Turk workers sue Coke

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Turkish union workers sued the Coca-Cola Co and Turkish bottling partner Coca-Cola Icecek on Tuesday, claiming human rights violations and saying the soft-drink giant used Turkish secret police to perpetrate a tear gas attack at a local labor dispute. The suit, filed by truckdrivers and other transport members of Istanbul’s «Nakliyat I» union against Coke and its Turkish bottler in US District Court in Manhattan, said Coke’s local managers «unleashed» a special branch of the Turkish police on workers and families who in July were protesting being discharged by Coke for joining the union. Coke spokeswoman Kari Bjorhus in Atlanta said the labor dispute and protest had not directly involved Coke but an independent freight company that supplied services to Coke. The freight company subsequently settled the labor dispute with the workers, she said. «The facts are very different from these allegations,» she said. The suit says that during the July 20, 2005 protest, police attacked workers attempting to leave Coke’s Turkish headquarters with «a particularly lethal form of tear gas» before beating them with clubs and taking them to a nearby prison. «Most people were paralyzed from the gas, and when they were felled by the clubbing, they were kicked repeatedly,» said the suit, adding that Coke had evacuated their office employees knowing the attack was going to occur. «All this was done for the purpose of forcing the plaintiff union-members to abandon their lawful effort to form a union,» the suit said.

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