Coca-Cola lawsuit (re Colombia)

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The United Steelworkers Union and the International Labor Rights Fund sued the Coca-Cola Company and two of its Latin American bottlers – Bebidas y Alimentos and Panamerican Beverages, Inc. (Panamco) – in July 2001 in US federal court.  The lawsuit was brought by the Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal and five individuals and survivors who allege that the companies hired, contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that murdered and tortured the leaders of Sinaltrainal (which represents workers at the bottlers’ facilities).  The defendant companies argued that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate complicity between the companies and the paramilitary security forces.

In 2003, the court dismissed the case against Coca-Cola, but it allowed the case to proceed against the two bottlers.  The following year the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint seeking to include Coca-Cola in the lawsuit due to its part ownership of Panamco through a 2003 acquisition.  In September of 2006, the court dismissed the claims against the two Coca-Cola bottlers and rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to bring Coca-Cola back into the lawsuit.  The court held that the plaintiffs’ claims did not suffice to allege war crimes under international law, because the plaintiffs did not claim that the abuses occurred in the course of hostilities.  It also held that plaintiffs’ claims did not suffice to allege violations of other international human rights because the plaintiffs did not claim a sufficiently close relationship between the Colombian Government and the companies’ alleged involvement in the abuses.  In August 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the lawsuit.

- "11th Circuit Cites 'Iqbal' in Affirming Dismissal of Alien Tort Claims Against Coca-Cola and Bottlers", Alison Frankel, American Lawyer, 13 Aug 2009
- “11th Circuit Asked to Clarify Corporate Liability”, Julie Kay, Daily Business Review, 30 Oct 2006
- “Hit squad lawsuit against Coke bottlers dismissed”, Duane Stanford, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4 Oct 2006
- “'Killer Coke' or Innocent Abroad?”, BusinessWeek, 23 Jan 2006
- “Coke's Colombian Controversy”, Scott Leith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 Apr 2005
- “Coke Bottler Faces Death Suit”, Stefan Armbruster, BBC News, 02 Apr 2003 

Coca-Cola Company:
- Coca-Cola Company Statement: Miami Court Dismisses Colombia Lawsuit, 3 Oct 2006
- The Facts: The Coca-Cola Company and Colombia, 25 Jan 2006
- [ES] Colombia: Datos Importantes
- International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs' co-counsel]: SINALTRAINAL et al, v. The Coca-Cola Company, et al. - Case Summary

- [PDF] Sinaltrainal, et al. v. Coca Cola Company, et al., US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, 11 Aug 2009 [order affirming lower court's dismissal of lawsuit]
- [PDF] In re Sinaltrainal Litigation, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, 29 Sep 2006 [order dismissing the lawsuit]
- Sinaltrainal v. The Coca-Cola Company, 20 Jul 2001 [complaint in US District Court, Southern District of Florida]

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Artículo
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Autor(a): Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches a free online portal – the first to bring together and demystify lawsuits from across the world alleging human rights abuses by companies. The portal summarises in non-legal language over 35 cases and the positions of each side, with more cases to be added soon. It also presents special commentaries by experts...Companies in profiled lawsuits include: AngloGold Ashanti, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Biwater, Blackwater, BP, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron/Texaco, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Dow/Union Carbide, Drummond, DynCorp, ExxonMobil, Firestone, Ford, Freeport-McMoRan, IBM, Mitsubishi, Nike, Occidental, Rio Tinto, Severstal, Shell, Standard Chartered, Talisman, Trafigura, Total, UBS, Wal-Mart, Yahoo!

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Respuesta
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Autor(a): Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola Company recognizes that our business is only as healthy and sustainable as the communities where we operate. Therefore, we contribute to sustainability through a number of community-based commitments and actions while also conducting our business in a responsible manner. Despite our efforts, old allegations continue to be repeated about our labor practices in Colombia. Here are the facts: The U.S. federal court has dismissed the lawsuits brought in the United States, with respect to both The Coca-Cola Company and the independent bottlers in Colombia. And two judicial investigations in Colombia found no evidence to support the allegations that bottler management conspired to intimidate or threaten trade unionists.

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20 September 2008

To die for [Colombia]

Autor(a): Mark Thomas, Guardian [UK]

Being a trade union organiser in bottling plants used by Coca-Cola in Colombia is a dangerous business - they are prime targets for death squads. Can Coke be held responsible?...Sinaltrainal [Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Alimentos]…claim[s] seven trade unionists have been killed by paramilitaries, the bottlers have links with the paras, and the bottlers are accused of union-busting, intimidation and harassment of workers...To this day the Coca-Cola Company itself has not investigated the alleged links of Colombian bottling plant managers with the paramilitaries. From the outset, the company's Atlanta headquarters denied "any connection to any human-rights violations" and distanced itself from the bottlers, saying, "The Coca-Cola Company does not own or operate any bottling plants in Colombia."...In..2001 [Sinaltral]...brought a lawsuit in the US against the Coca-Cola company and its Colombian bottlers...[A] result is expected...in 2009. [also refers to Bebidas y Alimentos, Panamco (part of Coca-Cola FEMSA, Gap, Nike]

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Autor(a): Amnesty International

...[T]housands of cases of threats and killings and a chronic lack of investigations and prosecutions, makes Colombia one of the most dangerous places in the world for trade unionists, according to a new report [:]...["]Killings, arbitrary detentions, and death threats -- the reality of trade unionism in Colombia["] highlights a pattern of systematic attacks against trade unionists involved in labour disputes and in campaigns against privatization and in favour of workers' rights in some areas where extractive industries operate. Colombia's National Trade Union School documented 2,245 killings, 3,400 threats and 138 forced disappearances of trade unionists between January 1991 and December 2006...Amnesty International is calling on companies working in Colombia to use their influence with the Colombian government to end and prevent human rights abuses against trade unionists. [includes links to full report and case studies. Full report refers to Drummond, Coca-Cola, Ecopetrol, AngloGold Ashanti (Kedahda S.A.)]

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Artículo
3 July 2007

Colombia: Uno de los lugares más peligrosos del mundo para los sindicalistas

Autor(a): Amnistía Internacional

...miles de casos de amenazas y homicidio y...una falta crónica de investigaciones y procesamientos, convierte a Colombia en uno de los lugares más peligrosos del mundo para los sindicalistas, expone Amnistía...en un nuevo informe [:]...["]Homicidios, detenciones arbitrarias y amenazas de muerte: la realidad del sindicalismo en Colombia["], [que]...destaca la existencia de un patrón de agresiones sistemáticas contra sindicalistas involucrados en disputas laborales y en campañas en contra de privatizaciones y en favor de los derechos de los trabajadores en algunas zonas donde desarrollan su actividad industrias extractivas. La organización colombiana Escuela Nacional Sindical documentó 2.245 homicidios, 3.400 amenazas y 138 desapariciones forzadas de sindicalistas entre enero de 1991 y diciembre de 2006...Amnistía...pide a las empresas con actividades en Colombia que utilicen su influencia con el gobierno colombiano para detener y prevenir los abusos contra los derechos humanos de que son víctima los sindicalistas. [incluye vínculo al informe completo y a casos que se analizan en el informe. Informe completo se refiere a Drummond, Coca-Cola, Ecopetrol, AngloGold Ashanti (Kedahda S.A.)]]

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Autor(a): Steven Dudley, Miami Herald

Edwin Guzmán, a plump, one-time Colombian army sergeant turned paramilitary foot soldier, said he is ready to testify at a congressional hearing in Washington today that his military units worked in tandem with illegal militia groups…and that a U.S. company aided the militias. The former sergeant's testimony is part of a widening probe of U.S. companies' alleged ties to right-wing militias in Colombia...[Drummond] officials have said repeatedly that the company has had no contact with the paramilitaries...Drummond [as well as Chiquita and Coca-Cola face]…civil lawsuits in U.S. courtrooms for their alleged ties to illegal armed groups in Colombia.

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Autor(a): Jane Bussey and Steven Dudley, Miami Herald

Chiquita Brands International's recent admission that it paid off a Colombian group on the U.S. terrorist list has spotlighted a practice once hush-hush in Colombia, Washington's closest ally in Latin America. Several other U.S.-based corporations, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and the Alabama-based coal company Drummond Co., face civil lawsuits alleging their Colombian operations worked with the same group to kill several trade unionists.

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Autor(a): Greg Bluestein, Associated Press

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of former Turkish transport workers that alleged Coca-Cola Co. of abuse and coercion of union organizers. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero...[said] that his court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case...The complaint alleges that management at Coca-Cola Icecek A.S., Coke's Turkish bottler, arranged for the Turkish Cevik Kuvvet, a branch of the Turkish police, to attack, gas and arrest workers and their families at a peaceful demonstration in July, to coerce them to quit organization efforts at Coke facilities.

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Autor(a): Joshua Goodman, Associated Press

A Colombian labor union [Sinaltrainal] is appealing a U.S. judge's dismissal of a lawsuit against Coca-Cola Co. and local bottlers for allegedly conspiring with local paramilitary groups to murder, torture and threaten trade unionists at its plants.... In September, U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez, in Miami, threw out the union's lawsuit against four local bottlers, saying he lacked jurisdiction. The soft-drink giant was itself dropped from the lawsuit in 2003, also for lack of jurisdiction. [also refers to Sinaltrainal lawsuit against Nestle, Coca-Cola Femsa]

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Artículo
2 November 2006

Sinaltrainal presentó apelación en caso contra Coca Cola en corte de Estados Unidos

Autor(a): Sinaltrainal [Colombia]

El 27 de Octubre de 2006, SINALTRAINAL presentó apelación en la corte de los Estados Unidos contra el fallo de fecha 29 de Septiembre del presente año, que emitío el Juez José Martínez, refiriéndose sobre la jurisdicción que debe conocer el caso contra Coca Cola. Estamos convencidos que vamos a ganar en esta instancia, para que sean investigados los hechos que son parte del proceso jurídico y podremos presentar las pruebas de los hechos...Los trabajadores de la transnacional Coca Cola y su organización sindical SINALTRAINAL víctimas de agresiones, seguiremos buscando verdad, justicia y reparación para que no triunfe la impunidad.

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