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Why Did the American Federation of Teachers End Its Coca-Cola Boycott? — Because Someone Got Paid

In the early days, Coca Cola made you real "happy" - because it  contained cocaine among other "happy" ingredients.
In the early days, Coca Cola made you real "happy" - because it
contained cocaine among other "happy" ingredients.
By RUSSELL MOKHIBER
In October, 2014, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution to boycott all Coca-Cola products.

The resolution — “Stop Coca-Cola’s Abuse of Children and Violation of Human Rights” — called for a boycott of Coca-Cola products based upon a litany of violations of workers’ rights and child labor laws on the part of the company.

Now, just four months after that resolution was passed, the AFT executive committee, has reversed course and passed a resolution ending the boycott.

AFT officials said that the passage of the boycott resolution last year “drew an immediate reaction from the Coca-Cola Company, whose national leadership sought an opportunity to provide the American Federation of Teachers with information on actions taken in recent years to address these concerns.”

As a result of these meetings, the AFT “will collaborate with the Coca-Cola Company in areas where we have a strong mutual interest, such as the elimination of hazardous child labor and advocating for increased educational opportunities for children as the best way to eliminate the poverty that is the root cause of child labor.”

The partnership agreement between AFT and Coca-Cola was signed March 23 by AFT President Randi Weingarten and Ed Potter, Coke’s director of global workplace rights.

Also on hand was former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, who is a member of the Coca-Cola board of directors.

The grassroots movement to push the Coca-Cola boycott resolution was spearheaded by Barbara Bowen, a professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) and current president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY. Bowen did not return calls seeking comment.

But the reversal of the boycott did not sit well with the AFT members at the grassroots who were involved in getting the boycott resolution passed. And it did not sit well with other consumer and labor activists.

Sharon Silvio, an AFT union member from Rochester, New York, said she was “very disappointed” in the reversal of the boycott and wanted questions answered about how and why the reversal came about.

NYU Professor Marion Nestle, author of the upcoming Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning) (Oxford University Press, October 2015), said Coca-Cola’s partnership with AFT “is an example of Coke’s typical strategy: partner and buy the silence of the partners on issues of labor rights and health.”

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