Coca-Cola sells! 12,500 Coke cans or bottles are consumed
every second, and it is "the biggest-selling soft
drink in history." No wonder the company's profits
mounted up to $15 billion in 2005. But there is rather
an ugly side to all the glitter of Coca-Cola, as people
in Colombia, India, Turkey, Indonesia and Guatemala would
vouch. Their stories show a pattern of human rights abuse,
labor rights violations and environmental destruction.
Perhaps it is time to take a closer look at the "real
thing" behind Coca-Cola's profits.
Coca-Cola's human and labor rights abuse are most pronounced
in Colombia where the paramilitary forces and company
management have committed a total of 179 human rights
violations against workers who live amidst constant threat
and intimidation. Since 1989, eight Coca-Cola employees
have been killed, some of them within the factory premises.
On December 5, 1996, two paramilitary gunmen burst into
Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Carepa, Colombia and fired
seven shots at Isidro Gil, the union leader. In the next
few hours, the union office was ransacked and burnt down.
Two days later, the gunmen returned to the plant, lined
up workers, and forced them to sign resignations from
the union. Coca-Cola's union-busting tactics are not confined
to Colombia alone, for workers in Coke bottling operations
in Turkey and Indonesia are also routinely subjected to
violence, intimidation and arbitrary termination. 
Coca-Cola's mediocre record in India has recently resulted
in some well-deserved flak for the company. Center for
Science and Environment (CSE), a leading public interest
organization in India, notes in its recent research report
that, "a cocktail of three to five pesticide residues"
was found in all brands of Coca-Cola. Pesticide residues
in Coke products turned out to be 24-times higher than
the standards proposed by India and the European Union.
But pesticide-laden drinks are just a part of Coca-Cola's
failings in India. Distribution of toxic waste as fertilizer
to the farmers, extraction of millions of gallons of scarce
groundwater and trashing out hazardous waste into the
fields completes the picture. 
Despite worldwide protests against Coke and massive student
campaigns on hundred campuses all over the US, the University
of Illinois maintains business as usual.  Lured by
the carrot of contract funding, the university does not
mind riding along a criminally liable corporation. And
while we are talking about University of Illinois' contract
with Coke, let us please leave out the topics of "consumer
choice", or "socially responsible business".
The "exclusive" contract has made a choice on
behalf of us and we are stuck with Coke products on campus.
By doing business with Coca-Cola, the university is complicit
not only in pushing on us uncut-and-unbridled consumerism,
but by protecting corporate interests, the university
has altered the purpose of higher education.
Be it the divestment campaigns against apartheid-era
South Africa or the more recent anti-sweatshop campaigns
, universities have often played an important role
in promoting democracy and social responsibility. As communities
across the globe take on Coca-Cola, risking their lives,
jobs and careers, the University of Illinois ought to
do its share. Coke out of UIUC!
See the rally organized by the Coalition Against Coke
 The New York Fact Finding Delegation on Coca-Cola,
consisting of the New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate
and community activists traveled to Colombia in 2004 to
gain first-hand understanding of the situation. According
to the report, "The conclusion that Coca-Cola bears
responsibility for the campaign of terror leveled at its
workers is unavoidable". The complete report can
be found here: http://www.killercoke.org/report.htm
 The study found astoundingly high levels of Lindane,
Chlorpyrifos, Heptachlor and Malathion in all brands of
Coca-Cola. The complete report can be found here:
Owing to the public outrage after the release of this
report, seven states in India have declared a ban on Coca-Cola.
Coalition Against Coke Contracts (CACC) has been demanding
that the university cut its exclusive contract with Coca-Cola.
More information on this group can be found here: http://www.caccuc.blogspot.com
 Corporations such as Nike and Reebok have had to
change their labor practices, thanks to the anti-sweatshop
campaigns in colleges and universities.