NYU bans Coca-Cola products.

New York University announced on Dec. 12 that it has banned all Coca-Cola products. The ban is the outcome of a two-year struggle by activists at NYU, the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke (CSKC) and New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate.

Their drive was based on the refusal of Coke to agree to an independent third-party investigation of alleged labor violations at its Colombian plants.

At least eight murders of workers in Colombia’s Coca-Cola plants have occurred since 1989 - seven union officials and one plant manager - and daily union members at these plants face harassment, kidnapping, firings, and threats against their lives and the lives of their families. However, Coca-Cola’s crimes are not limited to Colombia - it faces allegations of human rights violations in India, Turkey, Pakistan and Guatemala as well.

Coca-Cola refused to submit to the investigation because it did not want the findings of the probe to be admissible as evidence in a related lawsuit currently being argued against the company’s affiliate in Miami. In addition, Coke would not agree with NYU on the level of security that should be provided to employees being interviewed in the process, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Dec. 12 ban at the largest private university in the United States is the eleventh ban of the product on campuses throughout the country, and at least the twentieth worldwide. According to a CSKC press release, students at over 70 colleges and universities in the U.S. have called for an investigation into Coke’s labor rights violations in Colombia.

The press conference was also attended by members of NYU’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee, who have been striking since Nov. 9 after the university refused to negotiate a second contract with the union. Speakers and signs linked the two struggles, saying “GSOC in - Coke out!”

Ray Rogers, director of CSKC, said, “This victory becomes even sweeter when one recognizes that Coca-Cola board member Barry Diller, chairman and chief executive officer of InterActiveCorp, is on the Board of Trustees of New York University....Coke’s problems are only going to mushroom at colleges, universities and high schools, while support continues to grow among unions, human rights groups and others.’

In an e-mail announcing the victory at NYU, the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke quotes SINALTRAINAL Vice President Juan Carlos Galvis in Colombia: “If we lose the fight against Coca-Cola, we will first lose our union, next our jobs and then our lives.”

Coca-Cola products include Minute Maid fruit juices, Dasani water, Sprite, Fanta, Nestea, Odwalla and Powerade. For more information on the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, visit www.killercoke.org.

The overwhelming majority of murders against union members worldwide occurs in Colombia, where corrupt bosses work hand in hand with the government and paramilitary forces to undermine the union movement.

On Dec. 15, striking GSOC members once again joined forces with the Colombia solidarity movement at NYU. Several hundred students and activists protested the participation of right-wing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez, along with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, at a NYU panel discussion entitled “New Political Policies for the Americas.”

The protest announcement reads in part: “NYU is giving the stage to Kissinger and Uribe to lay out... policy that has and continues to open the way for union-busting, corporate dominance and manipulation.... It is no surprise that NYU gives a voice to such characters, because here at NYU the administration follows the same policy of busting unions for corporate gain. GSOC members will be protesting this event, letting NYU know that we will not tolerate giving a platform to war criminals and anti-union politicians.”

[Source: By LeiLani Dowell, Workers World, NY, 21Dec05]

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