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Contact Kai Wen Yang at kyang2@binghamton.edu


Activists campaign to rid Binghamton University of Coca-Cola Co. and Reynolds Group products

Activists campaign to rid Binghamton University of Coca-Cola Co. and Reynolds Group products

Ray Rogers and Students Organizing Against Reynolds discuss alleged immoral business practices by soda giant

Margaret-Rose Roazzi | March 14, 2014
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In an attempt to get students to think twice about their soft drinks, activists spoke Thursday night about allegations of human rights abuses by the Coca-Cola and Reynolds companies.

Students Organizing Against Reynolds (SOAR) and Ray Rogers, the founder of Corporate Campaign, Inc., spoke about their mission to remove Coca-Cola Co. and Reynolds Group products from the campus.

Rogers said that the Coca-Cola Company conducts business immorally, illegally and with prejudice. According to Rogers, Coke was complicit in the kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders and their families. He also said that Coke knowingly markets products to young children that are known to contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Tycho McManus/Staff Photographer Ray Rogers, founder of Corporate Campaign, Inc., speaks to students Thursday night about the "Killer Coke" campaign. Rogers, an anti-Coca-Cola activist, claimed that the soda company has illegal and immoral business practices that harm its employees.

Tycho McManus/Staff Photographer Ray Rogers, founder of Corporate Campaign, Inc., speaks to students Thursday night about the "Killer Coke" campaign. Rogers, an anti-Coca-Cola activist, claimed that the soda company has illegal and immoral business practices that harm its employees.

Maggie Walsh, an undeclared freshman, said she no longer wanted Coca-Cola products to be sold on campus after hearing Rogers speak.

"I drink a lot of Coke so I think I’m turned off now," Walsh said. "I don’t think we should be putting a company that’s clearly violating so many laws and supporting so many injustices into our campus and supporting that system."

Rogers said he became aware of the alleged assaults occurring first in Guatemala, and later in Colombia. According to Rogers, in 2010, a human rights abuse lawsuit was filed against Coca-Cola in a U.S. District Court, accusing the management of Coca-Cola bottling and processing plants in Guatemala of requesting and/or condoning the rape, murder and attempted murder of union leaders and their families. Rogers is working to expose the same crimes that he said are occurring today in Colombia.

Jessica Dunn, a freshman majoring in sociology, said she had never heard of these crimes associated with Coke before.

"It was so eye-opening," Dunn said. "I didn’t know any of this stuff about Coke. I am so concerned, and I am definitely motivated to take some action."

Coca-Cola wasn’t the only company that came under scrutiny at Thursday evening’s talk. SOAR members made their own claims at the event against the Reynolds Group, especially its subsidiary, Pactiv.

Kai Wen Yang, the founder of SOAR at BU, spoke about a Pactiv plastic container factory in Kearny, N.J., which he said had about 100 workers in June 2010 working under poorly ventilated conditions with temperatures reaching above 100 degrees that caused one woman to faint. Yang said that while workers organized to join the United Steelworkers union, Pactiv busted the unions by threatening to close the factory and bribing workers with wage, hour and condition improvements that never happened. According to Yang, Pactiv laid off 60 percent of its work force, resulting in mandatory overtime and decreased pay for the remaining workers.

Yang said SOAR aims to end the practice of mandatory overtime to give workers more freedom.

"Here is the issue of mandatory overtime," Yang said. "Right now, SOAR is demanding that mandatory overtime be ended, and workers … should be able to control their working hours."

Both SOAR and the "Killer Coke" campaign have taken action against these companies in the past. SOAR held a protest outside of the Walmart on Vestal Parkway in fall 2012 to protest the selling of products made by the Reynolds Group. Factory workers at the Kearny, N.J. Pactiv plant made appearances and protested alongside the organization. The "Killer Coke" campaign has worked to oust Coke from 70 college campuses, including Stony Brook University, the City University of New York and Rutgers University.

Dunn said removing the companies from the Binghamton University campus is key.

"I think the first step is to get them off campus," Dunn said. "Then, we should participate in the movement as a whole to get them to stop these practices altogether."

The presentation was sponsored by the Latin American and Caribbean area studies program, the sociology department, Students for Social Justice (Experimental Media Organization) and the Women’s Student Union.


SOAR, CCI seek to oust Coca-Cola on campus

SOAR, CCI seek to oust
Coca-Cola on campus

Groups cite corruption and human rights violations of ‘Killer Coke’

By Margaret-Rose Roazzi | March 7, 2014
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While most people consider drinking soda to be unhealthy, Students Organizing Against Reynolds (SOAR) and Corporate Campaign, Inc. (CCI) say Coca-Cola is a killer.

SOAR and CCI will be hosting a presentation titled "For a Reynolds- and Coke-Free SUNY Binghamton Campus" Thursday to raise awareness about the work conditions for employees of the Coca-Cola Company and Reynolds Group, a packaging company that works with the Coca-Cola Company.

The event is part of the CCI’s "Campaign to Stop Killer Coke," an effort to boycott both companies on the Binghamton University campus.

Ray Rogers, the founder of CCI, will speak at the event. Rogers became involved in movements against the Coca-Cola Company after hearing claims that Coca-Cola kidnaps, tortures and murders leaders of unions in factories that supply to the Coca-Cola Company as well as their families.

Rogers said that the company itself operates in an illegal and unjust manner.

"The Coca-Cola Company operates like a criminal syndicate with impunity," Rogers said. "They’ve operated like that in the past, and they’re operating like that now, and any university that has Coca-Cola corrode its system like the University of Binghamton really has a major corporate criminal that they’re promoting on their campus."

Lili Cisneros, a Pactiv Corporation employee, said the conditions were unfair.

"[The boss of Pactiv] only thinks about his product, not the people making the product," Cisneros said. "After we started to organize against these conditions, the boss singled us out. He began to fire the ‘troublemakers.’ They just threw us out after so many years working at the factory, after they sucked all our blood."

The organization has had several successes in trying to kick Coca-Cola off college campuses. Following talks with school officials, CCI worked to make sure the contract between Stony Brook University and the Coca-Cola Company would not be renewed. Their most recent victory was at the City University of New York, which also removed Coca-Cola from their dining halls and vending machines.

SOAR, a New York City-based organization, formed in 2012 to call for the end of mandatory overtime, workplace discrimination and union-busting in the Reynolds Group and its subsidiary, Pactiv Corporation.

One member of SOAR at BU, Kai Wen Yang, noted that problems affecting factory workers have tangible impacts on recent graduates as well.

"I joined SOAR because I agree with what SOAR is calling for, which is the end of mandatory overtime, or forced overtime works," said Yang, a doctoral student studying sociology. "Mandatory overtime and long working hours are not just issues of immigrant workers, but also issues that face graduating college students who are looking for a job — if they don’t have one already — and by students who are taking up internship positions. Many interns are working long hours with no pay. To end mandatory overtime is to say that students, as workers, should also have the right to control their working hours."

SOAR most recently held a protest at Walmart on Vestal Parkway in 2012. Since Walmart purchases products from the Reynolds Group, SOAR wrote thousands of letters to Walmart asking them to boycott the company. When they received no answer, they held the protest in Binghamton.

Rogers said the University’s association with the Coca-Cola Company and Reynolds Group makes the University itself seem corrupt.

"The culture that [the Coca-Cola Company and Reynolds Group] represent is corruption and a violation of human rights, and no University should want to be associated with that," Rogers said. "I give the students and faculty members that get involved so much credit when they raise these issues."



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