SRC actions inappropriate and far too hasty

By Joseph Schultz

The recent Social Responsibility Committee (SRC) decision to recommend that Macalester stop selling Coke has sparked a bit of a controversy. Did the SRC act too quickly with its recommendation? Are the reasons upon which the SRC made its decision factually correct? Is there some more nefarious purpose behind the no Coke' campaign?<br /><br /><br /><br />The claims against Coke are substantial. The worst of these claims center on Coke's activities in Colombia. If the anti-Coke campaigners are to be believed, Coke is complicit in the murders of several union leaders with the ultimate purpose of lowering Colombian wages. More recent allegations focus on human rights violations in Indonesia and Turkey. But are these claims true? If not, then why were the claims made in the first place?<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />First and foremost, the SRC did act too quickly. I was unaware that a vote to ban Coke from campus was to be taken and I'm sure many students fall into this category. Given the SRC's stated intent of trying to be more open with the Macalester community, I think it's safe to say the SRC acted inappropriately.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />The facts upon which the SRC is basing its decision are, in many respects, simply inaccurate. There is no substantiated evidence that pegs Coke as a human-rights violator. It simply doesn't exist. Ron Osward, General Secretary for International Union of Food Workers, writes, "We have no evidence of complicity by Coke in the killing of workers." Coke has already been brought to trial as part of a larger case concerning human-rights violations in Federal court. Coke was dismissed from the case. Colombia's Vice President had this to say: "This is not a labor union fight [against Coke], it's a political fight. They [the anti-Coke campaigners] took a myth and built a campaign out of it. They found a model that works and they've been very successful at it."<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />In truth, Coke has been a strong moral corporate leader. The company is and has always been a strong supporter of increasing the wellbeing of all stakeholders (customers, owners, employees, etc.). The company now supports the United Nations Global Compact, a document that requires supporters to exercise substantial power in the name of human rights. As part of Coke's support the company is encouraging the U.N. to go to Colombia and determine what, if any, human-rights abuses have occurred.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />The Coke Company is divided between the parent company and many subcontractors. The people who make Coke's products are not necessarily Coke, but subcontractors. The same is true for Coke's distribution channels: most of the people delivering Coke to Macalester are not Coke employees but independent contractors.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Because the business Macalester represents to Coke is very small, but very large to Coke's independent contractors, banning Coke from Macalester's campus will inflict much more pain on independent contractors. These people are small business owners who cannot afford such a revenue loss. Coke, a company generating over 85 percent of its revenues abroad, is unlikely to notice<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />I have heard the argument that the ban is more symbolic than economic. But the real question centers on what is being symbolized. By banning Coke from campus, Macalester is decreasing the demand for Coke (even if it is by an infinitesimal margin). In response, Coke should reduce the amount of Coke products being produced. This means fewer Colombian workers being employed by Coke's contractors in Colombia. But employees of Coke contractors make between 100-200 percent of the the average wage of the typical Colombian worker. So by banning Coke we are actually hurting the same poor Colombian worker the anti-Coke campaigners want to help. Maybe the campaign symbol should be a big iron campaign boot crushing the Colombian poor.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />But if the ban does not make the poor Colombian better off, why the campaign? Well, the anti-Coke campaigners want Coke to pay between $1 and $2 billion dollars to call off the campaign. Oddly enough, I can find no mention of what the campaigners want to do with this money. While I hope they want to give the funds to the supposedly Coke-injured communities, my gut detects a more nefarious intent. I am more certain of this truism when I look at the communities in which there are supposedly Coke-inspired human-rights violations. Simply put, these communities cannot absorb anywhere near the $1-$2 billion capital infusion being sought by the anti-Coke campaigners. So where's the money going to go? I'll bet in the pockets of the campaign leaders. Where I come from, we call that extortion.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />So that brings us back to our current situation. Our SRC has pulled one over the entire Macalester community by passing thisno-Coke’ proposal without public debate, without a proper exploration of facts, and without properly considering the proposal’s ramifications. Students should be outraged! Faculty should be outraged! The entire Macalester community should be up in arms! I haven’t even touched on the questionable merits of product bans and I’m outraged! My SRC has just made a decision for me about social responsibility with none of my input that I am socially and morally obligated to oppose! What kind of school allows for such an egregious action? Sadly, Macalester must now be included in that list.