Bil Browning

Will Indiana University continue to support rightwing paramilitary groups?

Filed By Bil Browning | November 18, 2008 4:21 PM | comments

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Since Indiana University has reopened contract negotiations with Coca-Cola, I'm wondering if they'll finally listen to the faculty, students and alumni who have been calling for the soft drink to be thrown off campus. student-cokecan.gifThey criticize Coke's record of human rights violations around the world. The group is urging students and concerned individuals to e-mail IU President Michael McRobbie and the Board of Trustees.

Students have previously met with university administrators over the issue. Students have held protests, candlelight vigils, wrote editorials in the school newspaper, handed out informational fliers, and made presentations to the student body and administrators, but so far the school has continued their close relationship with the soft drink manufacturer.

A few details of Coke's Columbian manufacturing operations after the jump.

Death Squads in Colombia

Colombia has long been the most dangerous country in the world to organize a union. Since 1986, roughly 4000 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered. In 2000, three of every five trade unionists killed in the world were Colombian. The vast majority of these murders have been carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups (aka death squads) on an ideological mission to destroy the labor movement. These groups often work in collaboration with the official US-supported Colombian military, and in some instances with managers at plants producing for multinational corporations.

In the case of Coca-Cola, according to numerous credible reports, the company and its business partners have turned a blind eye to, financially supported, and actively colluded with paramilitary groups in efforts to destroy workers' attempts to organize unions and bargain collectively.

  • Since 1989, eight union leaders from Coca-Cola plants have been murdered by paramilitary forces. Dozens of other workers have been intimidated, kidnapped, or tortured.
  • In Carepa, members of the paramilitary murdered union leader Isidro Gil in broad daylight inside his factory's gates. They returned the next day and forced all of the plant's workers to resign from their union by signing documents on Coca-Cola letterhead.
  • Another murder attempt occurred on August 22, 2003, when two men riding motorcycles fired shots at Juan Carlos Galvis, a worker leader at Coca-Cola's Barrancabermeja plant.
  • There is substantial evidence that managers of several bottling plants have ordered assaults to occur and made regular payments to leaders of the paramilitary groups carrying out the attacks. These ongoing abuses have taken their toll on Coca-Cola workers' efforts to organize. Their union, SINALTRAINAL, has suffered a dramatic loss in membership, as worker leaders are intimidated or forced into hiding.

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