Indicator: Students Target Coke

The president of Oberlin College bowed to student pressure this fall and announced that the college would discontinue use and sale of Coca-Cola products on campus.

Oberlin's ban on Coke products puts it in the company of Bard College in New York and Lake Forest College in Illinois, where officials say they will not renew their contracts with Coke when they expire. Student groups at Evergreen State College in Washington state, the University of Montana in Missoula, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Leeds University in England have protested the presence of Coke on campuses and passed resolutions calling for its removal. These campuses are at the forefront of a growing movement to hold the Coca-Cola Company responsible for violence and intimidation of labor activists at Colombian bottling plants.

In 1996, Colombian paramilitary forces shot to death Isidro Gil at the gates of the Carepa Coca-Cola bottling plant where he worked. Gil was an activist and member of SINALTRAINAL, Colombia's food and beverage union. Paramilitary forces subsequently burned down the union's offices and forced employees of the bottling plant to resign from the union. In the years following Gil's murder, paramilitary forces have continued to kidnap, torture, and kill Coke bottling plant union leaders and members of their families.

United Students Against Sweatshops has brought the international “Unthinkable! Undrinkable!” campaign against Coke to campuses. The Steelworkers union is helping organize student protests and pressure on Coca-Cola board members during shareholder meetings on the issue of human rights violations at Colombian bottling plants.

On March 31, 2004, while Coca-Cola CEO Douglas Daft gave a speech on business ethics at Yale University, 20 students and New Haven residents lay at his feet to symbolize those killed and tortured in Colombia.

Coca-Cola maintains that it has no control over labor and human rights violations at the Colombian bottling facilities, even though it is a major shareholder in the plants and employs several of the plants' executives.  Coca-Cola products include Canada Dry, Dasani water, Dr. Pepper, Evian, Minute Maid, Odwalla, Powerade, and Sprite.

Krista Camenzind is a former YES! intern.
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