ATLANTA (AP) â€” A group that plans to boycott Coca-Cola products said Wednesday the effort would begin in earnest this week in 10 large U.S. cities, with an initial focus on getting blacks to stop drinking Sprite.
The boycott, led by the Committee for Corporate Justice, also hopes to persuade businesses to switch their Coke vending machines to those from rival Pepsi.
So far, 15 businesses and churches in metro Atlanta have agreed to remove Coke machines, said Larry Jones, the committee's leader and a former Coke human resources manager.
A group of eight black current and former Coke workers sued the company last year, alleging that they were denied raises, promotions and fair performance reviews because of their race and are seeking to include as many as 2,000 other class members in the suit.
Coke denies the allegations, and has been working to settle the suit.
The group will target its boycott at the 10 markets where the group says Coke sells the most to blacks. They are: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Washington.
Sprite will be the first product targeted because blacks make up 36 percent of the soft drink's consumer base, he said. A Coke spokesman said he could not immediately confirm that figure.
Coke spokesman Ben Deutsch said the company is ``disappointed'' by the boycott.
``We take all comments and concerns voiced by our current and former employees seriously, but we do not think this action is justified,'' Deutsch said.
The boycott plans were disclosed a day after an Atlanta-based cable network partially owned by a Florida attorney involved in the discrimination suit announced that it had signed a five-year marketing deal with the beverage company.
Willie Gary, a personal-injury attorney who represents four plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, said there is no interest conflict in the connection between his Major Broadcasting Cable Network and his legal work against Coke.
On the Net: Committee for Corporate Justice: http://www.corporatejustice.org