The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Coca Cola:
Behind the Bubbles, a Bitter Reality

Jun 20, 2011

In May, Coca Cola celebrated its 125th anniversary with bands playing.

Coca Cola is the leading producer of non-alcoholic drinks, with 400 brands. More than a billion of its cans and bottles are drunk every day all over the world. In 2010, its profit reached close to seven billion dollars. But this success rests on realities that Coke doesn’t brag about.

In 2000, Coca Cola opened 50 bottling plants in India. Its billion inhabitants represent a vast market, not to mention a low-wage work force. To operate these factories, Coke got authorization to drill wells, pumping 125,000 gallons of water every day (it takes nine quarts of water to make a quart of Coke). In Kerala, where villagers are deprived of water for home and agriculture, the population has been protesting this excessive water usage since 2003.

The company not only pumps the water, it discharges it in polluted form. Some residents report skin and breathing problems near Coke facilities. Last February, the state of Kerala took legal action, demanding compensation from Coke.

In Colombia, South America, a union is accusing Coke of making use of private paramilitary companies, not only as guards, but possibly as assassins. Eight union militants at a Coke facility were murdered. There are two similar cases in Turkey.

In El Salvador, where Coke uses child labor in its sugar cane fields, its employees are exposed to toxic chemicals. In 1998 at the soccer World Cup games, promotional balloons handed out by Coke were made by children laboring in Pakistan.

In the U.S., Coke has been closing bottling plants and imposing concessions on employees still working. It demands that workers pay more of their health insurance. And it has announced plans to eliminate the stock work of its drivers who handle displays in stores.

Coke is the perfect example of the multinationals that dominate the planet in search of profit.