USA: Coke Protests Get Scarce Audience
Although upstaged by larger, louder protests of the previous day, a caravan of current and former Coca-Cola employees made a brief stop in the nation's capital Tuesday to accuse the soft drink manufacturer of racial discrimination.The so-called "Ride for Corporate Justice" began Saturday in Atlanta, where the company is based, and concludes Wednesday at The Coca-Cola Co. shareholders meeting in Wilmington, Del.But when the riders got to Washington, most members of Congress had gone home for the Easter recess, and few people turned out to greet them.Rain forced their news conference inside, but more than 30 protesters in red baseball caps applauded the caravan's organizer, former human resources manager Larry Jones."We want to enlighten the world that discrimination exists at the Coca-Cola company," Jones said.Eight black employees at Coca-Cola have filed a federal lawsuit alleging the corporation denies blacks fair pay, promotions, raises and performance reviews. The company has denied those charges and is attempting settle the lawsuit.Jones said he was relieved his bus arrived in Washington one day after thousands of other protesters blocked downtown traffic to protest actions by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.Jones stopped short of calling for a boycott because he didn't want to "declare war" on the company, but he said he doubted the group would receive a fair hearing at the Delaware shareholders meeting."How many more lawsuits do we need?" he said. "We don't want just an oblique move to the left. What we are looking for is a fundamental, structural change to that company."
April 19, 2000