KILLER COKE: THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST COCA-COLA
The “Killer Coke” case revolves around to brutal murders of union leaders in a bottling plant in Colombia and the corporate responsibility of the Coca-Cola Company. The Killer Coke movement alleges that the Coca-Cola Company directed or was implicitly involved in the killings to ensure that unions were broken in the Colombian plants. The obvious legal ramifications are that contract killings took place at the plant. The more subtle ethical issue is even if Coca-Cola didn’t explicitly order the killings, did they knowingly ignore the grave working conditions that faced the people working in their plant. Ray Roger’s is leads a movement against Coca-Cola, calling for a ban of all Coke products after the murders. Finally there is discussion about whether Coca-Cola did enough to investigate the working conditions, citing that the audit they commissioned was to be done by a company with a history of false favorable reports that covered up “gross human rights violations.” Utilizing the concepts we have covered in class, the core issues can be broken down: •
Three business ethics issues – individual, organizational and societal. •
Ethical Frameworks – Utilitarianism, individual rights and justice & fairness and ethics of care.
As mentioned in the summary, the heart of the Killer Coke case is the executions of two prominent union leaders in the Bebidas factory in Colombia. The legal ramifications are directly tied to the paramilitaries who murdered the two men as well as Ariosto Milan Mosquera, who was hired to manage the plant. He is alleged to have threatened to destroy the union and allowed the paramilitaries to access the plant. The shade of gray here is whether Mosquera acted on his own or whether, Bebidas (and perhaps even Coca-Cola) where aware of his plans and whether all of them should be held liable for the murders. Legally Coca-Cola USA and Coca-Cola Colombia were never found guilty of any wrong doing as they were determined to not be “agents that conspired or acted jointly with paramilitary through Bebidas.” Therefore, only Mosquera and Bebidas were found to have colluded with the paramilitary forces to break the union.
The ethical issues are linked not only to Bebidas and the individuals, but also to Coca-Cola themselves. Was Coca-Cola’s response to the murders strong enough? Once the case was dismissed, should Coke have reevaluated their bottling plant facilities and policies? Did they have an ethical obligation to do more for the remaining employees and for the victim’s families? All of these questions are certainly up for debate. Coca-Cola made mention of their strict adherence to strong ethical policies and legal restrictions of the countries in which they operate. Coca-Cola then had an external audit company perform an audit of the plant. The findings showed that no issues with the facility or any of their practices. However, the University of Michigan took issue with the choice of the auditing company, noting that the had a history of “giving favorable reports to factories that were later discovered to have been involved in gross human rights violations. The question arises whether this was an intentional plan by Coke and should they have conducted a follow up audit with another firm. Also, ethically, should Coke have terminated their agreement with the bottling plant as a show that this type of action against employees would not be tolerated?
As discussed in the case, the time period in which these killings certainly cannot go unnoticed. Colombia was in a period called “la Violencia” which translates to “the Violence.” Paramilitary forces were prevalent throughout the country and the FARC group took a violent hold on the country, financing their operations through drug trade and other illegal measures. According to the case, over 35,000 civilians were killed during this...
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