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Killer Coke and union busting in Colombia

On July 20, 2001, the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court against the Coca-Cola Company, its anchor bottlers, alleging that management at Coca-Cola plants in Colombia have used paramilitaries to crush unions with a campaign of threats, kidnapping and murder. The suit was filed on behalf of Coca-Cola’s largest union in Colombia, SINALTRAINAL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Alimentos).

On March 31, 2003, a federal court ruled that the lawsuits against Coca-Cola’s bottler and franchise in Colombia could go forward but dismissed the lawsuit against the Coca-Cola Company. The plaintiffs are seeking to appeal the decision to dismiss Coca-Cola. In the fall of 2006, the lawsuit against the bottler was also dismissed but plaintiffs re-filed immediately.

In addition to the efforts of the Steelworkers and the ILRF, actions to hold Coca-Cola accountable for violence against Coke workers in Colombia have been led by the Teamsters, who led a delegation to protest at the Coca-Cola shareholders meeting in April 2002, religious groups, students, and others.  Efforts to hold Coca-Cola accountable for the actions of its bottlers in Colombia are part of a broader effort to hold Coca-Cola accountable for its bottlers worldwide, led by the International Union of Food workers.

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