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.