Colombia and Coke: a bad mix at PSU

Members of two international labor rights organizations toured Portland State Tuesday to reinvigorate the school’s Coca-Cola boycott, saying that the beverage company is involved with paramilitary troops in Columbia and employs thousands who work without benefits.


The Coca-Cola company denies any involvement with paramilitary groups.


“We are here to ask for folks to support the campaign,” said William Mendoza, the vice President of SINALTRAINAL, a shortened form of the Spanish name of the National Union of Food Industry Workers of Colombia.


The boycott at PSU, led largely by the student activism group Progressive Student Union, has continued for two years. Only Pepsi products are sold in the cafeteria and in vending machines on campus since Portland State switch food service providers this summer from Aramark to Sodexho. However, University Market on the first floor of Smith Memorial Student Union sells Coke-owned Odwalla products.


Mendoza and Camilo Romero, national organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops, passed out flyers and pamphlets and spoke to student groups at one of their many stops to college campuses in the area. United Students Against Sweatshops is an organization that aims to improve workers’ rights by mobilizing college campuses to put pressure on their schools to break contracts with companies that treat workers unfairly.


Lew Church of the Progressive Student Union along with members of multicultural student group MEChA joined in to show support.


Church said he hopes garner enough support for the boycott to show university President Daniel Bernstine that students are serious about keeping Coca-Cola off campus.


“We want to focus on getting the contracts cancelled,” Church said.