Wednesday, March 29, 2006

¡Sí, Se Puede!

"I can't change the world!"

Can't, or won't?

If you want reform, you start at the bottom. If every person tells two others, one person becomes two; two become four; four become eight; pretty soon, the number reaches 294. And that's where we are now.

Look at the unique visitors counter on the right side of the screen. It doesn't say 294, does it? That's because, in the time since I wrote this sentence, more new faces have seen us and heard us. You're talking and people are listening. Slowly, yet decidedly steadily, we are getting through to Loyola Academy. We are no longer an amorphous mass of ideas. Our concepts have materialized into a mission. We have two presentations in two different venues lined up, with a third to follow shortly. We will be in contact with a journalist from the Chicago Tribune. We are serious. And we aren't going away.

Giving Coca-Cola the heave-ho still seems like an impossible task, doesn't it? What could be more powerful and binding than a business contract? What has the power to defeat men armed with automatic weapons and blank checks for destruction? I am quickly learning the answer to these questions. The love and support of the Loyola community can do more than money ever can. Our morals are not for sale, and neither are our hearts. Some of us are Christians, some Jews, some agnostic, but we are united in our belief in human dignity. As members of a Jesuit community, we have a thirst for justice that cannot be quenched by Coca-Cola. Many of us, probably all of us, are unsure of what we are capable of. We are filled with doubt, but during times like these, we must remember that nothing worth anything comes easily.

The first step is education. Our presentations are aimed at showing people the facts that they won't see on the back of a Coca-Cola bottle. We will reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the coming weeks. All it takes is a dedicated group of these people to stand up and say ,"Not in our names!" With enough support from the Loyola community, the administration will have to listen.

You are Loyola. The change must occur inside of you before it can happen around you.

Can we do it?
Yes, we can!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dumbach Presentation Update

There will be an announcement in the homeroom mail to all Dumbach Scholars about the presentation. Due to a scheduling conflict, we have moved the presentation forward one day. It will now be on April 4th, at 7:30. The school presentations on April 12th remain unchanged.
As part of my application to Claremont KcKenna, I was required to fill out a supplement which included an essay. Here is the essay I wrote:

Leadership is a constant theme and emphasis at CMC. In fact, one of the ways we describe CMC students is "Leaders in the Making." Identify and discuss a person, fictional or nonfictional, who has helped shape culture and thought. You may select someone from any field: literature, the arts, science, politics, history, athletics, business, education, etc.

Respectable leadership presents an interesting paradox: in order to be valuable as a leader, one must realize that he is not valuable. Such an attitude is a prerequisite for selflessness. If one thinks of himself as more valuable than others, he will not take risks that jeopardize his safety. “Why should I risk myself, rather than John? He isn’t doing anything.” Those are the types of thoughts that will course through a mind not prepared for leadership. “Why should John be expected to take the risk? I’m not doing anything.” These are the types of thoughts that will course through the mind of a leader. He will take risks; risks that will make him uncomfortable; risks that will jeopardize his safety; risks that may change the world.
Risks filled Isidro Segundo Gil’s life. Isidro, a union leader in Colombia, acted as a leader for workers in Coca-Cola’s bottling plants. Mr. Gil did this because he knew that something had to be done about the horrendous conditions in which employees had to work. Isidro did this despite knowing that Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a union leader; three out of every five union organizers’ murders are in Colombia (Collingsworth). Isidro acted knowing that his family’s lives would be at risk; he knew that the families of others had been in danger for years, and those families could never be safe unless he put his own family at risk. Threats were part of the job as a union leader.
In November 1996, after receiving threats because of what he wished to accomplish, Mr. Gil wrote a letter to the Coca-Cola corporation in Atlanta, Georgia, informing the corporation that the plant manager had threatened to destroy his union with a paramilitary force. Two weeks later, with no response from Atlanta, paramilitaries entered the Coca-Cola bottling plant where Isidro worked (International). Within a few minutes, they had fired ten shots at Isidro, delivering a mortal wound. In less than twenty-four hours, the paramilitaries had burned down his union’s headquarters and forced everyone at his plant to resign from the union. Soon, even his wife was killed after it was clear she intended to testify in a lawsuit against Coca-Cola. The Gil children were forced into hiding with their relatives (Coke).
A cursory glance at this story shows nothing powerful about Isidro’s leadership. Indeed, he had courage, but shouldn’t effective leadership evoke change? Looking at the short-term effects, Isidro accomplished nothing except for sealing his doom. However, Isidro’s death has motivated thousands across the country to take a second look at what they support with their purchases . Along with the fate of thousands of similar leaders, Isidro’s death is making it clearer to many across the world that something needs to be done for workers’ rights in developing nations such as Colombia. Isidro has led colleges from California to Ireland to boycott Coca-Cola until workers rights are respected. Mr. Gil was able to accomplish all of this because he did not place a high value on himself; Mr. Gil sacrificed his own life to lead others.

Works Cited

Collingsworth, Terry and Daniel M. Kovalik. “Coca-Cola (Coke) Sued for Human Rights Abuses in Colombia.” Mind Fully. 20 July 2001. 25 Nov 2005 .

“International Solidarity and the Coca-Cola Boycott.” Colombia Solidarity Campaign. 25 Nov 2005 .

“Coke Can’t Hide Its Crimes In Colombia.” Killer Coke. 25 Nov 2005 .

Just something to think on.


Monday, March 27, 2006 Debunks Many Myths from the Pro-Coke Lobby

I received this email two days ago from It contains responses to several arguments against the banning of Coca-Cola products on high school and college campuses. Here it is:

    March 25, 2006

    Dear Leaders of the National Union of Students:

    We’ve had a good response to our recent newsletter highlighting the upcoming NUS vote on Coca-Cola and we were asked to respond further to three questions and concerns that members of the board have:

    1. It has been said that a ban of Coke products at NUS facilities will hurt Coke workers in Colombia.

    Supporting a ban of Coke products at all NUS facilities will not hurt but help Coke workers in Colombia and workers and communities worldwide. The loss of contracts and the damage to Coke’s brand name are the key factors that have gotten the Company’s attention at the highest executive levels.

    Years of so-called “constructive engagement” has not stopped Coke’s attacks on workers, but has only maintained the status quo and allowed conditions to worsen, not only in Colombia, but for workers and communities worldwide, including those in El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey. One only has to read War on Want’s (one of NUS’s affiliates) report released on Monday, March 20th, to see that Coca-Cola continues widespread labor, human rights and environmental abuses.

    The Coca-Cola Co. and its biggest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), which services the UK market are scared to death that NUS will kick them out just like many of the largest universities in the U.S. and Ireland have done. And remember, Gary Fayard, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, The Coca-Cola Co., and Irial Finan, Executive Vice President and President of Bottling Investments of The Coca-Cola Co., serve on the boards of directors of both CCE and Coca-Cola FEMSA, which is Colombia’s largest bottler and a defendant in the lawsuit charging Coke’s bottlers in Colombia with the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders. When NUS kicks Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Enterprises off the campuses, it also kicks top policymakers of Colombia’s largest bottler, Coca-Cola FEMSA, off the campuses.

    Coca-Cola has been a leader in eliminating good union jobs for workers in Colombia for more than a decade. In 1993, SINALTRAINAL represented about 1,400 to 1,500 members in the Coke plants in Colombia. SINALTRAINAL now represents between 300 and 400 Coke workers because of efforts including human rights abuses to crush the union. Another reason for the drop in membership is because Coke and other multinationals use their political clout in Colombia to pass laws that encourage subcontracting and temporary working. Because of this, about 95% of workers in the Coca-Cola System (the network of all workers producing and distributing Coca-Cola products) are considered flexible, subcontracted workers who receive low pay, meager, if any benefits, have no job security and can’t join the union. Many of these workers are mired in poverty.

    SINALTRAINAL released a statement on 18th May 2005: “We commemorate the 10th anniversary of a strike on the North Coast in which, working with the complicity of the Ministry of Labour, the employer sacked twelve thousand employed workers. Now they are replaced by workers in various forms of sub-contracted slavery, to which 95% of the workforce is subject. The working conditions are inhuman, having to complete working days longer than 12 hours, without social security and on marginal wages that are not enough for a family.”

    Even now, Coca-Cola has been taking out full-page newspaper ads in colleges and universities across the United States claiming that more than 30% of its employees in Colombia belong to unions. What Coke isn’t saying is that most of the workers in the Coca-Cola System in Colombia are not considered employees of the company.

    2. It has been said that unions in Colombia and elsewhere do not support colleges and universities banning Coke products.

    In Colombia, the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT — the TUC of Colombia), recently issued a public statement from their acting President, reaffirming their commitment and their backing of SINALTRAINAL’s struggle.

    In addition, CUT Vice President Fabio Arias said: "Coca-Cola has been a persistent violator of trade unionists’ rights and for this reason various universities in the United States have taken measures to protest against their conduct…The CUT supports the University of Michigan, in the United States, in discontinuing the sale of Coca-Cola within their campus, as a result of accusations of violating human rights and trade union rights in Colombia.

    Some of the largest unions in the world, within and outside the IUF (International Union of Food Workers based in Switzerland), support the student movement to ban Coke products from the campuses. For example, UNISON, the largest union in the UK and the 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the world’s largest Coca-Cola union, which represents more than 18,000 Coca-Cola workers, supports the students’ campaign to pressure Coke. Europe’s Food Production Daily reported on Feb. 9, 2006: “Coca-Cola is now facing a labour relations problem in the US, after the Teamsters Union joined protesters calling for boycotts against the company over alleged human rights violations in Colombia.”

    The IUF website claims the labor federation represents 12 million workers worldwide. Many of their largest affiliates are fully supportive of the campaign against Killer Coke and student actions that have led to more than two dozen colleges and universities kicking Coke off their campuses. These include the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.8 million workers; UNITE-HERE, which represents 850 thousand workers, and the United Steelworkers, which represents 1.2 million workers.

    Unions that represent Coca-Cola workers in the UK — Amicus, the Transport and General Workers Union and the GMB — altogether represent about 2,100 Coca-Cola workers out of a total membership of about 2.6 million workers. If these unions are concerned that Coca-Cola would lay off some of their members due to kicking Coke off campuses, it seems that the best response by those unions would be to inform Coca-Cola’s Chief Executive Officer that they are prepared to ask each of their 2.6 million members to contribute monthly to a solidarity fund. That fund, in the spirit of international labour solidarity, would be used to compensate those laid-off workers. Coke would also be informed that any sacked workers will be hired to work full-time to pressure Coke to end their labour and human rights abuses, to organize other Coke workers and to fight for just contracts for their own members in the UK. This would serve as a great example of international labour solidarity in the global economy for unions all over the world to emulate.

    3. If we get rid of Coke, who will provide beverages and the source of funding for student activities that come from the sale of those beverages?

    NUS Services Limited’s Sound sourcing guide for suppliers of NUS Services includes an excellent code of conduct for suppliers regarding labour, human rights and environmental policies. Although Coca-Cola may claim adherence to these principles, its practices worldwide prove otherwise. Thus, NUS’s student unions should not be a captive market for Coke’s products.

    Companies such as Ben Shaws have already been replacing Coke at various student unions. Many other companies, given a real opportunity to compete with Coke, could provide excellent products and a good source of revenue to the student unions.

    The academic community in the UK, students, faculty and others, could develop a marketing and business plan to replace Coke with beverages produced by responsible companies which would also provide as good or a better stream of revenues into student unions.

    Terry Collingsworth, the Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Fund and lead counsel in the Alien Tort Claims lawsuit, charging Coca-Cola and its bottlers with crimes against humanity; Camilo Romero, a leader in United Students Against Sweatshops; Amit Srivastava, Coordinator of the India Resource Center, and I will be available to answer questions at the NUS conference, March 28 to 30. We all hope to have the opportunity to interact with each of you.

    Peace & Justice,

    Ray Rogers

On another note, please don't forget to mark your calendars for our two events listed under the "Upcoming Events" heading on the right side of the page. You can click either link to find out more about what is going on. Your participation is what will keep this project moving along.

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.
- Aristotle

Saturday, March 25, 2006

School Presentations on April 12th

Yesterday morning, I went to see Mr. Zaker, head of the Religious Studies Department. My group had already planned presentations to the Dumbach Scholars and to Amnesty International (although Amnesty presentations were postponed), but these two combined is still less than ten percent of the student body. Now, we will have the ability to reach a much wider audience. We will now be able to reach every student in the school.
On April 12th, the day before Spring Break, we will be giving presentations in the Marillac Room all day long during each of the eight periods. Religious Studies Teachers will bring their classes to the Marillac Room to see our presentation. A large turn out is expected for each period, but a teacher is not required to bring their class to see us. Thus, we ask that you attempt to convince your Religious Studies teacher to bring his or her class, if your teacher is not planning on stopping by. Thank you for your continued support.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A First Step

Yesterday morning, I went to talk with Suzie, who runs the cafeteria. I told her about the boycotting of Coca-Cola and inquired as to the terms of Loyola's contract with Coca-Cola. Suzie informed me that the contract most recently signed regarded the vending operations: Coca-Cola is entitled to 50% of the business while Pepsi is entiteld to the other 50%. She said that she would talk to her boss about the contract, and meanwhile suggested that we write a report and get our information together that they would have around the time the next contract is decided upon. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask what the penalties would be if the contract with Coca-Cola was broken.

I should get that report made up, but I would like to see some changes made now, while I am still at Loyola.

Next, I told Suzie that we would probably try to get students to boycott Coca-Cola. She advised me to check with the deans to make sure I do not get in trouble.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Your Voice Makes a Difference

In an effort to increase awareness, we ask that you spread the word on the Coca Cola Controversy, and ask others to visit our website. This can be as simple as mentioning it to someone, or can range to trying to convince someone to purchase an alternative soft drink. Speaking from experience, the amount of individuals who are unaware of the controversy is staggering. Most individuals are shocked to hear that the company that makes their drinks has ties to deaths in Columbia. Please ask your friends and family to visit our website. If each person informs one or two people, then sooner or later, everyone will know, and we can stop the injustice.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

It's too easy to forget that our actions have consequences

A typical Loyola student might wake up to the sound of a Chinese-made alarm clock, put on his or her Malaysian slippers, and drink a cup of Guatamalan coffee. Then that same person might put on a polo shirt (made in Egypt) and some Nike shoes (made in Indonesia). Later, that student might get into a Japanese car running on Saudi Arabian gasoline. That night, after the person's computer freezes while instant messaging, he or she might be put on the phone with an Indian technician.

Globalism - it seems like you can't escape it these days. American companies have factories all over the world producing all sorts of goods. And we love it. Never have Americans had so much STUFF, and never have we wanted MORE. Free trade, foreign factories, global markets - who doesn't like it? I doubt David Jose Carranza Calle likes it. After all, he was kidnapped and tortured by men who ordered him to disclose the location of his father, a Coca-Cola worker and leader in the SINALTRAINAL union. I wonder if, as he was being brutalized, he felt happy to be a cog in the machine of global capitalism. I wonder if he was proud to suffer so that others could make ends meet turn a hefty profit.

So what - Colombia is thousands of miles away, right? And working for Coca-Cola FEMSA is better for those poor people than working in the fields, isn't it? Aren't we helping them? The world loves American capitalism and all the blessings it brings upon them, right?

Oh yeah, there's that. ^

Have we grown so unfeeling that we can accept the abuses that occur as necessary evils in the survival of our way of life? Have we moved toward a society so watered-down that dissent, anger, indignation, protest, outrage, and civil disobedience are socially unacceptable?

The truth is, that if you don't stand up, we are finished. This whole project will be a lost cause if you don't cry out, demand change, and call for justice. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. That's what Gandhi said. Do you think that if you sit down and wait for change it will come? You must see it, want it, and take it.

But before we can do that, we have to look at our own lives. If I walk into school telling about the evils perpetrated by the Coca-Cola Company while taking a swig from a Sprite, I am no position to demand change. First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye. I want to ask that each one of you make a personal committment to stop drinking Coca-Cola products. It's easy to forget that our actions have consequences, but when we hear the cries of the oppressed, we must respond.

The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them. -Lois McMaster Bujold

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Further Analysis of Our Cause

When the topic of Coca-Cola's workers' rights abuses is brought up, many immediately equate the situation to be the same as the problem in sweatshops. Both deal with working conditions in developing countries. This notion is misleading, however. The Coca-Cola bottling plants in Columbia are not outsourced American jobs: the Coca-Cola they bottle is sold in Latin America, not in the US (There are US bottling plants which bottle the products distributed throughout the US). We are boycotting Coca-Cola because we do not want to contribute any money to a corporation which capitalizes on the absence of laws protecting basic human rights.
The whole situation boils doil to loving another person simply because they are human beings. Objectivism will not work out for a world in which the vicious cycle of poverty is present. We have to love Oscar Soto and Isidro Segundo Gil. Once we can, we will be much more motivated to take action to help them.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

What are we griping about?

The question I am asked the most when I tell people that we are working to get Coca-Cola removed from the Academy is, quite simply, why? What has this respected international corporation done to draw our ire? Let me take some time to begin explaining.

In Colombia, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) is a rightist paramilitary group that does not act within the boundaries of national or international law. The human rights organizations say that the group is probably responsible for around three quarters of all political murders in Colombia. This brings us to Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola has several bottling plants in Colombia. They do not directly own these plants, which is a good way for them to distance themselves from human rights abuses that occur at such plants. However, Coca-Cola has contracts with these plants, which are controlled by a corporation called Coca-Cola FEMSA. The Coca-Cola Company is the plurality share-holder for FEMSA, so FEMSA is essentially a shadow organization controlled by the larger company.

There has been a long history of human rights abuses against union organizers and participants at these bottling plants. Eight union leaders are confirmed as being murdered by the paramilitary. Hundreds of others have been tortured, "disappeared", and threatened by the paramilitary. They are told to abandon the unions or face death.

Workers have described witnessing meetings between plant management and paramilitary leaders in which the soldiers walked out of the plant with supplies of Coca-Cola. This leads to the accusation that the plant managers have conspired with the paramilitary forces to repress unions. The Coca-Cola Company refuses to allow an independent investigation and there exists a danger to the lives of thousands of workers in Colombia. Therefore, as a Jesuit school professing to support Catholic Social Teaching, it is our duty to refuse to associate with a company complicit in assassinations as well as in continuing the cycle of poverty in Latin America and elsewhere.

We'll bring you more details (and sources) later. Right now I'm already late for 1st period.

When they came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out; I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

-Martin Niemoller

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dumbach Scholar Presentation

Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, Children of all ages... mark your calenders. Monday, April 3rd marks the beginning of Peace and Justice week at Loyola Academy. At 7:30 pm, all Dumbachs are invited to attend a special presentation in the theatre on this special day. Dan Wozniczka will be the presenter in this presentation that has been months in the making. We promise that it will not be a night that you soon forget.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A.I. Event Postponed

The Amnesty International event on Coca-Cola scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, March 14), has been postponed. We will move the presentation to a date about a month from now.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Welcome + Event Tuesday

This is the website for the campaign to remove Coca-Cola products from Loyola Academy. Here you will find information and resources about Coca-Cola's track record of human rights abuses. Please feel free to give us any suggestions or leave comments. If you are interested in helping us out, please email any of us or talk to us when you get a chance.

We don't have much information up yet because we are in the process of preparing a presentation for Amnesty International. We invite all of you to come and see the presentations, which will be 4th, 5th, and 6th periods in Ministry. You will get a background on what we are doing and why we are doing it if you attend one of the presentations. If you can't make it, we will post lots of information online right here, so fear not.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mohandas Gandhi