PSU Students Meet With University President to Cancel Coke-Odwalla Contract
In support of the global Coke Boycott for human rights and union rights in Colombia by the food and beverage workers union, SINALTRAINAL, PSU students met on June 22, 2005 with PSU president Dan Bernstine, to discuss Portland State's joining the boycott by canceling the University's Coke-Odwalla contract in the Smith Center student store.
On June 22, 2005, Portland State students in Portland, Oregon, including newly-elected progressive ASPSU president Erin Devaney, met with the University's president, Dan Bernstine, along with Cathy Dyck, Vice President-Finance, and John Eckman, Auxiliary Services, regarding the University's canceling the Smith student store Coke-Odwalla contract, in support of the Coke Boycott. Eight campus groups, so far, have endorsed the Coke Boycott at PSU. On July 1, 2005, PSU became the 9th, and last, college, to remove Taco Bell from the school's cafeteria, in support of the now successfully-completed Taco Bell Boycott for a living wage for Florida farm workers.
Progressive Student Union ( firstname.lastname@example.org) has been organizing the Coke Boycott at Portland State for over a year. John Eckman, from Auxiliary Services, was the Administration official who negotiated canceling the Taco Bell contract at the school. PSU is Oregon's largest four-year public university, with 25,000 students. Students had requested the meeting with PSU president Dan Bernstine seven times, and finally got to meet with Bernstine for an hour on June 22, 2005.
President Bernstine listened to the allegations of paramilitary use by Coke in Colombia to harass, intimidate and kill union leaders, workers and families, including Isidro Gil--and, when she was going to testify four years later in the lawsuit againt Coke, Isidro's wife. ASPSU president Erin Devaney suggested to Bernstine that the school have a referendum on whether to cancel the Coke contract in support of the boycott, but Bernstine demurred, saying instead that students should vote with their pocketbooks and simply boycott Coke-Odwalla products. Activist students plan on pursuing Erin's idea of holding a campus-wide referendum on the issue, nonetheless, and expanding the campus Coke Boycott to include the newly-arrived food service provider on campus (as of July 1, 2005), Sodexho.
Apparently, eight colleges, globally, so far, have canceled their Coke contracts in support of the boycott, including in May, 2005, Rutgers, in New Jersey. The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (home of SDS where Tom Hayden and other students wrote the Port Huron Statement) put Coke 'on probaton' at their school, in support of the boycott, as well.
A member of PSU's Progressive Student Union, Lew Church, was the only U.S. student, in December, 2004, to attend and present a Coke Boycott workshop, at UK No Sweat's annual conference held at the University of London Union, by Russell Square.
A coaltion of activist students at Portland State are also seeking to make connections between globalization and militarization by urging the University to evict the "Viking" National Guard/ROTC from campus (Vikings are the school's sports team), and for Portland State to join the WRC, the Workers Rights Consortium, in Washington, D.C., to help monitor multinational corporations and Third World labor practices. A Progressive Student Union organizer, in June, 2005, hand delivered copies of a model resolution to the five Portland City Council members, for the City to enact an ethical purchasing law, like that passed recently by Los Angeles, and currently under consideraton by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
At the June 22, 2005, meeting with activist students, PSU president Bernstine stated that 'we can't have outsiders telling the University what to do, our school has a unique character.' It wasn't clear if Bernstine meant 'outsiders' to mean the WRC, SINALTRAINAL, or even, PSU activist students themselves. While Bernstine is the first African-American public four-year university president in the history of Oregon, in his seven years as university president, Bernstine has made a number of decisions questions by activist students at the school.
For a recent university commencement, Bernstine named that year's Miss America, Katie Harmon (then a PSU undergrad) as commencement speaker. Harmon (an opera singer) later performed at Vice President Dick Cheney's $400,000 GOP fundraiser near the Portland airport, for the 2004 election.
Bernstine was asked by students at the meeting on June 22 whether he would declare the proposal that Portland State's campus security get tasers -- to be null and void, and off the table. Bernstine said that it was still an option, although interim VP-Finance, Cathy Dyck (who will serve until November, 2005), has stated that the school's campus security personnel will not get tasers as long as she is Vice President.
Bernstine has also proposed that PSU build a $30,000,000 new gym, despite the school already having one gym and there having been many cutbacks to academics, library services, etc., due to Oregon's serious underfunding of both higher education and K-12 education. Oregon is ranked in the bottom three states consistently nationwide (with Alaska and Washington state, reportedly) for high hunger rates, high unemployment rates, and underfunding of public schools. In a recent year, the Portland School District had teachers "volunteer" for two weeks, due to a budget shortfall.
According to the school's daily paper, The Vanguard, out of about 3,000 colleges nationally, at one point PSU had the 4th highest dropout rate, and is rated by US News & World Report as a 'fourth-tier' school. According to an article in the statewide daily paper, The Oregonian, Portland State, again out of about 3,000 colleges in the country, is ranked among the 'bottom 30 schools' (according to the National Center for Women and Law) for discrimination against women athletes under Title IX.
In 2004, activist students and teachers at PSU were able to halt the Administration's proposal to house an 'academic department of Homeland Security' at the school, under sponsorship of former Bush Administration official Tom Ridge, and Chief Kroeker, former Portland police chief, in connection with the former chair of the PSU Political Science Department, Ron Tammen (who had taught in Washington, D.C. at the War College and for the CIA).
Activist students at PSU are planning to hold a conference on globalization at the school in October, 2005, but will seek Administration action in the interim to kick 'killer Coke' off campus. When Juan Carlos Galvis talked at Portland State, Juan discussed his organizing experience for SINALTRAINAL, the Coke union in Colombia, noting that a couple months prior to his PSU talk, paramilitaries had shot at his jeep, but his guards returned fire, and he was uninjured. Two months after Juan talked at PSU, however, Juan's brother-in-law was killed by the paramilitaries.
address: Lew Church, PSU Progressive Student Union, 1802 SW 10th, Portland, OR 97201
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