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Teamsters Join International Delegation of Coca-Cola Workers at Atlanta Protest

Coca-Cola Hosts Human Rights Forum in Atlanta, But Workers Say Urgent Action Needed to End Worker Abuse
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Ben Speight

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(ATLANTA) – Teamsters Union-represented Coca-Cola workers and their union representatives joined an international delegation of Coca-Cola [NYSE: KO] workers today to protest Coke’s Human Rights Forum at the company’s global headquarters in Atlanta. Coke workers and their representatives protested the company’s ongoing human rights violations around the world.

The action was organized by the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), a global union federation of which the Teamsters Union is a member. It is part of the escalating campaign against Coca-Cola that includes a global coalition of over 100 trade unions with members at Coca-Cola in 32 countries.

The IUF also held its own alternative human rights conference at Georgia State University today. Coke workers from Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States testified about how Coke is failing to respect workers’ human rights and failing to remedy abuses:

In Indonesia, Coke’s bottler, Coca-Cola Amatil, is systematically attacking workers who are attempting to organize independent democratic unions.

In the Philippines, Coke’s bottler, Coca-Cola FEMSA, unlawfully terminated over 600 workers and hired third-party “delivery partners” that systematically pay workers 5 percent to 34 percent below the legal minimum wage.

In the United States, Coke’s largest privately-held bottler, Coca-Cola United, recently left workers in Mobile, Ala., with no decision but to strike after the company demanded that new workers receive $6 to $8 less per hour than current employees.

In West Virginia, workers at the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. are trying to bargain a new contract, but the employer is demanding that employees pay higher health care premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, even though the company’s health care costs have actually decreased over the past several years. The company is also refusing to consider the workers’ proposal that they be moved into a union health care plan that could save the company half a million dollars.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his final speech before being assassinated, called out Coca-Cola for its discriminatory practices,” said Ben Speight, Organizing Director of Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta. “It is disgraceful that 50 years later, Coca-Cola is still causing workers so much pain.”

“The IUF has repeatedly informed Coca-Cola of its bottlers’ ongoing violations, but Coca-Cola has failed to take any meaningful action. Coke’s systematic failures make it complicit in these abuses, and an abuser in its own right,” said Sue Longley, General Secretary of the International Union of Food Workers. “Coca-Cola’s leadership, including CEO James Quincy and its human resource team of Jennifer Mann and Brent Wilson, need to stop holding sham human rights conferences and take immediate action to protect the human rights of their own workers.”

“It is outrageous that Coca-Cola is using human rights to promote the company’s brand, even though it is intimidating, harassing and underpaying workers all over the world,” said Dennis Hart, Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Conference Vice President.

To read more about Coca-Cola’s human rights abuses in Haiti, Indonesia, Ireland, the Philippines and the United States, see IUF’s website.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.

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