|Death to Coke|
by Angela Hill
"The stars will always shine, the birds will always sing, as there is thirst, there's always the real thing. Coca-Cola's always the one. Whenever there is fun, there's always Coca- Cola," according to a 1993 Coca-Cola Adverstisement. I guess that depends on your definition of fun. While North Americans enjoy the well advertised beverage, millions of people world- wide are affected by Coke in another way. In India, Coca-Cola's bottling operations have directly resulted in many communities experiencing severe water shortages, as well as contaminated groundwater and soil. Chiapas, Mexico, is experiencing similar water resource problems because of nearby Coca-Cola plants. As of 2004, there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola's workers in Columbia, including nine murders. It has been alleged that the Latin American arm of Coca-Cola bottling, Panaco, has hired paramili- tary mercenaries to assassinate union leaders. The company has also pressured workers to resign their union membership and contractual rights, and has fired workers who refused to do so. Historically, they don't fare much better - in Guatemala in the 1970s a Coca-Cola bottling plant experienced a series of murders of union- affiliated employees. So much for the 1971 ad, "I'd like to buy the world a Coke." But, drinking Pepsi instead of Coke doesn't really make a difference. From 1991 to 1997, PepsiCo was one of the only companies doing business in Burma, propping up an illegitimate government. It wasn't until major deals with universities, including a multi-million dollar deal at Harvard, were scrapped because of stu- dent outcry demanding that PepsiCo cut ties with Burma. To this day, the company hasn't admitted it was morally wrong to do business in Burma. It took major student action to force PepsiCo into doing what was right and now students have set their sites on Coca-Cola. The Killer Coke campaign has taken hold of universities across the United States and is now moving into Canada. Queen's University in Kingston has formed QUAKC (Queen's University Against Killer Coke), in order to get Coke off of their campus until the company cleans up its business prac- tices. Aside from boycotting the beverage and educating fellow students about the human rights abuses, QUAKC is also involved in direct action. Feb. 28 saw students from Killer Coke clubs across North America send one fax every five minutes to Coca-Cola Bottling, asking them adopt strict policies of non-violence and respect for human rights at their bottling plants abroad. Here in North America, however, things are great for Coca-Cola. Deals between universities and the bottled beverage companies are kept secret, so no one knows how much money the company pays to have unbridled access to the student bodies. Elementary, middle and high schools are becoming more dependent on Coke and Pepsi sponsorship for athletics because gov- ernment funding is often no longer being sup- plied. These companies are thrilled by the prospect of plastering their logos not only on pop machines but in all sorts of public spaces - the gym score clocks, the "Pepsi" achievement awards, and advertising appears on bike racks, benches, libraries and even bathroom stalls. So next time you go to grab a Coke, think, is it really "the right thing to do"?