Refreshing Pauses: Coca-Cola and Human Rights in Guatemala

By Henry J. Frundt | Go to book overview

Introduction

In 1986, Guatemala returned to a civilian-led government after more than thirty years of virtual military rule. The conversion enabled the ruling generals to escape the nation's abrupt economic problems while they retained control of the country through a new constitution, civilian patrols, "model development" villages, and interinstitutional committees. Ne­ vertheless, the election brought some reduction in the go­ vernment's widely-reported record of more than 50,000 murders in the previous 5 years, and grudging new respect for certain human rights. In what must be recognized as a victory from below, labor unions and wives and mothers of the "disappeared" continued their demonstrations. As powerful classes acted to prevent greater inroads in their advantage, new leaders seemed to reappear like flourishing brambles that machine-gun ma­ chetes could not clear away.

This study presents one persistent effort that contribu­ ted to the democratization of Guatemala's politics and to changing forms of international organization that addressed human rights issues: the struggle of workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant, and the response by church shareholders, pa­ rent company, and international union. It argues that such material should become the subject of further organizational analysis in the tradition of more general studies of corporate structure (such as Chandler 1962; Form and Blum 1965; Salaman and Thompson 1980; Clegg and Dunkerley, 1980) as well as specific works on bargaining and union development ( Somavia and Valdes 1979; Windmuller 1969), and it is offered with this hove. It also illustrates important debates on the role of national and international bourgeoisie in Latin American deve­ lopment (See Chilcote and Edelstein 1986; Klaren and Bossert 1986), because its key players clearly represent various class factions. 1

The Coca-Cola workers began their organizing drive in 1975. They observed all the legalities, but they were imme­ diately thwarted by an attorney from Houston, the Coca-Cola franchise's right-wing president, John Trotter, who used his connections with the Guatemalan military to lock the workers outside the plant gates. These young men and women went on a "hunger strike" along the busy thoroughfare in front of the plant. This brought wide popular support and stimulated the formation of a national labor confederation. After two weeks

-ix-

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Refreshing Pauses: Coca-Cola and Human Rights in Guatemala
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • 1 - The Lockout/Strike 1
  • 2 - Subdivision 17
  • 3 - The Church Takes Stock 28
  • 4 - First Settlement 42
  • 5 - Repression 56
  • 6 - The Corporate Forum 72
  • 7 91
  • 8 - Boycott! 105
  • 9 - The Spring Offensive 123
  • 10 - Negotiations Begin 135
  • 11 - Abduction 153
  • 12 - A Contract! 163
  • 13 - An Oasis Runs Dry 173
  • 14 - Occupation 187
  • 15 - The Third Campaign 200
  • 16 - Echoes of Victory 213
  • Concluding Reflections 222
  • Notes 233
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 262
  • About the Author 269
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