The Coca-Cola Company sells greater than 3000 beverages in over 200 countries throughout the world. There are local bottling plants all over and with all that complexity and diversity you can’t expect all parts of the organization to do business the exact same way. Some countries have long histories of labour activism and some do not. Columbia is a country where life is cheap and the lives of union officials are even cheaper; in fact it is known as “the trade union murder capital of the world.” The Sinaltrainal union at the Coke bottling plant in Barranquilla, Columbia, reported several cases of murder performed by paramilitary organizations allegedly hired by local Coke management. Representatives in the US have used the Alien Tort Statute among other laws to take the Coca-Cola company to court. The Coca-Cola Case is the 2009 documentary produced by Carmen Garcia and German Gutierrez which sheds light on this case.
The tenacity of the lawyers especially Daniel Kovalik in the face of a huge industrial machine with very deep pockets, bigoted politicians and dangerous officials in South America is inspiring. Coke agreed to settle out of court but then, at the last moment, they changed their requirements and wanted to add that the Columbian union claimants stop working for the company. What an amazing requirement. At one point in the documentary Kovalik’s credibility was actually called into question during a government hearing in the States because he has a poster of Che Guevara in his office. How incredible that a government representative, possibly influenced by The Coca-Cola Company, could be so desperate as to use that.
But it isn’t only lawyers that are involved. This is only one of several campaigns started against Coke. Ray Roger’s campaign in the US to publicize what the corporate powers are allowing to happen in their bottling affiliates has been effective. Certain University campuses have successfully banned coke from their campuses.
I brought a can of coke with me to the showing. This was on purpose as I have learned from lots of past experience with the Festival that it has a proven power to change my consumer habits. For example, I don’t shop at Walmart, buy only fair trade coffee for my wife and watch who I buy sugar from. I’ve always liked coke, it’s not as sweet as pepsi, but I couldn’t finish the can. I hope they do the right thing (as opposed to the real thing?) so I can go back to patronizing them but I can’t any more in clear conscience.
This is an eye opening film and though many may consider it depressing, I feel it is important to watch.
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