PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY
8/30/2014

Risky Business

ASHLYEE HICKMAN
Living Editor

Students may be sipping murder with their lunches in the Cafe. They might be wearing child labor on their sleeves. And they could be ordering a half calf venti full of African poverty before their morning classes.

Though Pepperdine students pride themselves on being socially conscious, they use products every day that support the evils they seek to combat through charity projects, mission trips and awareness groups.

Coca-Cola Company

For years, many corporations have fallen under scrutiny because of questionable business practices around the world. One of these includes Coca-Cola, Pepperdine’s main beverage

distributor. Over the years, activist organizations have accused Coke of commissioning the murders and kidnapping of union workers in Colombia and other parts of the world.

This caught the attention Ray Rogers of Corporate Campaign, Inc., a group of campaign technicians who handle matters of injustice between unions and big business.

 “The reason why we got involved with this is to deal with a life or death situation of the kidnapping and the torturing of union workers of the bottling plants in Columbia,” said Rogers who also serves as the worldwide director of the national “Campaign to Stop Killer Coke.”

After doing extensive research themselves, members of Corporate Campaign, Inc. found that similar instances had happened in other parts of the world.

In Guatemala, 12 union workers were either murdered or never seen again. With this, Ray Rogers and the Corporate Campaign started the national Campaign to Stop Killer Coke.

Rogers, the worldwide director, travels the globe to speak about the alleged atrocities that occur throughout the world under the bidding of Coca-Cola, one of the largest corporations in the world.

Rogers commented on the billions of dollars spent on preserving the Coca-Cola brand with image advertising.

“The world of Coke is a world filled with lies, deception, immorality, corruption and widespread labor workers rights and environmental violations,” he said. “When people think of the Coke company, they should think of a company that has inflicted grief and hardships and despair in families and communities throughout the world. When consumers see Coca-Cola ads they should thing of crimes and misconduct so horrible that Coke products would be unthinkable and undrinkable.”

As of Monday, 34 universities as well as many union organizations have banned Coke products and services from their campus and headquarters. This includes New York University, one of the largest private universities in America, and the California Federation of Teachers. In 2005, the Senate of   NYU voted to ban the Coke products after the corporation refused to allow a third party investigation regarding the alleged mistreatment of workers throughout the world.

 “This was a sweet victory because one of the top policy makers of Coca-Cola is on the board of trustees is of NYU. Those students fought such a good battle,” said Rogers. 

The Stop Killer Coke Campaign still runs strong. Rogers encourages everyone to inform themselves of what is going on in the world of big business.

 Universities that stress a moral compass should especially oblige: “Anyone that prides themselves to be a center of ethics and morality should not lend their name or logo to Coca-Cola,” said Rogers. “They want to create a brand in Pepperdine University. They basically want to graduate a bunch of Cokeheads.”

Despite the accusations Coca-Cola insists that these do not have merit, “Our Colombian bottling partners are working with unions and the government to provide emergency cell phones, transportation to and from work, secure housing, and a host of other measures to protect our employees,” stated cokefacts.org. On this web site Coke addresses its business operations and assures that there is no foul play.

Addressing the bottling plants in Colombia and throughout the world the site states that, “The Coca-Cola Company is committed to improving the quality of life in the communities where we operate. Throughout the world, we work with our bottling partners on projects such as building school houses, providing basic educational tools, and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Cosmetic Industry

Corporations have been notorious for taking advantage of the people in the world, but organizations such as the Animal Protection Institute call out the corporations that exploit the furry friends. Though many corporations are going out of their way to advertise that their products are “cruelty free,” meaning they are not tested on animals, API reveals the statement is deceiving. “The claim often refers to the final product,” according to API’s Web site. “However, final product testing has become nearly obsolete in the industry. What is important to note is many products contain ingredients that are tested on animals.” Another loophole that could make the statement a half truth is the simple use of language, “Companies that proudly state ‘we’ do not test ingredients or products on animals may in fact merely hire someone else to do the testing, allowing them to make this disingenuous claim,” stated API.

Starbucks

Despite its wholesome green persona, Starbucks also has skeletons in its corporate closets. The coffee industry is becoming especially lucrative. Prices for caffeinated luxuries have increased; yet the farmers of Ethiopia and throughout the world are constantly losing their land due to bankruptcy as a result of unfair buying rates.

Organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association have placed a watchful eye on the coffee giant for nearly a decade pressuring Starbucks to adopt fair trade standards. “[The vendors] have interests in keeping the world prices down, and that is problematic for the producers in developing countries,” said Tyler. “We’ve been pressuring Starbucks to adapt a fair trade policy for years.”

To combat this, Starbucks emphasizes that it is their social responsibility to ensure fairness and have made efforts to purchase fair trade coffee.

Still the Organic Consumers Association has its doubts, “We’ll have to see what happens, the interesting thing about this is that it does not seem to be third-party verified,” Tyler said. Starbucks has claimed that in the fiscal year of 2005 it paid 23 percent more per pound than that the New York “C” standard market price. It also states that a percentage of the coffee is Fair Trade. However, because Starbucks has such a large profit margin, “It’s certainly just a drop in the bucket,” Tyler said.

Champion Sports Apparel

The beloved hoodies and apparel displaying Pepperdine pride and its football record come with a price. No, not the hefty sum of $50 or more, the cost is one of humanity. In a capitalist society where

profit as a result of pilfering is common practice, workers all over the world do not receive just compensation for their work. “It’s an extremely severe situation,” said Bjorn Claeson, director of SweatFree Communities. “The norm is sweatshop exploitations. The rules demand factories to exploit its workers in order to survive.”  

Champion products, a Hanes brand and Sara Lee subsidiary, is a licensee of Pepperdine and other university apparel. Over the years, the corporation has been accused of union bursting, less-than-human sweatshop conditions, and unfair wages.

The corporation has made attempts to clean up its act including joining the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production, WRAP, an organization created by American Apparel and Footware Association. WRAP is supposed to monitor the business operations in factories around the world to ensure a fair working environment. However, activists pass off the company’s involvement with WRAP as a public relations ploy. Terry Collingsworth, attorney with the International Labor Rights Fund, was quoted saying WRAP was, “set up as an industry-dominated project to avoid outside, legitimate monitoring. In short, it’s a dodge, and is so regarded by everyone except the industry.”

Students across the nation have worked together to create an availability of “sweat-free” products. With the help of  the United Students Against Sweatshops, the entire University of California system adopted a Designated Suppliers Program, DSP, which attempts to hold clothing industries accountable. Allegations of injustice are rampant in Corporate America. Putting a halt to it altogether may not be the most realistic feat. But when it comes to cleaning up the practices of big business activist groups agree that it’s up to the students.