Coca-Cola is the largest soda provider in the world. Although it is widely consumed, many people are unaware of its labor violations.
The company has come under fire in the last few months for the way in which its workers are treated in Guatemala. The primary source of all the violence is the workers’ union. On February 25, 2010, Coke was sued by those Guatemalan laborers, who claim that they, “endured a campaign of violence” from the people who worked for the bottling or processing plants owned by Coke (Business Week).
This violence took place in Guatemala City. The perpetrators were employed by Incasa, which operated the bottling plant (Business Week). One of the plaintiffs is Jose Palacios, who faced violence after rejoining the workers’ union in 2004. Not only was he shot at and threatened at the bottling plant, but armed men broke into his home and threatened his family (Atlanta Business News). A few weeks after this invasion, in 2005, he was fired without a cause (North American Congress on Latin America).
Another plaintiff in the case is Jose Chavez, a prominent union leader. In 2008, after he participated in collective-bargaining activities in Guatemala City, returned home to his waiting family. Upon his arrival, Chavez’s son and nephew were brutally murdered in front of his eyes and his 16 year old daughter was gang-raped (North American Congress on Latin America). This violence was a response to his activity in the union.
Coca-Cola has faced legal action by workers before. In 2001, it was sued by union laborers in Colombia for violence against unionized workers. In a statement at Coke’s annual meeting of shareholders in 2005, the company claimed,“Our company and our bottling partners have been accused of complicity in the murder of union members and the ongoing intimidation of union members and of the suppression of union activity in Colombia. The allegations are not true” (PBS). The company paid more attention to the problem only after an international boycott began in 2003 (Business Week). Ultimately, Coca-Cola and its bottlers were found not guilty and cleared of any wrong-doing by Colombian courts (PBS). When the case was brought to the United States, Coca-Cola fought to have its name removed from the lawsuit and got its wish.
Although this has not been widely publicized, the labor violations of Coca-Cola are a prominent issue. Consumers of Coke, and other items produced by corporations with foggy labor practices, have to ask themselves how they can make a difference. Students at colleges across the United States, one being Rutgers Univeristy, have started boycotts of the soda. Rutgers students were successful in their activism, and the university has switched its contract to Pepsi (Killer Coke).
A new documentary was released in 2009 called “The Coca-Cola Case.” It was filmed by German Gutierezz and Carmen Garcia to highlight “the reality of union busting at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia, Guatemala and Turkey” (Green Muze). This movie reveals the practices of just one of the many multi-national corporations and upon watching it, the consumers will hopefully be inspired to better inform themselves about the products they consume (Green Muze). Here is a link to the trailer for this documentary: The Coca-Cola Case.
Coca-Cola is one of the most powerful corporations in the world. Its business practices have to be questioned by the consumer to ensure that labor violations are not being committed. The consumers can learn more about the issue at http://killercoke.org/.