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Killer Coke

With regards to last week An Phoblacht (13th Dec 07) and the central page article which includes a photo of a number of comrades during the lunch break,

I couldn’t help but notes that in the small photo there was five delicious bottles of Colombia blood AKA Coca-Cola products being enjoyed. Are we now getting sponsored by killer coke? Do we no long Support the killer coke campaign?
A campaign that seek to stop a gruesome cycle of murders, kidnappings and torture of union leaders and organizers involved in the daily life and death struggles at Coca Cola bottling plants in Colombia. Were eight people have been murder for being union leaders or in one case a manager who was considered friendly to the union. The most recent being the murder of Adolfo de Jesús Munera Lopez in 2002.

I also wonder did these products come from the Drogheda Coca- Cola bottling where 256 workers will loss there jobs next year flowing recent announcements.

This is not the first time I have seen Coca Cola products being sold our drunk at major Sinn Féin events or meeting. I have often voiced my disgust at comrades supporting coke, the responses I receive range from using ignorance as defence, that they had no other choice or that they are “addicted” to it. Regardless of excuses you either support worker right or you don’t.
I find it very ironic and sad that at an event where we are meant to be re-launching the party as a left wing alternative and ”engaging modern Ireland ”, we use a photo like this. Also as I looked at the photo I couldn’t help but notice that the key figures where Male Stale and Pale (with the exception of the coke). Is this the 32 socialist democratic republic we dream and work for or are we, like I hope, going to achieve the “Real Thing”.

Killer-Coke Hits the Screens: A Review of the “Coca-Cola Case”

“Sailing round the world in a dirty gondola,” Bob Dylan sang in 1971, “Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola !” After forty years of corporate globalization, Dylan would be hard pressed to find a place that isn’t the land of Coca-Cola . Multinationals have torn up the globe converting the repression of workers into cheap labor and free trade agreements into new market opportunities all in the name of ever-increasing profit margins. Left in their wake are legacies of environmental destruction, corrupt governments and employer violence. This process is precisely what a documentary currently making the rounds in campus political circles, by German Gutierrez and Carmen Garcia’s entitled “The Cola-Case,” aims to expose. 

The film documents the multi-year campaign waged in support of unionized Coca-Cola workers at bottling plants in Colombia. These workers face the near constant threat of violence from paramilitary forces contracted by Coke’s Latin American bottler, Coca-Cola Femsa, who have murdered several leaders of the SINALTRAINAL union. As a result of this repression, a genuinely transnational coalition composed of SINALTRAINAL, professional activist campaigner Ray Rogers and North American labor attorneys is formed around the “Killer Coke” campaign. 

The union attempts to maintain its position inside of the bottling plants while shuttling between street campaigning in Colombia and speaking tours across North America. Ray Rogers develops an effective public relations campaign that proves capable of mobilizing activists on college campuses throughout the United States in support of the Colombian trade unionists. Simultaneously, the attorneys, backed by the financial muscle of the United Steel Workers and the International Human Rights Fund, attempt to exploit an obscure US tort law that allows foreign nationals to pursue claims against US-based companies. 

The strength of the film lies in its ability to present the subtle tensions that exist within this tenuous coalition. Rogers seems to be waging a one-man war against Coca-Cola in the boardrooms and university lecture halls of the US and Canada. The lawyers are plowing along with the legal cases always looking for the opportunity to secure a negotiated settlement that offers even an incremental victory. The SINALTRAINAL have other ideas. They are not, chief negotiator Edgar Paez relates, just negotiating against Coca-Cola, but, instead, “We are negotiating against US politics. We are fighting the neoliberal model.” 

Things come to a head in a scene in a hotel room somewhere in the US where the Colombian trade unionists warn Rogers that they “will not accept that people make money on us as victims.” Meanwhile, human rights attorney Dave Kovalik has created a legal opportunity for the campaign. Through painstaking negotiations, Kovalik has secured an offer from Coca-Cola to compensate the murdered Colombian workers. However, Coke demands that the current workers who are bringing the suit leave the plant and that the company does not have to issue an admission of guilt. Representatives from SINALTRAINAL ultimately reject this offer, demanding that Coke publicly admit its complicity in the murders. The film ends with a despondent Kovalik roaming the streets of Bogotá searching for some kernel of utility in his multi-year crusade. 

There are some truly masterful moments in the “Coca-Cola Case.” The footage from Latin America, including an inspiring short piece from Guatemala, provide the most compelling moments of the film. Interviews with two young Coke distributors in Colombia that compare their conditions to those of the company’s CEO in the US, brings home the stark inequalities produced by capitalist globalization. This puts a human face on the suffering created in the name of increased profitability. 

The North American segments are far weaker. Most revolve around court strategies being developed Kovalik and other attorneys. His personal struggles are offered to viewers, but it is difficult to make a connection similar to the one available with trade unionists operating under threat of death in Colombia . Equally distant is the campaign being waged by Rogers . Early segments of the film feel like an infomercial for his company Corporate Campaign Inc. and do not do real justice to a university campus campaign that claimed some significant victories. The later, above-mentioned, critical comments from the trade union leaders stand as a necessary corrective. 

How can regular people tame the corporate beasts laying waste to global living standards? The “Coca-Cola Case” certainly has something to offer viewers who are interested in such questions. Overall, this documentary stands as both an excellent primer on globalization and, for some viewers, a first-look into the violence and bravery that typifies trade-union struggles in the Global South.

"Dispatches" Mark Thomas on Coca-Cola (2007)

Political activist and journalist Mark Thomas travels to South America, India and the US to investigate the way in which Coca-Cola and its suppliers operate and the extent to which they upholds moral and ethical obligations.

Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic brands of both the 20th and 21st centuries. Promoting itself as the drink of freedom, choice and US patriotism, the company's feel-good factor is recognized worldwide and reflected in its enormous profits.

But behind this carefully crafted image exists a company accused of environmental damage, human rights violations and questionable business practices.

In the program we go on journey from the company?s days with a cocaine ingredient, its close collaboration with Nazis, a history of discrimination against black workers, alignment death squads and murder in Colombia, child labor in El Salvador and the depredation of vital water supplies in India and elsewhere.

At the end of the program, we are tantalized by possible flirtations with neuro-marketing and the undoubted power of its branding and advertising appeal.

Thomas, a long-term critic of Coca-Cola's more controversial practices, finds disturbing evidence which undermines its effervescent image as a force for good and which has prompted a global consumer backlash.

Politický aktivista, komediant a žurnalista Mark Thomas cestuje do Južnej Ameriky, Indie a USA, aby prešetril spôsoby akým pracujú dodávatelia Coca-Coly a prichádza k dôkazom, ktoré by mohli poškodiť reputáciu tejto úspešnej firmy.

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