiness, but exploitation.”
Rogers is featured in The Coca-Cola Case, a film about Coca-Cola’s inhumane practices in Columbia. Monday’s screening of the film kicks off it’s worldwide tour, organized in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada, and taking place at universities around the country.
The tour hopes to encourage students to oppose the sale of Coke products in their schools, and make a conscious choice concerning which products and practices they choose to align themselves with.
“[We want students] to say to Coke, until you clean up your act, you are no longer going to be able to market your product on our campus,” said Rogers.
The Coca-Cola Case documents an organized effort to hold Coca-Cola accountable for the murder of numerous union workers in Columbia’s Coca-Cola factories. The film exposes the distance that Coke executives try to create from actions taken on behalf of the company. The film depicts executives passing the blame onto contractors making their own choices, and claiming zero accountability.
In Columbia’s case, factory administrators to hired paramilitaries to direct “extreme violence” towards union leaders. Unfortunately, according to Rogers, this type of activity is all too common there.
“These corporations and the government work very closely to make sure no social movement or labour movements take place,” said Rogers. Columbian Coca-Cola workers and carriers have few benefits if they don’t join the union, but many Columbians believe “being in a union is like having a tombstone on your back.”
Since local workers can’t champion their own cause due to mob-like intimidation and a justice system that is business-friendly, most of the film takes place in the United States. It follows attorneys and activists who seek to hold Coca-Cola accountable in American Courts. The soft drink giant’s rebuttal to the accusations follows a basic pattern of denial, empty promises, and deflection. Millions of dollars are thrown at law firms in a constant effort to snuff any controversy from surfacing in the public eye.
“It seems to be a company that’s literally getting away with murder,” said Rogers. “You have to be able to take the profit out of this kind of behaviour.”
Already, various campuses have started anti-Coca-Cola campaigns. The basic idea is that if one chooses to “vote” against Coca-Cola by boycotting their products, the company will eventually be forced to clean up its act.
Rogers says students have good reason to campaign against Coca-Cola. “They want to put their brand on your University, steal your identity, steal your community, all while gaining an image of respectability [by being associated with the school].”
The Coca-Cola Case screens Monday, Jan. 18 at 7:30p.m. in H-110. Rogers and some of the filmmakers will be available for questions after the screening.
Some hard facts on Coke
– Coke stockholders unanimously voted down a proposal to a Board for Human Rights within the company, despite allegations of labour practices in China that consistently violate internationally recognized human rights. It alleged that Coke may have even used prison labour in China.
– In India, Mexico and African countries, Coke factories will over exploit and pollute already scarce water supplies.
– According to Human Rights Watch, Coca-Cola indirectly buys sugar cane that’s been cultivated by child labour in El Salvador. Some of the children are as young as eight years old. Coke will buy the sugarcane from sugar mills, which does follow Coke’s guiding principle that its direct suppliers “will not use child labour as defined by local law”, but it hasn’t done anything about child labour being used further down the production line.