[Source: Coalition Against Coke Contracts]
In another landmark victory for student campaigns against Coca-Cola, the company has been kicked out of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. U of I is the third university this summer — following Smith College in the U.S. and the Banaras Hindu University in India — to have terminated its beverage contract with Coca-Cola. Coalition Against Coke Contracts (CACC), the group that led the campaign at UIUC, dedicates this victory to the indomitable fighting spirit of communities ravaged by Coke — from Colombia to India.
Coca-Cola has been the exclusive beverage provider at the University of Illinois since 1997. According to the terms of the contract, only Coke products were sold on campus. Such monopolistic arrangements have been emblematic of the growing corporatization of education. The contract between University of Illinois and Coca-Cola received much criticism from students, faculty, staff and the local community for, among other reasons, the company’s labor & human rights abuse and environmental degradation in India, Colombia, Indonesia and Turkey.
In Colombia, for instance, Coca-Cola’s union busting efforts in collaboration with the paramilitaries have resulted in the death of eight union leaders since 1989. Similarly, workers in Coke bottling plants in Turkey and Indonesia have been routinely subjected to violence and intimidation upon attempting to unionize. In India, the company is involved in massive extraction and pollution of ground water. The pollution control board of Kerala, India, has found out that Coca-Cola is responsible for dumping toxic waste into the fields and water around its plants. Further, independent investigations of Coca-Cola products in India have been found to include high levels of pesticides.
For the past two years, CACC, a student & community group in Champaign Urbana has forcefully demanded that the University end its business relationship with Coca-Cola in light of the company’s egregious records. It has further demanded a public statement from the administration regarding, what has been stated by Chancellor Hermand as Coca-Cola’s recalcitrance on the afore-mentioned issues. More than 25 local groups joined the coalition, holding numerous dialogs with the administration and organizing public actions. Even as the current contract with Coca-Cola expired on June 30, CACC organized the last day of contract action that involved soda-tasting of a range of locally produced beverages.
For the new beverage contract, the University of Illinois has decided to comply with the State’s decision to grant pouring rights to Pepsi. CACC has always been vocal about supporting local businesses and vendors over big corporations. The numerous soda-tasting events organized by CACC over the the past year received an overwhelming response. CACC welcomes the University’s decision not to do business with Coca-Cola and hopes that the retail stores outside the contract with Pepsi will take into account the choice of campus community and provide locally manufactured beverages.
Earlier this year, the Urbana Champaign campus made a historic decision to put an end to its racist mascot, thanks to a broad-based campus-wide movement. Non-renewal of the contract with Coca-Cola is another step toward creating a progressive campus. CACC hopes that the University administration will take affirmative steps toward making sure that it does not enter into business relationships with corporations that have no respect for human and labor rights. Finally, the inclusion of progressive student groups in long-term decision making would be a positive way of achieving this.
[Source: India Resource Center]
New Delhi (August 6, 2007): The Coca-Cola company has lost its contract with the University of Illinois, giving another boost to the international campaign against Coca-Cola.
Students and faculty at the University of Illinois, a prestigious public university with over 40,000 students, have campaigned for over two years to end the 10-year, exclusive pouring rights agreement with Coca-Cola because of the company’s unethical practices in India and globally.
The Coca-Cola company has created severe water shortages around its bottling operations across India, and one of its largest bottling plants has been shut down by the government because of pollution.
This is a tremendous victory for the campus community and sends a strong message to the Coca-Cola company that it must respect human rights and the environment, said Shivali Tukdeo of the Coalition Against Coke Contracts, a broad coalition of campus and community groups that led the campaign to remove Coca-Cola from campus.
More than 20 colleges and universities in the US, UK and Canada have removed Coca-Cola from campuses as a result of student-led initiatives to apply pressure on the company for its practices in India and internationally.
We welcome the decision in Illinois to remove Coca-Cola and the action goes a long way in pressuring the Coca-Cola company to do the right thing in India, said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, a community group that is campaigning for the closure of Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Mehdiganj in north India.
In an unusual arrangement, the state of Illinois negotiated new contracts for beverages for the state which covers over 2000 vending machines and 29 facilities across the state, including the University of Illinois and Northeastern University.
The Coalition Against Coke Contracts enjoyed widespread support from the campus and community, and also approached the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and petitioned university administrators to end the contract with Coca-Cola.
The state selection committee included Mr. Mike Bass, Executive Assistant Vice President for Business and Finance at the University of Illinois. Mr. Bass admitted that financial considerations were not the only criteria used for rejecting the contract with Coca-Cola.
The decision from Illinois is a clear message to Coca-Cola that the campaign will continue to take a toll on its profits and image until it gets serious about addressing the concerns in India, said Amit Srivastava of India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that worked closely with the Coalition Against Coke Contracts at the University of Illinois.