Theresa Wolfwood of BBCF & Canadian Coordinator of the campaign: www.boycottbush.org
Why help fund war & injustice? That is what we do when we buy the products of corporations that support war, operate with poor labour & health conditions & destroy the environment.
Three years ago a group of European activists decided they needed to do more than organize &: participate in rallies, walks and meetings. They met in Mumbai at the World Social Forum with activists from around the world & agreed to focus on 6 major companies that fund and benefit from USA militarism in Iraq. They are also symbols of USA economic domination as well. The BOYCOTT BUSH campaign has spread around the world.
Global Boycott takes off in Mumbai, India, 2004 World Social Forum
One of the most energetic activist groups at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, January, 2004, was the Boycott Bush Campaign. It started last year in Belgium and has now spread around the world. In Mumbai the campaign had a colourful demonstration, an informative base in an information stall and a lively panel with participants from many countries. The boycott was endorsed by many activists at the WSF from Arundhati Roy to Jose Bove. The boycott is concentrated on corporations that give huge donations to support the war in Iraq and to elect Bush and his buddies.
Boycotts are incredibly easy for individuals to do, but they do require movement organizing and campaigning to get the message across. Corporations hate boycotts; even a small drop in sales can affect profit margins and stock prices. During the invasion of Iraq sales and popularity of many of these companies dropped drastically in Europe and Asia as war resisters spontaneously stopped shopping; the war continues and the boycott is spreading. The campaign urges us to continue to vote at the store. We have the chance to vote every day when we go shopping. Ethical consumerism is as powerful as the ballot box.
All these corporations make products we can easily and healthily do without. Most of these companies also have poor labour, environmental and health records. For example, Coke is responsible for the death of union leaders in Colombia and the pollution of aquifers in India. With only a few giants and their products to focus, the boycott has a greater chance of effectiveness and visibility.
The names of these companies who give millions to support militarism will be no surprise to any of us; they are the globally recognized ambassadors of USA corporate domination: Coca–Cola, Pepsi–Cola, Altria (Phillip Morris and Kraft) ExxonMobil/Esso, Chevron/Texaco, General Electric and McDonalds.
When we shop we need to remember all the products these companies produce under many different labels. Remember bottled water like Aquafina and Dasani, Marlboro cigarettes, Cheez Whiz and Saturday afternoon at the Opera on CBC Radio 2 – the only advertiser allowed on CBC radio.
If we drink tap water, fair trade tea and coffee, locally made juice, quit smoking, walk more, drive less and eat organic locally produced staple food, we will be helping a sustainable, ethical economy while we reject war–supporting companies and their damaging products.
In India, Coca-Cola has been accused of draining the groundwater of many villages and of dumping toxic chemicals into the environment. If you need any more reasons to boycott Coke – then think about this: tests in India have shown that Coke there is polluted with pesticides. In one part of India, Coke has bought the groundwater and forbids local people from using their wells.
In Colombia where workers at Coca Cola have tried to unionize, nine leaders have been assassinated – some have gone into exile. Other unionists that supported the Coke workers have also been tortured and murdered. In dangerous Colombia 62 labour activists were killed in 2004.
The struggle to unionize workers at a Coca–Cola bottling facility in Carepa, Colombia has resulted in the murder of one leader on the day the company was supposed to respond to the union. Days later paramilitary forces entered the plant and told workers: reign from the union, leave town or be murdered. Then the forces burned down the union hall and 40 workers were forced to resign from the union.
In an unusual and bold move, Colombian unions, supported by some USA unions are going to court in the USA to press charges of human rights abuses against USA based companies – Coke and its associated bottling companies. The case is still in court and the suit has drawn much needed attention to Colombia and the actions of USA-based transnational corporations around the world.
In the meantime, the USA government provides massive military aid to Colombia’s right wing government and USA is Colombia’s largest investor. Drugs, oil, minerals, even flowers from Colombia end up in the USA and benefit USA elites. There is an international call for a boycott against Coca-Cola products to support the workers in Colombia, added to the boycott because the company supports George Bush and his war policies.
And, do you know the last time Coke or its water, Dasani, was independently tested here? So turn on your tap, drink fair trade tea and coffee and locally made juice. You will be healthier and richer and you will be performing a political action! It’s a lot easier than being shot for your principles.
North American consumers can support the “Campaign to Stop Killer Coke&rdqo; by writing letters to the company’s board members (many of whom also sit on boards of General Electric, Georgia Pacific, Avon products, Chevron–Texaco and other giant companies) and demand justice for workers in Colombia. Until our demands are heeded we say: we will boycott Coke, Dasani, Sprite, Fanta, Minute Maid and Nestea.INJUSTICE! It’s unthinkable! It’s undrinkable! For more information see: www.killercoke.org
PLEASE SUPPORT THE Global BOYCOTT Of the big 6 WAR CONTRIBUTORS: COCA COLA, PEPSICO, ESSO–MOBIL, TEXACO–CHEVRON, McDONALD’S and ALTRIA.
BOYCOTT: Coca Cola, including Minute Maid juices & Dasani water; Pepsico including Pepsi & ; Aquafina water, McDonald’s fast (& unhealthy food); Esso-Mobil petroleum products; Texaco–Chevron products: Altria – a big conglomerate that includes Kraft food products & Malboro cigarettes.
Boycotts can be a simple, private, non-confrontational daily action; when groups also endorse boycotts, they raise awareness among members and the public & send a message to corporations & governments. When unions & pension funds divest in these corporations, the results are felt immediately.
PRINT off these Boycott Bush bills, with lists of products and pass them around. They are on www.boycottbush.orgwhich has many graphics and the latest boycott data.
From Oil to Opera: The Boycott letters
(The following letter was received after an article on the global boycott of 6 USA corporations including Chevron- Texaco by TW was printed in a Victoria paper. A response by TW follows.)
Just read your article ” Global boycotts against war and injustice and just plain talk” in the Apr/May/June 2004 issue of the Lower Island News, found it very interesting and informative but want to take issue with one point, that is Saturday Afternoon at the Opera the only advertiser allowed on the CBC Radio 2.
Texaco, now Chevron–Texaco has been the proud sponsor of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts for more than sixty years–the longest continuous sponsorship in radio history–and these broadcasts have been carried on the CBC, bringing many hours of listening pleasure to millions of people who would otherwise not have access to these wonderful performances.
Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Keep up the good work.
Best wishes, Dorothy J. Patterson.
Thank you for your thoughtful response to my article on boycotts in the Lower Island News. (I have been away, so am just able to mail my response now.) I wondered if I might strike a sensitive chord when I mentioned Texaco’s opera broadcast. Your comments made me really think about the purpose and ramifications of boycotts.
I think you are probably like me – you don’t eat at McDonald’s, drink soft drinks or bottled water, smoke cigarettes or eat Kraft Dinner or Cheez Whiz so it is no great hardship to say we boycott them now. So I must examine what might be a hardship for me if I really believe in supporting boycotts.
I have been listening to Saturday afternoon at the opera for decades also. I have, however, often wondered how they get around CBC Radio no-advertisers rule. But I think the answer is simple – money and power.
The purpose of any sponsored entertainment is to sell the product. In this case it is the petroleum production of one of the world’s largest corporations. And it is successful – my mother patronized Texaco and I used to – just for the very reason that they sponsored the opera. In fact, when I travel and see a Texaco station I remember the jingle from childhood, “Where ever you go, there’s Texaco”. Brand identification and loyalty is what advertising is all about, not the beautiful music that is just a vehicle for us to fill up our vehicle.
We can be sure that if the decades of listening pleasure did not translate into millions of customers the opera would be long gone off the air. I have not bought their gas for years (and now it is Chevron as well, making an even bigger conglomerate), partly because of their environmental record. Then again, I have not bought Shell for over twenty years because of its support for apartheid in South Africa and its support of oppression in Nigeria. So for some years I have bought gas at Husky-Mohawk and PetroCanada (which is doing bad things in Burma). I wish I could give up driving a car – the perfect solution.
Yes, I still sometimes listen to the opera broadcast, but with an uneasy awareness that the money that makes it possible is the profit made from the exploitation of oil resources in many countries; profit that does not always benefit the citizens of these countries. Some of this profit is used to make donations to ruthless politicians, parties and governments that started and continue to wage an unjust and cruel war against the people of Iraq solely because they live their tenuous lives on top of oil producing rock formations. They also are suffering, and will continue to suffer for millions of years, the effects of depleted uranium residue from weapons using Canadian uranium.
But I will not buy Texaco products and I will protest to the CBC that it promotes a company that pretends to be cultured and altruistic while it funds death and makes millions on it – any company that donates to a ruling power is handsomely rewarded with lucrative contracts.
So, is my pleasure or your pleasure worth supporting death? Your use of the expression “throwing out the baby with the bath water” resonates in a most tragic way for me. Three years ago I saw hospital wards full of dying babies in Baghdad who drank and bathed in toxic water because of the destruction of water purification systems and the twelve year embargo against equipment. Indeed, the babies died at an appalling rate and were then “thrown out” back to grieving parents. Babies still die in Baghdad in unacceptable numbers and the bath water, when available, is still polluted. The USA liberators, backed by Chevron Texaco and other friends, are not interested in the lives and health of babies.
It is easy to boycott stuff we don’t use anyhow, but are we willing to accept a small deprivation if it means saving lives? Boycotts do work. Even if only 5% of the public practice them, we can wipe off the cream of corporate profits and send a message to corporations that we will not fund war and violence.
Yours in peace, Theresa Wolfwood
(note: Texaco no longer sponsors the opera on CBC, 2006)