The Coca-Cola Case
What Colombian laborers have to do with American foreign policy and the history of soda.
By Maria Popova
Labor rights are among the most pressing human rights issues in industrialized nations. But what makes the subject most devastating is how remote it feels to most of us yet how deeply infused our everyday lives are with its enablers, from the inhuman factory conditions in the Chinese factories that churn out our favorite shoes to the impossibly low wages of the Indian farmers who grow our afternoon tea. The Coca-Cola Case is an unsettling feature-length documentary by directors German Gutierrez and Carmen Garcia exploring the subject through the lens of America’s favorite soft drink, investigating the allegations that Coke orchestrated the kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders trying to improve working conditions in Colombia, Guatemala and Turkey.
Of the 4,000 trade unionists killed in Colombia since 1986, only five have been successfully prosecuted. Five. It’s the trade union capital of the world, by far.”
The filmmakers zoom in on two labor rights lawyers and a human rights activist as they attempt to hold the beverage behemoth accountable in a vicious legal and human rights battle. Regardless of whether or not the allegations are true — though, as the film progresses, it becomes increasingly hard to believe otherwise — the film exposes the ugly underbelly of corporate politics, PR spin and the ruthless pursuit of competitive advantage.
After months of investigation into Coca-Cola, all evidence shows that the Coca-Cola system is ripe with immorality, corruption and complicity in gross human rights violations, including murder and torture.”
The film is available on YouTube in 9 parts, which we’ve conveniently collected in this playlist:
For a closer look at Coke’s alleged transgressions around the globe, take a look at Mark Thomas’ Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola. And for more on the broader subject of corporate spin and human rights abuse, we highly recommend Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy: Corporate PR and the Assault on Democracy.
Published March 16, 2011