SLAM Takes Aim at Coke Contract

Only one of three Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) three contracts with the Coca-Cola Company will expire soon enough for Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) to target this semester.

Of the three, Harvard’s contract with Coke’s subsidiary juice company Odwalla expires in July 2006, HUDS communications coordinator Jami Snyder told The Crimson yesterday. The other two, for bottled beverages and for dining hall fountain soda, expire respectively in December of 2006 and 2009, Snyder wrote in an e-mail.

Coke has been mired in controversy due to allegations of human rights abuse in Colombia and environmental exploitation in India.

The release of the expiration dates changes SLAM’s outlook for this semester’s plan of attack. SLAM announced earlier this week that it would focus its spring campaign on convincing Harvard to drop its contract with Coke.

“2006 is something very concrete I think we can work towards,” said SLAM leader Adaner Usmani ’08. “The fact that it’s coming up soon provides a good reason for this particular avenue of activism.”

SLAM’s spring initiative will follow in the tracks of activism that led to the decision of at least ten other colleges to drop their contracts with Coke. Michigan and New York University most recently declined to renew their contracts, garnering nationwide media coverage.

According to Usmani, SLAM will likely focus on persuading HUDS not to renew its contract with Odwalla, which is “the best we could hope for here.” Usmani added that he believes getting HUDS to suspend the other contracts midway is not “feasible at all.”

HUDS maintained its refusal to release detailed monetary information about the contacts. “Releasing dollar amounts attached to contracts compromises the competitive bidding process,” Snyder wrote in an e-mail.

Snyder said, however, that despite its exclusive contract with Coke HUDS has significantly less business with the company than Michigan, which services 25,000 undergraduates and 19,000 graduate students,

HUDS also declined to comment both on the allegations against Coke and on SLAM’s campaign.

Usmani said he was encouraged by the nearing expiration dates. The summer date, however, could prove troublesome for SLAM. The organization decided earlier this week not to prioritize helping workers in their discussions with HUDS because the June negotiations coincide with exams. This could potentially compromise their ability to fully campaign, Usmani told The Crimson this week.

Odwalla’s July expiration date could cause similar difficulties.

—Staff writer Benjamin L. Weintraub can be reached at bweintr@fas.harvard.edu.