It's early monday morning, but Ray Rogers has the full attention of some 70 students in a Rutgers University classroom. For nearly half an hour, the 61-year-old labor activist rails against Coca-Cola Co. (KO
), taking the beverage giant to task for allegedly turning a blind eye as eight employees of Coke bottlers in Colombia were killed and scores more were threatened or jailed on trumped-up terrorism charges over the past decade.
"The reality is that the world of Coca-Cola is a world of lies, deceptions, corruption, gross human rights and environmental abuses!" thunders Rogers, a legendary union activist who cut his teeth organizing a highly publicized campaign against textile maker J.P. Stevens & Co. in the 1970s. He slams his hand on a desk. "But this is where it's going to stop! We're going to put an end to this once and for all! How many of you will stand up against Coke?" One by one, roughly half the students lift their hands. In response to Rogers' charges, a Coke spokeswoman says the activist "has no facts to support his claims."