Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co.

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Legal case and aftermath[edit]

Lawsuit filed[edit]

In 2001 Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola was filed in a Miami district court, demanding a monetary compensation for $500 million for the deaths of three workers, members of the National Union for Food Industry Workers who worked in the Coca Cola Bebidas y Alimentos plant in Carepa in northern Colombia.[1]The lawsuit was brought by the Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal (National Union of Food Workers) and alleged that Panamco, a Colombian Coca-Cola bottling company, assisted paramilitaries in murdering several union members. Even though the human rights violation occurred in Colombia, the union attempted to use the Alien Tort Claims Act to bring the case into a US district court. The ATCA grants U.S. courts jurisdiction in any dispute where it is alleged that a tort has been committed in violation of the “law of nations” or a treaty of the United States. [2]

District court dismisses charges against The Coca-Cola Company and bottlers[edit]

On March 31, 2003, the US District Court dismissed charges against The Coca-Cola Company because the alleged wrongdoing either occurred in the United States but was too removed from the injury or occurred abroad and did not have a substantial origin within the United States.[3] Federal Judge Jose E. Martinez allowed the case to go forward against two Coca-Cola bottlers: Bebidas y Alimentos and Panamerican Beverages, but not against Coke itself.[4] On September 4, 2006, Judge Martinez dismissed the remaining claims against the two bottlers.

A Florida District Court in 2006 and the US Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit in 2009 ruled for Coca-Cola's motion to dismiss. The Circuit court cites a lack of evidence to link the allegations to the Colombia government and Coca-Cola. They change it from a geographical dismissal to a subject matter and claims dismissal.

"Killer Coke" Campaign is launched[edit]

A few months after the case, on April 16, 2003 Sinaltrainal union members launched the website,[5] which called for the boycott of Coke.

United Nations International Labour Organization Investigation[edit]

"Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest soft-drink maker, asked a United Nations labor panel to conduct an independent investigation of its operations in Colombia amid accusations the company ignored violence against workers there."[6]

The neutrality of this investigation has been criticized on the basis that the U.S. delegate to the ILO, Ed Potter, is also Coca-Cola's global relations director.

As of April 10, 2007, the ILO investigation is severely behind schedule. Although the investigation was initiated in April 2006, ILO offices in Colombia were not set up until December 2006.


Timeline of events [7]
First bottling-plant worker in Colombia killed

Three more workers killed.

December 5, 1996

Isidro Gil killed by paramilitaries &
Union building burned down

December 7, 1996

Paramilitaries gather workers and have them sign union resignations.

2000s (decade)
July 20, 2001

Lawsuit filed in Miami

March 13, 2003

District Court judgement on Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola

April 16, 2003

"Killer Coke" campaign is launched

April 13, 2005

Coca-Cola commissioned study finds no Colombian anti-union violence

December, 2005

The University of Michigan and New York University ban Coke products from their campuses. Bringing the number to over 23.23


  1. ^ Forero, Juan (July 26, 2001). "Union Says Coca-Cola in Colombia Uses Thugs". New York Times. [dead link]
  2. ^ Foust, Dean; Geri Smith; Elizabeth Woyke (January 23, 2006). ""Killer Coke" Or Innocent Abroad? Controversy over anti-union violence in Colombia has colleges banning Coca-Cola". Business Week 3968: p. 46. 
  3. ^ Collingsworth, Terry (March 5, 2006). "Another "Classic Coke" Move to Deny and Delay Accountability for Human Rights Violations in Colombia". International Labor Rights Fund. Retrieved April 9, 2006.  PDF file
  4. ^ Cohan, Jeffrey (April 29, 2003). "Coke Targeted In Union Lawsuit Case Marks Unusual Effort To Aid Labor In Colombia". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: A–1. 
  5. ^ Unknown, Author (May 12, 2003). "Coca-Cola avoids lawsuit over labor leader's murder". Civil RICO Report 19 (1). 
  6. ^

External links[edit]