MUN Student Union boycotting potato chip company as workers strike

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The MUN Students’ Union is boycotting a New Brunswick potato chip brand in a show of support for the company’s striking employees—a decision that one board member says was made undemocratically.

MUNSU took Covered Bridge Potato Chips off the shelves of the Attic, MUN’s on-campus convenience store, after the company’s workers started striking in early January.

The union sent a letter to Covered Bridge’s C.E.O. on January 19 saying it would not sell the chips until there was a “successful resolution of negotiations” in which the workers’ needs are “valued and respected.”

“We were selling the chips and we had to make a decision: are we going to undermine those workers that are being treated unfairly or are we going to stand in solidarity with them,” said MUNSU director of campaigns Brittany Byrnes.

This is not the first time MUNSU has boycotted products in solidarity with striking workers; the union refused to sell Labatt beer at the Breezeway when workers at that company went on strike in 2013.

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“As a union we often do support labour unions,” said Byrnes,

“We like to consider the fact that students are going to be going into the workforce and we want those students to be able to enter a workforce that has positive working conditions for their workers.”

Decision made by five executive members

The decision to boycott the potato chips was made by the five members of the MUNSU executive and was not brought to a vote at the board.

Arts Rep Brendon Dixon said that it was a “gross misstep” to make this decision without discussion among MUNSU’s 40 elected members.

“It’s not right. We’re a democratic institution. We’re supposed to be talking about this, we’re supposed to be conversing about this, and we should be having some kind of vote,” said Dixon.

“This tells me that when we make big decisions like this, it’s ok if a few people change the stance of the union completely to fit their moral beliefs. There’s actually 40 of us. We are not a rubber stamp. We are elected just like the executives.

Bredon Dixon, MUNSU Arts Rep.
Bredon Dixon, MUNSU Arts Rep.

“MUNSU is not five executives. MUNSU is the board of directors and the student body.”

Byrnes said the executive planned to discuss the letter with the board at the union’s next meeting, but it was cancelled due to a snowstorm.

“The thing with strikes is often these things are a matter of working quite quickly, so that’s why we decided to sell the letter, because we had to do action quite quickly,” said Byrnes.

Byrnes also said that deciding what to stock at the Attic is a regular day-to-day operation that is usually not brought to the board.

Dixon said he will be making a motion to rescind the union’s stance at the next board meeting, not so much to withdraw support for the union, but to encourage a discussion around the issue.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Another hard hitting piece from the MUSE… Brandon this is a non-issue. The exec were doing their job. Their job is to make decisions like this sometimes. It is a complete waste of everyones time to send EVERYTHING to the board, that’s not what the board is for. Crying about how it wasn’t brought to the board is pathetic. You could go further and say why didn’t they open it up to a campus wide vote? I’ll tell you why, it’s a WASTE OF TIME for something ALMOST NO ONE on campus cares about. The exec are doing a great job keeping solidarity with other union workers so that when we need their support they will be there. Grow up, start focusing more on your degree, and less at what the exec are doing. There is a reason only ONE board member put up a fuss about this… it’s a non-issue. If you care about what the exec do so much maybe you should run to be one… Oh wait, how did that turn out last time? Clearly the majority of the student body doesn’t agree with you. Focus on your degree and move on.

  2. I have to agree with Brendon here. I understand that the decision might have had to be made quickly but we live in an age it is very easy to contact people. I’m sure one of the 5 executives has the other 35 members phone numbers/emails. Not hard to get a reply from people.

  3. I can assure “Alumni” that Brendon (not Brandon) was not the only board member who had an issue with this. There were other directors who had issues with this. So i would remind you to actually be aware of what your directors stand for.

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