Friday, November 25, 2005

Boycott Coca Cola

A trade union organiser from the Colombian Food and Drink Workers' Union (Sinaltrainal) came to speak in York yesterday about his union's campaign for an international boycott of Coke. He's also a production worker in a Coca Cola factory.

He told us of the campaign of intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder which right wing paramilitaries, working in collusion with Coca Cola, are directing against workers who dare to involve themselves in union organising. He told us that 22 members of Sinaltrainal have been murdered (10 of them Coca Cola workers) and many more have been abducted, imprisoned, tortured and some have been forced to flee the country. Hundreds live in daily fear of their lives - the unionist who spoke to us is aware that his name appears on a death list published and circulated by paramilitaries. It is clear that Coca Cola management works closely with Colombian death squads. At least one of the murders occured inside a Coca Cola factory - armed men entered the factory, identified a union leader, and executed him on the factory floor in front of all the other workers. The intimidation and murder of Sinaltrainal and Coca Cola workers, it is worth remembering, is only a small part of a much wider campaign of terror against the Colombian labour movement - hundreds of trade unionists are murdered in that country every year. The terror, of course, is allowed to happen by a particularly corrupt state which, at best, turns a blind eye to right-wing paramilitary activity, and, at worst, actively assists in this process.

I was very moved by what this man said and the way in which he said it - unassuming, modest and yet determined. This is a man who continues to struggle for what is right, even though doing so puts his life (and the lives of his family) in great danger. He doesn't have to do it - yet he does. It is amazing that large numbers of people like him (in Colombia and beyond) continue to fight under such circumstances. I don't think that I have ever met a more dignified or a more courageous human being.


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?