Coalition Campaigns Against Coca-Cola
A new group on campus is trying to remove products of the Coca-Cola
Company from UCLA.
Coke Free Coalition, a coalition of students from several student
groups, demonstrated last week in opposition to having Coca-Cola products
The group cites human rights violations by Coca-Cola involving Colombian
paramilitary fighters and alleged murders of Colombian union organizers,
among other issues.
The coalition, formed late fall quarter, includes the Student Worker
Front, MEChA, the Social Justice Alliance, the Muslim Students Association
and the Asian Pacific Coalition.
Megan Markoff, a second-year political science student and a member
of the coalition, said William Mendoza Gomez, the head of the Sinaltrainal,
the Colombian workers' union, spoke in January at UCLA as part of
a speaking tour, and discussed his first-hand experiences of labor
abuses by Coca-Cola.
"Our objective is to make students aware of how Coca-Cola is affiliated
with murder and other kidnapping and torture cases," Markoff said.
"Students should know that by having Coca-Cola products on campus
we're supporting these violations."
Such allegations are nothing new to Coca-Cola, as colleges across
the country have taken measures to investigate the company, and some
have eliminated it from their campuses.
But Kari Bjorhus, a spokeswoman for the Coca-Cola company, denied
the allegations and said the murders have been investigated by both
the Colombian courts and the attorney general. Both found no evidence
of any Coca-Cola involvement with the crimes, she said.
The coalition is also concerned with possible environmental hazards
Coca-Cola factories create in India.
Second-year sociology student and coalition member Lizzy Keegan said
Coca-Cola has set up factories in India that contaminate and drain
the water resources which makes it impossible for the local farmers
to grow crops.
Bjorhus said it is in the best interest of Coca-Cola to make sure
workers have access to water, adding that it did not make sense for
Coca-Cola to invest in a plant which would use up all the ground water.
More recently, the student coalition has been talking with Associated
Students UCLA to discuss the sale of Coca-Cola products at on-campus
eateries. The group expressed its concerns at the January ASUCLA Services
Committee meeting, Markoff said.
"ASUCLA responded by saying they'd start investigating the issue,
but we're still pushing through with action," Markoff said.
ASUCLA Executive Director Bob Williams said ASUCLA has formed a group
to look into researching the issue and said a decision would be made
in the near future.
Eliminating Coca-Cola products from college campuses is becoming a
nation-wide effort, Markoff said.
The University of Michigan announced Dec. 29 the temporary suspension
of its contract with Coca-Cola due to the company's lack of cooperation
with a third party review of Coca-Cola's conduct.
Coca-Cola issued a statement in response to the Michigan announcement,
stating it "is facilitating the design and development of a credible,
objective and impartial independent third party assessment in Colombia
during the first quarter of 2006."
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