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Letters to the Editor

Labor Relations


A Focus for Coca-Cola

Nakul Vyas’ Feb. 28 article urged MIT students to consider banning Coca-Cola products because of allegations of labor rights abuses in Colombia.

As the Director of Global Labor Relations at Coca-Cola, I share the concerns of student activists regarding labor conditions around the world. Through my work on the United Nations International Labor Organization, I have seen firsthand the manifold difference it makes in the lives of individuals, families, communities and entire countries when employers live up to the responsibilities due their workers. In my experience, the campaigns that are the most successful are those grounded in irrefutable fact and driven by a commitment to justice. In the case of the campaign against The Coca-Cola Company, the facts tell quite a different story than reported by the Students for Workers’ Rights, and ignoring them for the sake of political gain does justice great harm.

The Coca-Cola Company is committed to promoting fair labor practices everywhere we do business. In Colombia and around the world, we respect workers’ rights to unionize and we do not tolerate intimidation of union members. We engage regularly with internationally respected organizations to review our labor standards and work with us in assessing compliance with these standards in our operations worldwide.

Because we take concerns about Coca-Cola operations in Colombia seriously, two weeks ago we submitted a request to the International Labor Organization (ILO) to conduct an independent investigation and evaluation of the labor relations, human rights and workers’ rights practices at Coca-Cola bottling facilities in Colombia. The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) also sent the same request to the ILO to conduct an independent investigation and evaluation of the same.

This is an important next step in acting on our commitment to a new independent assessment as we continue striving to take a leadership role in ensuring the rights and safety of workers around the world.

Beyond Colombia, our Global Labor Relations team at The Coca-Cola Company has been working to develop a Workplace Rights Policy — the first of its kind for our entire industry. The policy will contain our commitment to foster an open and inclusive environment based on recognized workplace human rights. We have received comments on the draft policy by external human rights organizations.

You can find information about our commitments to worker’s rights at www.cokefacts.org.

Edward E. Potter

Director, Global Labor Relations
and Workplace Accountability