Saturday, May 20, 2006

Action Update and More News Out of Colombia

As Dan mentioned in his post about our most recent meeting with the Loyola administration, there was a mutual consensus that in order to ask students to boycott Coca-Cola they had to have the opportunity to purchase another brand of drink at the counter to go with their meals. Yesterday was my last day at Loyola, but I'm happy to say that it was the first time I was ever able to purchase a soft drink not made by Coca-Cola over the counter. With the new pricing system, you can buy a non-Coke soft drink (Pepsi at the time, but because of the lack of a contract in this category, that could change in the future) for pretty much the same price per volume as you would for a Coke. This is a huge breakthrough, because you can now order other types of drinks with your meals. I cannot stress enough the importance of Loyola Academy students boycotting Coca-Cola. Signing the petition was a great first step if you did it, but in order to truly support this cause and human rights in bottling plants around the world, you must refuse to buy the product until the company cleans up the abusive conditions in Colombia. PLEASE ask for non-Coke products (Pepsi, RC, milk, etc. depending on what is there at the time) whenever you buy a meal in the caf. It doesn't take much effort, but it will go a LONG way in helping the campaign.

On a bittersweet note, Dan, Tom, and I are graduating soon. This doesn't mean that the campaign will end. In fact, we are talking to juniors (who will be seniors in about a week) who are interested in working on the campaign next school year. We already have one who, as we are very excited to announce, will be helping to run things next year. I'll let her introduce herself to you on this website when she is ready. If you are a junior and you're interested in helping out next year, it isn't too late to get involved! Contact us and we'll set you up with something!

Finally, to remind you of what is at stake, I would like to post an email update I received from the International Labor Rights Fund. Abuses continue, yet Coca-Cola still refuses to allow an independent human rights investigation into the allegations leveled against the company. Here is part of the email:

On May 15, 2006 at approximately 8:00 A.M., in the Colombian city of Barranquilla, at the headquarters of SINALTRAINAL, Secretary Yovana Rodríguez found an envelope upon entering the building that contained the following threat:

“M.A.S.

These are the names of the pamphleteers and indoctrinators who are coming and f***ing this city: Euripides Yance, Limberto Carranza, Campo Quintero Jesús Tovar, Eduardo Arévalo, Tomas Ramos, Henry Gordón, Gastón Tesillo, Carlos Hernández.

The time has come to wipe out their tentacles that grow from day to day in the trade unions, universities, and in the organizations that let themselves fall under evil influence.

Hoping that you don’t destroy this or throw it away; give it to another person so that they can discover the truth and transmit this information to your family and friends.”

Afterwards, on May 16, 2006 fellow workers Euripides Yance and Limberto Carranza received telephone calls at their homes threatening them with death.

This is not the first time that these kind of threats have been made against the workers Euripides Yance, Campo Elias Quintero, Limberto Carranza, and the families of SINALTRAINAL leaders and Coca-Cola workers, and they are occurring at times when the union is negotiating a list of demands with this company in the capital city of Bogotá.

MAS (Muerte a Sindicalistas/Death to Trade Unionists) is one of the many paramilitary death squads in Colombia’s armed conflict and is responsible for waves of political killings.

We are calling on the Colombian national government to investigate the facts, find the responsible parties, and guarantee the lives and integrity of SINALTRANAL affiliates and families.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Breakthrough

Today is a day that I will never forget. Earlier today, Joe, Tom and I met with the administrators of Loyola Academy and made our formal proposal. In a meeting that lasted for almost two hours, the future of Coca Cola in Loyola Academy had been decided.

Along with the signed petitions, Joe, Tom and I entered the meeting with a twenty four page formal proposal, which included articles, press releases, summaries of the campaign, lists of active universities, and our suggested resolutions. As we spoke with the administrators, the conversation began to change from us making our case, to discussing how to go about taking the next step in the campaign. As a Jesuit institution founded upon principles of Catholic Social Teaching, everyone in the meeting, administrators and students alike, agreed that Loyola needs to take an active role in the controversy.

The administration has officially decided to open lines of communication with the Coca Cola Corporation and begin negotiations. Depending upon the response of the Coca Cola representatives, the administration has declared that the termination of the contract with Coca Cola is a viable option. Also, after evaluating the sales of Coca Cola in the cafeteria and considering the monopoly which Coca Cola has upon the fountain drinks, the administration has decided that the pricing and menu of the cafeteria shall be changed in order to accommodate students not willing to purchase a Coca Cola product.

Although this may seem like a victory in the campaign, I feel it is important to recognize that there is still much that must be done. The ultimate goal of our campaign had not been to remove Coca Cola from the Academy, but to pressure Coca Cola into allowing an independent investigation. To this day, Coca Cola shows no signs of complying. That being said, today is a day that you can take pride in both your school, and yourselves. We belong to an institution that recognizes its role in fighting injustice, and that has held true to the Jesuit ideals with which it had been founded. Without your support, demonstrated both through petitions and the drop in Coke sales, none of this could have been accomplished. On behalf of Joe, Tom, and thousands of innocent Columbian men, women and children, I thank you for your support. Stay tuned for future updates.

- Daniel Wozniczka
Class of 2006