*Wilmington, Delaware, US:* Students in the United States and the United
Kingdom have made significant gains in the international campaign to
hold Coca-Cola accountable. Student coalitions on college and university
campuses have been focusing efforts to ban the sale of Coca-Cola
products on campuses because of Coca-Cola's adverse human rights, labor
and environmental practices in Colombia and India.
Thirteen schools have already severed ties with the Coca-Cola company
and more are expected to follow in 2005.
The most recent campus to ban the sale of Coca-Cola products is the
Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, New York, a graduate school of
theology which trains students to be ministers in the Christian faith.
In India, Coca-Cola is guilty of creating severe water shortages and
polluting the groundwater and soil, affecting tens of thousands of
farmers. Coca-Cola was also distributing toxic waste to farmers as
fertilizer and selling drinks in the Indian market with extremely high
levels of pesticides. In Colombia, Coca-Cola is charged with complicity
in the murder, torture and intimidation of trade union organizers in
Coca-Cola bottling plants.
"The University of Michigan has said it is committed to working only
with companies that have ethical and responsible practices, yet the
Coca-Cola Company is in obvious violation of these standards. Coca-Cola
needs to be accountable for their actions, and until they are, we demand
that they are taken off our campus. We refuse to support businesses that
are unable to promote basic human rights amongst their employees and the
public," said Kristin Purdy of the Coke Coalition at the University of
Michigan. The Coke Coalition has launched a formidable campaign on
campus which has included a public debate between Coca-Cola officials
and activists representing the campaigns in India and Colombia, and a
decision is expected by June 2005.
Coca-Cola campaigners have just completed a speaking tour of college and
university campuses, including Rutgers University, Hofstra University,
Georgian Court University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Smith
College, Haverford College, Holyoke Community College and Swarthmore
College. The majority of these campuses have strong student campaigns to
ban Coca-Cola products.
"We at Swarthmore must use the power we have as an institution of higher
education to extend the rights we protect for our own staff to those who
are threatened in Colombia. The rights of the citizens of our global
world also include the right to control indigenous land and the clean
water contained in it. For these reasons, we work against Coca-Cola and
for the people of India and Colombia," said Alix Gould-Werth of
Swarthmore College. Two students from Swarthmore College, which owns
Coca-Cola shares, are attending the Coca-Cola shareholders meeting to
make a statement in support of Colombian and Indian campaigns.
In the UK, an active student campaign has just secured a significant
victory that could mean banning Coca-Cola products from over 750 student
unions - virtually every college and university in the country. The
National Union of Students has passed a motion to verify the allegations
being made in India and Colombia. A confirmation of the allegations -
which is very likely - can result in the ban of Coca-Cola. The National
Union of Students holds a 25% stake in the procurement agency which
contracts with Coca-Cola, and as such, wields significant influence.
The campaign to ban Coca-Cola from campuses is being led by students and
is actively supported in the US by the United Students Against
Sweatshops, the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and the India Resource
Center, among others.