How MUNSU is contributing to the Breezeway deficit

By Noah Davis-Power
labatt blue goes green

The prerogative of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union (MUNSU) is to fight for the advancement of student issues and concerns at the university and in the province. It is to make sure that the interests of its due-paying members are at the forefront of their decision making and are present in their execution of the decision. However, there is one question that MUNSU must answer, and that is how supporting a brewer strike is in any way helping the students of Memorial University?

MUNSU issued a press release stating their intention to remove all Labatt products from the Breezeway, our local campus bar. In solidarity with their fellow unions, CUPE and NAPE, MUNSU is standing up for the rights of the Labatt workers. It is not a question of whether or not the strike is justified, but how supporting this strike will negatively affect students.

To attend Memorial University you must pay your mandatory MUNSU fee of forty dollars each term. The question that this should raise is how does a student paying into the union give them the authority to decide which beer they can and cannot drink? There are students who support the strike, those who are indifferent, and of course, students who do not support the workers of Labatt. By removing the Labatt products, you are ignoring the fact that there are students of opposing views, or who may not care about the Labatt strike. If students wish to support the strike, let them make their own decision not to purchase the Labatt products—they certainly don’t need the union to hold their hand and be told what they can and cannot buy.

But one must question how many students think about the Labatt strike when they venture down to the Breezeway and order a Blue Star—they’ll think about it a lot more now that they will be told that it is no longer served. I don’t think many students will be too pleased about not getting their favorite beer after a long day of classes, much less will they be entertained by a political lecture about solidarity. This strike will turn away students from an already crippled business venture by MUNSU; can they really afford to lose more?

The Breezeway costs each student an average of ten dollars each annually with its crippling budget line. According to the most recently available budget projections on the MUNSU website, the student-run bar runs a deficit of well over $100,000 each year. How does the students’ union decide to alleviate this crushing deficit? By driving away bar patrons, of course. Supporting the strike will only bring more strife and grief to the budget and to the finance director when the Breezeway’s deficit balloons because of the Labatt boycott.

Supporting outside organizations when there are severe political implications and negative impacts on students is not appropriate for MUNSU to take part in. I wonder how many students were informed and engaged before MUNSU took action; guaranteed not as many as will be negatively affected by the illegitimate decision to remove Labatt products from the Breezeway. When it comes to solidarity or student interests, students should win every time. So until MUNSU realizes their mistake, I’ll be drinking elsewhere, and I’ll take a pint of Stella, please.

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Filed under Opinions on Sunday, July 21st, 2013 at 9:50 pm.
 

15 Responses to “How MUNSU is contributing to the Breezeway deficit”

  1. LoudMouth says:

    The Breezeway’s revenue has gone up 15% since the boycott began. Clearly people are supporting MUNSU’s actions and are coming together to show support.

    Regardless, even if this weren’t the case, MUNSU is still a business owner, and has the right to serve whichever products it wants. I for one am proud that my bar has taken the step of supporting the fight for a better deal for the workers that make the products they sell.

  2. Commenter says:

    ^ Could you provide some evidence of that? It seems the only person who would have access t0 such information would be directly involved with MUNSU and therefore be predisposed to supporting its efforts. Even if it was true, profit is a much better indicator of success. Not to mention that correlation does not imply causation. The Breezeway could have been closed when the boycott began, revenue would have increased infinitely, but that proves nothing.

  3. A student with questions says:

    I understand that there has been an increase in the revenue and, whether you agree or disagree with MUNSU’s stand regarding the Labatt strike,I think that you should be OUTRAGED that the Breezeway is operating at a deficit of over $100,000 per year! We have a business school whose students win awards every year – why doesn’t MUNSU ask them to prepare a business plan or better yet, take over the management and see what happens? Another idea is to copy the business plan that Bitters uses. I do not know the financials for Bitters, but they do seem busy, serve great food and people WANT to go there.
    MUNSU, what is your response to both this article and any comments that have been made about it?

  4. Phil White says:

    That’s odd. Labatt sales and share have increased everywhere in the city since this strike started. I guess everyone who supports the strike must meet at the Breezeway and buy all their beer there. Is that up 15 per cent vs last month, or 15 per cent vs this time last year.These students aren’t stupid, manipulation won’t work. Just be honest and let them make their own choice

  5. Noah, I’d like to make a few points.

    “The question that this should raise is how does a student paying into the union give them the authority to decide which beer they can and cannot drink?”

    I don’t understand this sentence, because I don’t think it’s an argument anyone has ever made. MUNSU does not receive its mandate from student dues; that comes from student elections.

    I’d also like to point out that MUNSU’s relationship to students is not the same as a for-profit corporation’s responsibility to its shareholders. It isn’t neglecting its mandate by losing money. In addition, you leave out a key role of unions besides advancing “the interests of due-paying members”, which is for students to act as a bloc. Which makes sense, since this article seems to argue against collective action in general.

    One of your reasons that MUNSU should not support the strike is that some students may disagree or be indifferent to the strike. By that standard, MUNSU should never make any policy decisions, since the student body is essentially never going to be unanimous. Should every administrative decision made about the Breezeway be put to a vote? That probably wouldn’t bring it into the green any faster.

    You say that the question is not whether the strike itself is justified, but whether supporting it is in students’ interests. Besides being a very cautious statement, it’s also one I strongly disagree with. It suggests that students and students’ unions should be compartmentalised, not engaging with the outside world.

    MUNSU’s decision to boycott Labatt is not ‘illegitimate’. That word doesn’t mean “disagreed with by me”. If you want to argue that MUNSU itself is illegitimate, on account of voter turnout, acclamations, etc, then go ahead. But that’s a different argument, and it’s not one about students’ right to be sold Labatt products on campus or an obligation for MUNSU to put financial considerations above all else.

  6. Commenter says:

    It is, in fact, illegitimate. People can’t vote to control others. That’s like two lions and a sheep voting on what’s for supper.

    I think that people should be able to make choices for themselves, regardless of what the majority votes is “best for them.”

    People know what’s best for themselves. They shouldn’t be forced into a students’ union that tries to make choices for them.

    And yes, MUNSU shouldn’t make policy decisions over people who would rather not be in MUNSU. One can oppose all MUNSU policies, but particularly oppose bad ones like this.

    This sort of democracy – this forcing people to belong to groups that can make decisions for them – is a betrayal of real democracy, which is individual choice and individual liberties.

  7. >>It is, in fact, illegitimate. People can’t vote to control others. That’s like two lions and a sheep voting on what’s for supper.

    Except that they can. All the time. You know, electing governments that collect taxes not everybody wants to pay. Passing laws not everyone agrees with.

    >>I think that people should be able to make choices for themselves, regardless of what the majority votes is “best for them.”

    I feel like this kind of rhetoric is a bit overblown in the context of MUNSU deciding what beer to sell at the campus bar.

    No coercion is taking place, no action is being forced on the student body. They aren’t forbidding students from buying Labatt products, they are just chosing not to sell them.

    If you are going to argue that MUNSU should not be able to make decisions regarding the breezeway, please suggest a more democratic alternative.

    >>And yes, MUNSU shouldn’t make policy decisions over people who would rather not be in MUNSU.

    Well, in the present situation, without a MUNSU opt-out, there’s essentially no way this can be avoided. Like Noah, you’re just saying that you don’t like MUNSU doing anything.

    Argue for an opt-out all you want, but I don’t think it’s fair to be mad at MUNSU just for existing and pursuing its mandate.

    >>This sort of democracy – this forcing people to belong to groups that can make decisions for them –

    Here, you describe all existing states. If you are on an anarchist crusade, you may have bigger targets than the Breezeway.

  8. Commentator says:

    “Except that they can. All the time. You know, electing governments that collect taxes not everybody wants to pay. Passing laws not everyone agrees with.”

    “Here, you describe all existing states. If you are on an anarchist crusade, you may have bigger targets than the Breezeway.”

    You act as though MUNSU is a state. It is not, and the current administration is noit a government. In fact, you base your entire argument on these patently false premises.

    There are reasons why states have to force people into them – free rider problems and the enforcement of the laws that enable human interaction are chief amongst them.

    However, there is no reason why MUNSU needs to force people into membership and automatically deduct dues from tutition without consent.

  9. Henry Blanford says:

    Did you write that yourself Simon, or was that passed down from someone a little higher up. Give me your thoughts on this strike. I’m curious how you’re going to defend boycotting a product to support an unskilled labor position. I’m pretty sure 4 students are currently in placements at Labatt, and aren’t impressed that MUNSU has decided to boycott against the company that has provided them with an opportunity.

    Now my guess is, this is the part where you want to jump all over the two tier pay system, and imply that Labatt is hurting future jobs for younger workers. So there’s two options here. Labatt has decided that the pay scale for an unskilled labourer is 22 dollars an hour. No education and making 22 dollars an hour. Anyhow, would you recommend that Labatt grandfather everybody that currently works there and let them keep their wage,or should they just tell them their pay is cut to 22 dollars an hour. Have I mentioned yet that this is for somebody without an education or a trade?

    The problem with MUNSU is that they are pushing their own views. Everybody up there is so busy high fiving and standing tall in solidarity, that they’ve forgotten what they’ve been elected to do.

    It’s no secret that Labatt has contributed thousands of dollars to the different groups and societies at MUN. How do you plan on making up that lost revenue for the students? Does MUNSU plan on making it up for them. Or do you just expect Labatt to keep supporting the student groups despite the boycott?

    Have you read the latest offer? Yes? Great! Next time you’re talking to a business student, you can explain to them why they can’t get a Bud Light, but it’s ok because you stand in solidarity to protect workers who currently average over 80,000 dollars a year.

    MUNSU is not your personal platform. You don’t support a union, just because you’re in a union. These workers want 100 per cent health coverage and a fully funded pension. Why don’t you table that at the next meeting and see if that passes.

    I’m done my rant, but I just want one logical reason as to why you support this strike. I don’t want a written memo from Lana Payne, or a spokesperson from NAPE, or even Lorraine Micheals. Grand falls lost all of those jobs because a union made it impossible for the company to operate.

    Start thinking for yourself. And start thinking about the students. That’s what they elected you to do

  10. Observer says:

    I think this whole article is just the mad rambling of a jilted man who lost in the last general MUNSU election. I doubt Noah cares as much about this boycott as I do about the royal baby, he is purely doing this out of spite like a child. As per usual when this man speaks, or writes, this is a series of lies and facts with no proof. Go to any bar in town, supporting the strike in some way is standard, good business move MUNSU.

  11. Commentator says:

    ^At least Noah makes a logical argument instead of using ad hominem and resorting to name calling. If there are lies, indicate them. I would criticise your last sentence, but it was incomprehensible.

  12. Henry Blanford says:

    Go to any bar in town and supporting the strike is in some way standard? Isn’t Bud light the sponsor of George Street Festival and can’t you only get Labatt’s products? I guess that means nobody from MUNSU will be taking in any concerts? Solidarity!

  13. Charlie says:

    Workers’ rights issues are Students’ rights issues – students are or will be workers and will benefit from helping keep workers’ rights in tact.

    The decision to support the strike was not illegitimate – it was made by an elected board of 37 students each with a representative role responsible for knowing or seeking information on how the issues they vote on will impact students.

    If an overwhelming number of students don’t support the boycott, they should let they’re elected student representatives know there’s a problem. If the board doesn’t listen to a majority of students coming forward, then there’s a problem and students have the democratic right to not re-elect those representatives or if they think that their representatives are so far out of touch then there are procedures for removal from office.

    Personally, it seems like Noah Davis-Power is just mad that he lost (by quite a large margin) in the last executive election in the spring. But here’s the thing you need to figure out Noah: that’s how democracy works. Students didn’t vote you in because they didn’t agree with your vision of MUNSU and your view points on how to best serve students. And based on this letter (and several others you’ve publicly distributed) I’m glad you didn’t get elected. You clearly don’t have a clue how a student union functions and you definitely do not represent the views of the majority of students.

    The arguments in this letter indicate Noah’s inability to see the bigger picture and clearly outline a narrow view point on the role of a student union. Students and Workers have a long history of working together and have won many human right’s battles only by working together. If we don’t help each other now when unions are under attack in this country, then we’ll never have the capacity to do so again – or at least not in the foreseeable future.

  14. Henry Blanford says:

    It’s getting easier and easier to see how you’re so easily manipulated. Rather than simply just express your opinion, you took the opportunity to take a backhanded shot at someone, who’s only fault was to question a decision that affects student life.

    Spin it whatever way you want, but the bottom line is that uneducated, unskilled workers just turned down a contract that offered them 32.50 an hour. How does that feel as a MUN student, who will likely come out with a degree and a student loan?

    When you associate yourself with a political party, and take on their views, and support them, regardless of how asinine and stupid they are, it just shows how weak and simple minded you are as a person. You’re a follower who can’t think for himself.

    I’m in a union, so I support every union!!!

    Read that a few times, and then ask yourself how stupid it sounds

  15. Frustrated Society Executive says:

    These comments are comical.

    As a student in my fifth year at MUN, and a former student society executive for two years, I can honestly say MUNSU has done nothing involving me except charge me 4x.xx dollars a semester to be a non-consensual member.

    I do not support the brewery strike in any way. Unions today basically force companies to pay excessive wages and benefits to usually already highly paid employees. Can someone explain to me how boycotting Labatt products benefits anyone besides already overpaid unskilled laborers that have no affiliation to MUN?

    Labatt supported the student society I was a member of generously and gave us significant amounts of free products, event tickets, and other things, the revenues from which allowed us to provide better services, events, endow an annual award based on financial need, and improve student life significantly. That is more than MUNSU has ever done, and because of this boycott, they have turned Labatt away from us and forced us to end a mutually beneficial relationship without just reason. These relationships take significant time and effort to build, and it may be several years before we manage to work out a similar agreement with another company.

    Thanks MUNSU. We don’t need our greatest society supporter, Labatt. We will replace that money by selling the XXS tuition freeze t-shirt you donate to us every year.

    N.B. How do you run a deficit selling beer to students?

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