Let us know how we're doing! Take Pipe Dream's Readership Survey

SOAR, CCI seek to oust Coca-Cola on campus

Groups cite corruption and human rights violations of 'Killer Coke'

While most people consider drinking soda to be unhealthy, Students Organizing Against Reynolds (SOAR) and Corporate Campaign, Inc. (CCI) say Coca-Cola is a killer.

SOAR and CCI will be hosting a presentation titled “For a Reynolds- and Coke-Free SUNY Binghamton Campus” Thursday to raise awareness about the work conditions for employees of the Coca-Cola Company and Reynolds Group, a packaging company that works with the Coca-Cola Company.

The event is part of the CCI’s “Campaign to Stop Killer Coke,” an effort to boycott both companies on the Binghamton University campus.

Ray Rogers, the founder of CCI, will speak at the event. Rogers became involved in movements against the Coca-Cola Company after hearing claims that Coca-Cola kidnaps, tortures and murders leaders of unions in factories that supply to the Coca-Cola Company as well as their families.

Rogers said that the company itself operates in an illegal and unjust manner.

“The Coca-Cola Company operates like a criminal syndicate with impunity,” Rogers said. “They’ve operated like that in the past, and they’re operating like that now, and any university that has Coca-Cola corrode its system like the University of Binghamton really has a major corporate criminal that they’re promoting on their campus.”

Lili Cisneros, a Pactiv Corporation employee, said the conditions were unfair.

“[The boss of Pactiv] only thinks about his product, not the people making the product,” Cisneros said. “After we started to organize against these conditions, the boss singled us out. He began to fire the ‘troublemakers.’ They just threw us out after so many years working at the factory, after they sucked all our blood.”

The organization has had several successes in trying to kick Coca-Cola off college campuses. Following talks with school officials, CCI worked to make sure the contract between Stony Brook University and the Coca-Cola Company would not be renewed. Their most recent victory was at the City University of New York, which also removed Coca-Cola from their dining halls and vending machines.

SOAR, a New York City-based organization, formed in 2012 to call for the end of mandatory overtime, workplace discrimination and union-busting in the Reynolds Group and its subsidiary, Pactiv Corporation.

One member of SOAR at BU, Kai Wen Yang, noted that problems affecting factory workers have tangible impacts on recent graduates as well.

“I joined SOAR because I agree with what SOAR is calling for, which is the end of mandatory overtime, or forced overtime works,” said Yang, a doctoral student studying sociology. “Mandatory overtime and long working hours are not just issues of immigrant workers, but also issues that face graduating college students who are looking for a job — if they don’t have one already — and by students who are taking up internship positions. Many interns are working long hours with no pay. To end mandatory overtime is to say that students, as workers, should also have the right to control their working hours.”

SOAR most recently held a protest at Walmart on Vestal Parkway in 2012. Since Walmart purchases products from the Reynolds Group, SOAR wrote thousands of letters to Walmart asking them to boycott the company. When they received no answer, they held the protest in Binghamton.

Rogers said the University’s association with the Coca-Cola Company and Reynolds Group makes the University itself seem corrupt.

“The culture that [the Coca-Cola Company and Reynolds Group] represent is corruption and a violation of human rights, and no University should want to be associated with that,” Rogers said. “I give the students and faculty members that get involved so much credit when they raise these issues.”