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US: University of Michigan Suspends Coca-Cola Sales

Associated Press
January 2nd, 2006

The University of Michigan suspended sales of Coca-Cola products on its three campuses over allegations that the company permits human-rights and environmental abuses abroad.

The suspension, which begins Jan. 1, will affect vending machines, residence halls, cafeterias and campus restaurants. Coke's contracts with the university are worth about $1.4 million.

The university and the company said they will continue to negotiate.

"The University of Michigan is an important school, and I respect the way they worked with us on this issue," said Kari Bjorhus, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Co., told the Detroit News. "We are continuing to try hard to work with the university to address concerns and assure them about our business practices."

Michigan's decision was prompted by a complaint last year from Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality. The student group accused Coke of draining local groundwater in India and conspiring with paramilitary groups in Colombia to harass and harm union members.

The company has repeatedly denied the allegations, which have prompted other schools to suspend sales.

The university, which has more than 50,000 students, decided not to renew its contracts when Coke said it was unable to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to cooperate in an investigation of circumstances in Colombia. The university and several other colleges had offered to fund the investigation.

Ms. Bjorhus said Thursday that a pending civil lawsuit prevented the company from participating.

In a statement on the company Web site, Coca-Cola said allegations involving its operations in Colombia are false and the company has been "an exemplary member of the business community" there.





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