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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 6, April 2006

Boycott Coca-Cola

A campaign to boycott Coca-Cola is active on campuses around Canada and the US and has been joined by the BCTF by a motion passed at a Representative Assembly. Teachers are asked to boycott Coke and its many products. Coke produces drinks under the Minute Maid and Odwalla names, in addition to the Coca-Cola brand.

While health and environmental factors from Coke production and sales in schools have been well publicized, the call for the boycott stems specifically from some labour issues. Coke has been accused by the union that represents the Coke workers in Colombia of repressing workers and their families.

The union says that Coke bottlers in Colombia "contracted or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained, or otherwise silenced" union leaders.

The teamsters’ union, which represents workers at Coke factories in the US, has called on Coke to "negotiate a global human rights agreement that will protect the rights and safety of workers who produce, package, and distribute Coca-Cola products."

The Coke workers in Colombia are not alone. Teachers and their union in Colombia have also been under attack. The union says that a teacher has been assassinated every single week. Some have been attacked by the left-wing guerillas because they refused to allow recruiting in their schools. Most, however, are killed by the right-wing paramilitary.

Education International (EI) has provided support for Colombian teacher union activists under threat, supporting them in internal or foreign exile. The BCTF made a contribution of $10,000 to the EI fund set up to support these teachers.

The union says that, "being a teacher union activist is the most dangerous job in Colombia."

– Larry Kuehn

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