Aug 13, 2001
Charges have been filed in Miami by the International Metal Workers Union and by the International Foundation for Workers Rights representing a Colombian union named Sinaltrainal. This union represents a majority of the workers in the Coca Cola bottling plant in Columbia. The U.S. company and its Latin American bottler, Panamerican Beverages, are accused of illegally holding, torturing and assassinating unionists.
The legal charges cite acts of violence which began in the beginning of the 1990s, and which have continued ever since as part of an overall campaign of terror launched against militant workers at this company.
Five workers testified that they were victims of intimidation, illegal detention and physical torture carried out by paramilitary groups supported by their boss. Coca Cola was trying to force them to give up their union activity. The Colombian union Sinaltrainal says that the director of the factory in the town of Carepa threatened openly to kill unionists in his factory, and then proceeded to actually organize the murder of one of them, Isidro Segundo Gil, who was found assassinated on December 5, 1996.
For the moment, Coca Cola has not commented on the charges. Certainly Coca Cola knew what was going on. Since the fall of 1996, different unions have directly informed the top officials of the parent Coca Cola company about the attacks unionists were facing in Coca Cola Colombia. As one of their spokesman has noted, the parent company Coca Cola controls everything in the bottling factories, down to the color of the uniforms. At the very least, Coca Cola is an accomplice in these events in Colombia, just as it was in Guatemala in the 1980s, where three unionists in the Coca Cola bottling factory were assassinated there.
In Colombia, 128 unionists were assassinated during 2000. The multinational companies, like Coca Cola, when they are not directly ordering and financing the attacks carried out by their affiliates, close their eyes to the attacks. Coca Cola, like other companies with factories in countries like Columbia, proved itself ready to intimidate, brutalize and even eliminate workers who dare to stand up against the exploitation of which they are victims.