Do not support Coke
Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Recently students have been debating the merits and faults of the new Coca-Cola dorm competition and some very good questions have been asked. But we would like to bring to light another side of this debate that has as of yet not been discussed: Coca Cola’s human rights abuses.
First and foremost, let us recall that as members of the Notre Dame community each of us is a beneficiary of the Coca-Cola Corporation, either through general donations to the University or by way of individual scholarships and grants. As beneficiaries we are all called to understand the nature of our benefactor and to investigate the means by which it procures the resources that are ultimately used to build our dorms and fund our research.
We would like to outline the facts about just a few of the abuses committed by the Coca-Cola Corporation. In so doing we ask: do we deserve to enjoy the comforts of Coca-Cola’s relationship with our University at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of others? More specifically, can we condone such a situation and even go so far as to participate in it?
Some of the worse abuses have been committed in Colombian bottling plants, resulting in the death of at least 13 workers. A lawsuit filed against Coca-Cola charges that it “contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured and unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders.” Guatemalan workers have suffered in similar ways.
Coca-Cola benefits from child labor that takes place under hazardous conditions. In El Salvador for instance, thousands of children, some as young as eight years old, are working on sugarcane plantations where they often suffer from severe machete wounds, smoke inhalation and burns.
Coke’s bottling practices in India have caused water shortages and groundwater pollution. Entire communities have been exposed to toxic levels of waste and pesticides. In addition, Coke’s bottling plants draw so much water from the wells and groundwater sources that the local water supplies are depleted to the extent that thousands of farmers are left with an inadequate supply for their own agricultural uses. These practices have not only poisoned the inhabitants of these regions, but also deprived thousands of local farmers of their livelihoods. Similar abuses have taken place in Mexico and Ghana.
We choose not to participate in the Coca-Cola dorm competition because we believe it is more important to ensure that all people have the right to healthy, dignified lives than it is to secure profits and share their comforts with a select few. As consumers we understand that “money” can mean “approval.” We have decided to withhold our approval and we invite you to join with us in abstaining from this competition. Stand in solidarity with workers and communities around the world who are no less deserving of Coca-Cola’s beneficence than we are.
More information about Coke’s human rights abuses and how to take further action can be found at www.cokewatch.org and www.killercoke.org.
Jake Weiler, Joe DiGrazia, Melody Gonzalez