Coca-Cola and its bottlers in Colombia were cleared of any wrongdoing in two judicial inquiries conducted by the Colombian courts. But that’s hardly conclusive, according to labor historian Daniel Garcia Peña of the National University of Colombia. “It is sad to say, but crime does pay in Colombia,” he told us. Due to the chaotic and corrupt Colombian judicial system, it is unlikely that anyone will be held accountable for the violence against SINALTRAINAL in Colombia.
SINALTRAINAL has been decimated by a decade of threats, kidnappings and murder. Few people are willing to join a union whose organizers and their families live in constant fear of reprisal.
For now, the union is pursuing its Alien Tort Claims Act court case in the United States. In March 2003, Coca-Cola successfully persuaded the federal court in Miami to have its name removed from the lawsuit, arguing that Coke did not have a controlling interest in or responsibility for its Colombian bottlers. But the union’s lawyers are petitioning the court to add Coca-Cola back into the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the demand for a full-scale, independent investigation into the violence in Colombia continues to gain ground. The University of Michigan is the latest academic institution to cancel its contract with Coke in protest. Coca-Cola commissioned Cal Safety Compliance Corporation, a private firm, to inspect workplace conditions at six bottling plants, including those at Bucaramanga and Carepa, but activists, politicians and concerned shareholders are not satisfied.
“Our position is the company should bring in a team of investigators drawn from American and Colombian human rights organizations to go down to Colombia to fully investigate the allegations that have been made,” says Patrick Doherty, who represents New York City Employee Pension Fund shareholders. “And then let the chips fall where they may.”