Bolivia: Working towards building a national Coca Cola workers union

Roberto Vicente Baigorra Chávez, Secretary General of the Bolivian Embol Bottling Factory Workers Union in Santa Cruz, participated in the extraordinary meeting of FELATRAC (Latin American Federation of Coca Cola workers) organized in Buenos Aires. The constitution of an umbrella organization of unions organized in the Bolivian subsidiary of the transnational was the focus of this short interview.

- How many years have you been working in Coca Cola?
I have been working in the production department of the company for 24 years.

-Was the union organized in the factory when you started working?
Yes, but only about four years ago I became the leader of the Union. Before we had a leader who did not help us at all with regard to wages and for that reason workers have asked me to lead the union.

-In Bolivia there are five manufacturing plants of Coca Cola, right?
Yes, we have five plants in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, La Paz, Cochabamba, Tarija and Beni. The plant in Beni is not owned by Embol; it is owned by a businessman from that region, but there are unions in all five plants.

-A good news is that you have built up an inter-union, an umbrella organization for Coca Cola workers nationwide.
Yes, comprising of unions organized in Embol bottler. If we follow this pattern, we can have a single organization which is the idea. The first step is the creation of this inter-union, where the IUF has to help.
I think in the near future other unions will also join the IUF and FELATRAC.

-What impression did you have about Fataga?
I appreciate the hosting and comradeship in Argentina, as if I were at home. I have been treated as if I were a member of the family and therefore I thank Raul Alvarez, Pablo Quiroga, and all colleagues of this great organization.

-You promised to me that we will visit Santa Cruz de la Sierra in June.
We are waiting for you and Pablo Quiroga since last year (smiles).
I hope we can now start a cycle of training courses so we can fight with more forces to improve our wages and working conditions.

An Interview with Gerardo Iglesias, IUF Latin America regional secretary
Read the original story in Spanish here.