After about two hours of debate and one ten minute recess, the Student Government Association passed a resolution to endorse the boycott of Coca-Cola products at last Sunday’s General Body Meeting. The resolution, written by Matt Muchowski, a senior political science major, and put for a vote by Senator at Large Andrea Craft, Junior Women and Gender Studies and Geography double major, was later amended by the General Body and passed with a vote of 8-4-5 (in favor-not in favor-abstain). The Student Government Association will join the collective voice of about forty other student organizations on campus and nineteen other universities and colleges around the nation, including NYU and U of M (who have most recently been added to the list). The call to boycott Coca-Cola products is part of an effort to put pressure on the multi-national corporation to participate in a third party investigation for allegations of human rights abuses and environmental concerns in several countries around the world, including Columbia, India, Turkey, and Indonesia.
For those who do not know, the issue was raised two years ago by the Activist Student Union (ASU) at DePaul, who has been actively working to boycott Coca-Cola products on DePaul’s campus. Over those past two years, Ben Meyer, former DePaul Student and an organizer of the campaign joined a commission formed by the Global Labor Relations representative from Coca-Cola, representatives from the University of California and University of Illinois school systems, DePaul University’s Tom Drexler, and student representatives from Indiana University, Hofstra University, U of Michigan, U of British Columbia, including a staff representative from United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), in an effort to organize an investigation of Coca-Cola’s business practices. But in mid-December 2005, after the commission sent a letter “seeking final clarification regarding whether the Coca-Cola Company and FEMSA are prepared to cooperate with the assessment plan developed over the past 6 months”, Coca-Cola replied that “they had reached an ‘impasse’ with the commission and wanted to explore other options”, according to Muchowski.
According to Meyer, this is not the first time that Coca-Cola has refused to work with the commission. Originally, the commission had scheduled a deadline for an independent investigation to begin in Colombia by September 19th, 2005, to be completed before the calendar year, but the bottling plant in Columbia, KOFEMSA, would not sign-off on the investigation methodology until an inadmissibility agreement was signed, and thus would not allow for an investigation in September. By mid-October, Coca-Cola Atlanta and KOFEMSA were sent a final version of the methodology and were asked if they would cooperate with the investigation that the commission had discussed. Both companies responded with a series of concerns and edits to the proposal and further delayed an investigation to begin. According to Meyer, due to a lack of establishing meaningful boundaries and deadlines for Coca-Cola by the commission, four students, including Meyer, and the staff person from USAS resigned from the commission.
Despite this, ASU and several other student groups around campus have continued to organize the boycott against Coca-Cola. In an effort to support other organizations, ASU has provided (and will continue to provide) student organizations with beverage alternatives for their events. In addition, ASU asks all students to visit www.killercoke.org and voice their opinion to the head of DePaul’s Fair Business Practices Committee, Tom Drexler at email@example.com and the President of DePaul University, Father Holtschneider at firstname.lastname@example.org.