Coke’s Practices Have No Place on Campus
UCLA Should no Longer Support Company’s Alleged Human Rights, Environmental Violations

By Aliya Hussaini
Daily Bruin
February 28, 2006

Some would say that all people can be divided into two categories: Coke drinkers and Pepsi drinkers. So what am I? I am definitely not a Coke drinker. It is not because Coke is too fizzy or too sweet, it's because Coke is too deadly.

I'm not talking about the health risks posed by Coke (I am sure there are health risks associated with drinking any soda, regardless of the brand). I'm talking about the incidents that have allegedly taken place in Columbia, India, Turkey and Indonesia because of the Coca-Cola Company's bad labor and environmental practices.

The most recent incidents have taken place in Colombia, where labor union leaders have allegedly been targeted and killed by paramilitary personnel who want to break up the labor movement, according to the Daily Vanguard, Portland State University's newspaper.

Even though eight union leaders have been killed so far and hundreds have been fired, Coca-Cola management continues to turn a blind eye to the situation, the United Students Against Sweatshops says on its Web site.

Allegations of human rights abuses and environmental degradation have also been made in Turkey and Indonesia, according to a Jan. 23 BusinessWeek article.

One could argue that this situation benefits Coke, since not having to negotiate higher wages and benefits with workers equals more money. The employees help the Coca-Cola Company make $6.4 billion in sales per year, according to the company Web site, and they deserve a safe work environment. Instead, Coke has denied any connection to these human rights violations, according to the BBC.

Indiaresource.org reports that Coke bottling plants in India have been extracting an excess of groundwater and are therefore creating severe water shortages. In order to continue its current production rate, Coke has had to drill deeper and deeper. This results in water that smells and tastes strange.

Further investigation has proven the water to be unfit for human consumption because it has been contaminated. But Coke continues to sell its poisoned drinks. Have a Coke and a smile? More like have a Coke and some DDT.

While Coke management may be ignoring the robbing of people's livelihood, we should not. Currently Coke is the beverage provider of the Associated Students UCLA. As we continue to consume Coke products (including Sprite, Minute Maid, Nestea, Odwalla and Fanta), we send a message that such human rights infringements are acceptable. We as students at UCLA have an opportunity to change that message. Many campuses nationwide have already successfully kicked Coke off their campus, including New York University, Rutgers University and Oberlin College.

My personal favorite soda was Vanilla Coke, and no other vanilla cola measures up. But I would rather not drink it than know that the brand name I support is one that also supports the blatant abuse of its workers and consumers.

Hussaini is a fourth-year political science and history student and a member of the Coke-Free Campus movement.

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