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COMPA: New Milwaukee Group Strives to Create Solidarity Around Non-War Global Issues

by Nathan Hall / photos by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle

Compa, a new activist organization in Milwaukee, is short for the Spanish word companera/o, meaning companion or comrade. This group formed a few months ago to promote global solidarity on non-war related issues. The following is an interview with Kelly Lundeen, a live-in volunteer at Casa Maria Catholic Worker on 21st and Juneau, a house that takes in homeless women and children and works on social justice and peace issues. Lundeen is involved in Compa. Hall: What is Compa and what does it stand for? Lundeen: Compa is in Spanish short for companion or comrade, which is what we hope to be to our sisters and brothers in the rest of the world. We are focused on issues of economic and corporate-led globalization which the United States heads up and benefits from. We felt there was a lack of action in Milwaukee on these issues and a definite lack of education. Milwaukee has been affected by globalization by the loss of jobs even more than other cities in Wisconsin and in the United States… So we’re here to educate ourselves, educate others on economic globalization issues. We also wanted a less hierarchical structure. One of the ways we are trying to avoid hierarchy is by having study circles where individuals interested in studying a certain topic come to present some information about the topic. We can come together, talk about the issue, and discuss what we hope to see changed about it. The study circles are led by different people every other week. Hall: Who is involved in your group? Lundeen: We’re looking for people who are willing to take an active stance for justice in the world. For example in Colombia, the workers of the Coca-Cola bottling plant are being murdered for being involved in union activity. We think that people need to know about this first of all, but second of all to not be afraid of being active in standing up for these workers. People involved include labor and community activists, but the group is open to anyone. Hall: What else have you been working on? Lundeen: Our first event was May 16 regarding Coca-Cola. A gentleman spoke about witnessing his co-workers being murdered in a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Colombia. The second issue people initially gathered around was the FTAA, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. People around the world are mobilizing to go to Miami this November for the FTAA ministerials. We’ll hopefully also be doing a solidarity action here in Milwaukee. FTAA is basically an expansion of NAFTA that will include all of the countries of the western hemisphere. It’s a treaty that is supposed to open up barriers and make trade easier and hopefully develop the economies of less developed countries. What we believe it will do is benefit the transnational corporations… but this treaty will not make it easy for people to cross these borders, nor environmental laws, nor labor laws. Therefore it will be damaging to the majority of the people if this happens. NAFTA has been very destructive and this is going to take it to about thirty more countries. Study circles… we had one on globalization and its effects on the environment. We’ll be having one on the School of the Americas, which is sort of the military backing of these economic policies Hall: What is the consumer campaign against Coca-Cola and what are you asking people to do? Lundeen: The consumer campaign against Coca-Cola [began] on July 20 because that [was] the one year anniversary of the first international tribunals against Coca-Cola regarding the murders in Colombia. We ask people to write Douglas Daft, the CEO of Coca-Cola, telling him why you disagree with what’s going on in Colombia and the rest of the world. We ask small business owners not to purchase Coca-Cola products. It’s not a responsible corporation and we shouldn’t be giving them a penny of ours. Hall: What is the future of Compa? Lundeen: Right now we’re working on events related to the FTAA in Miami and also the G8 — a gathering of the eight wealthiest nations in the world to decide policies of an economic and political nature to be implemented on the rest of the world without accountability — held in Chicago next year, so we’d like to mobilize people from Milwaukee. Compa holds a strategizing meeting every other Sunday at 7pm at 1151 N. 21st Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 8 – August 2003
by Nathan Hall / photos by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle