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Over the Nov. 22 weekend, thousands of religious, labor and peace activists led by Father Roy Bourgeois marched against the School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Hundreds of our protest signs were carried and thousands of our brochures and petitions were distributed.
The following Tuesday, some 5,000 signed "Unthinkable! Undrinkable!" petitions were delivered by a group of supporters to Coke's headquarters, led by union carpenter Ken Little, our Northwest Campaign Coordinator who is also the labor liaison to SOA Watch. Quite a few participants who received our literature at the SOA demonstrations and the FTAA demonstrations in Florida contacted us to ask how they could support the Campaign.
On December 7, Ray Rogers addressed a meeting of United Auto Workers Local 22, the largest General Motors local in Detroit. The attached article in The Steward, the Local 22 publication, describes the terrific response of the membership and leadership of the local: "Now the Coke machine in our union hall has been disconnected and the president made calls to the bottler telling him we no longer need the Coke machine and Coke products. We are going to try to do the same in all our plants." Also present at the meeting was UAW International Vice President and Organizing Director Bob King, who stated: "This is a campaign that everyone should support and has to be won."
Local 22 newspaper editor John Martinez is a Campaign Coordinator in the Detroit area. Attached is his letter to the editor of La Prensa, which is widely distributed throughout greater Detroit and northern Ohio. The last four paragraphs contain the kind of message that we want to communicate to the Latino community. John is working with several universities, labor and Latino groups in the Detroit area to organize a large rally in mid-April.
The United Hebrew Trades Division of the Jewish Labor Committee has endorsed and is active in the Campaign. In November, the organization sent out our "Colombian Coke Float" petition to all its members with the following message: "United Hebrew Trades joins in supporting this Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, and urges all members and affiliates to choose beverages not bottled by Coca-Cola.This is an ongoing campaign which will need a lot of support."
Many students from coast to coast and internationally are requesting Campaign materials and advice. They're asking how to place pressure on college and university administrators to sever, not renew or not consider contracts with Coke. On Dec.5, students on many campuses protested on the anniversary of Isidro Gil's murder. We expect to be well represented at the United Students Against Sweatshops conference in mid-February in Atlanta.
Betsy Guerra, a teacher at Lyon Elementary School in Washington State, was so moved by Juan Galvis's presentation and our literature that she took the issue to the school's principal and its social committee. As a result, the Coke machine in the faculty lounge was replaced with a Pepsi machine. Betsy says, "This is only costing Coke 20 cases a month, but now I'm working to get other friends, colleagues and faculty unions to spread the word and do the same." Her friends are now asking for rum and Pepsi in bars.
Atlanta's main business publication, the Atlanta Business Chronicle (11/24/03), covered student protest in Ireland and in the U.S. as well as other aspects of the Campaign in a front-page story. (Read the article, "Students Call for Coke Boycott," on www.killercoke.org in the News section.)
On December 24, in its annual article recommending worthy causes for activists and philanthropists to support, entitled "The Magnificent 9," the national newsletter Counterpunch listed the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke as one of the nine worthiest. Counterpunch is co-edited by investigative journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.
In Canada on Dec.13, more than 30 labor, student and human rights activists led by Campaign Coordinator Larry Wells of the Oakville and District Labour Council distributed thousands of "Coke Float" petitions to fans entering a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers. A Canadian version of the petition highlighted Coke board member J. Pedro Reinhard and his presence on the board of the Royal Bank of Canada. In late November, Bill Saunders, president of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, distributed our literature to 800 delegates at the British Columbia Federation of Labor's policy convention. Both Bill and Larry are working with us to broaden support among labor unions and on campuses in Canada.
enterpriserisk, a business magazine in London, has published an article on the International Labor Rights Fund in its Dec.-Jan. issue. It will also publish a full-page piece on the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke in the February issue.
Forbes magazine (12/4/03) ran an article entitled: "Coke's Sinful World," in which they state what we already knew: "The biggest bottlers aren't subsidiaries of Coke, nor are they completely independent. Coke effectively controls them by maintaining big equity stakes and a heavy presence on their boards, and by providing their main source of business. Yet it keeps its stakes in the bottlers below 50%, thereby avoiding getting hit with their piles of debt and any unpleasant liabilities."
On Jan. 9, a fact-finding delegation of unionists led by New York City Councilmember Hiram Monserrate left for Colombia. If they conclude that the allegations against Coke have merit, the next step could be a move to bring the issue before the City Council. Public sector unions in New York have hundreds of millions of dollars of public pension funds invested in Coke.
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