The other side of MUNSU’s beer boycott

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By Candace Simms

This is a response to the letter, Labatt boycott costing MUN students, by Noah Davis-Power which appeared in the July 30 issue of The Telegram.

MUNSU represents 13,000 undergraduate students at Memorial’s St. John’s campus.

The Students’ Union undertakes advocacy work and provides cost-saving services to improve the lives of our members.

One such service is The Breezeway, a student-run bar and safe space to socialize.

The bar offers low-cost products and entertainment, while providing employment to over 40 students annually.

It is not primarily a business venture but rather a service run by students for students.

Over the past year, the Students’ Union has taken steps to reduce expenses at the service by over $70,000.

Because of planned action in the coming year, the projected subsidy is down another $15,000. The $161,000 Mr. Davis-Power refers to was the projected cost of running the service for 2012-2013 — a number the Students’ Union reduced by over $40,000 come year-end.

The allegation that the boycott of Labatt products will impact this goal is also unfounded, as bar sales have remained steady since the MUNSU chose to take its stance.

MUNSU’s Board of Directors is made up of students who are democratically elected to work for the betterment of our members’ lives.

The Students’ Union employs transparent and accountable decision-making structures, as set forth in the union’s policies and bylaws, to make decisions. On June 17, after open meetings, a committee of the board decided unanimously to support local workers and their requested boycott of Labatt products.  

MUNSU chose to take this stance for good reason.

MUN does not exist in a bubble and students’ lives do not exist in a vacuum. The two-tiering of benefits and the weakening of workers’ rights will negatively impact our members as they enter the work force.

We hear from students on a regular basis about their concerns with changes taking place in the labour market.

It is up to individual students if they choose to take action and respect the boycott themselves. MUNSU has never instructed members what beer to drink (nor does it have the ability to do so); rather, a decision was made not to sell Labatt products at the Breezeway during the strike.

It is unfortunate that Labatt has made the decision to pull sponsorship from all student groups on campus.

However, when approached by a student society that had its funding cut from Labatt, just days before an event, MUNSU was able to secure funding from other sources.

As a result, the group ended up with even more resources than before Labatt decided to pull the plug.

If there are groups that are concerned about impacts on their events or sponsorship we encourage them to contact the Students’ Union immediately.

MUNSU is here to serve students, and will work to secure alternate funding arrangements  for affected groups.

While we continue to support the boycott of Labatt products, we encourage both sides to return to the table to reach a mutually beneficial collective agreement.

Candace Simms is MUNSU’s Director

of External Affairs, Communications,

and Research.

Organizations: Labatt

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Recent comments

  • Former Mun Student
    August 02, 2013 - 15:37

    Oh right! The Breezeway! That money-hole in the golden location that hasn't had a good manager since it was in the black. Fair beer prices ms. Simms? Hardly, A beer at breezeway costs just as much as a beer anywhere downtown except when you're downtown you can actually go out and enjoy a beer and a smoke on the deck. I maintain that the breezeway is the only dreary dungeon in town without a VLT in it. Maybe they need them to make a little money. Pshhhh let them have their boycott, I stopped drinking there when they ruined it with the last renovation.

  • Shannon
    August 01, 2013 - 18:38

    Although far from perfect, MUNSU is there to make sure that Memorial doesn't run rough shot over the students by gouging them for services and tuition among other things such as fighting to keep student loan rates down. The health and dental coverage which they provide helped me when I attended the university. If you don't need or want this coverage then you have the choice to opt out. MUNSU is also a union which supports other unions such as NAPE. I for one applaud its position here. So what if you can't get a Bud Light. Get a Coors instead. Everyone who graduates Memorial won't necessarily get a job paying $140, 000 a year. If you are going to make that after graduation than than the student fees should be pocket change, right? Lobbying to keep student loans down and MUN fees low are in the best interest of the student body as a whole. Not to mention Safe Walk, Safe Drive and many other great services which the student union provides. The Breezeway needs to change. No argument here. However the union as a whole is good a lot more good than it does bad.

  • Opponent
    August 01, 2013 - 17:37

    MUNSU logic: I think something is wrong, so let's force our morality on everyone else...

  • Hmmm
    August 01, 2013 - 17:10

    I'm curious to know how MUN's Student Union chose to support the Labatt strike. Years ago these were meaningful and helped ensure fair labour practices in the workplace. I think Labatt is taking a strong position in introducing a strike contingency plan - bringing people in to learn how to run the plant in the event the union walks out. What I find odd about the situation is that MUN Student Union has decided to stand behind those unionized workers. I can't figure out why they would opt to take sides on such a matter. What's in it for them? I feel like I'm missing something. The University and it's associated groups shouldn't take sides. This dispute is between Labatt management and their workers. Maybe it's that NAPE represents a number of groups of employees at the University, and they also represent the Labatt workers. Still......something doesn't seem right.

  • Pierre Neary
    August 01, 2013 - 16:10

    Excellent response Candice. Well said.

  • Kevin fourth year
    August 01, 2013 - 15:22

    Munsu is a waste of time.

  • Biology Student
    August 01, 2013 - 12:52

    Hi there. I am a third year biology student and I just want to say I don't know why I pay fees to the student union at all. My parents have medical coverage so I opt out of the student plan. Me and my friends go out for drinks but never go to the Breezeway because there is nobody there ever. My career will be in science so i don't think Labatt's will have any effect on my career so I don't get why the student union says this boycott will make things better for students when they enter the workforce. Labatt's has nothing to do with many jobs.

    • david
      August 01, 2013 - 15:44

      You may have a very bright future, my friend. You seem oddly alert.

    • Charlie
      August 02, 2013 - 13:55

      It's about ensuring standards in all of the workforce. If we don't support the workers in this strike, then other employers will use the decreased labour standards of another employer to claim that their employees are being paid too much and should be paid less. It may not seem like there's a direct connection between you and a job at Labatt's, but there definitely is a connection between you and the labour force no matter where you work.

  • Greg
    August 01, 2013 - 11:11

    You cannot get a pint of guinness or any other imported beers on tap at the Breezeway. You can't get pub grub there either. But you can do both if you go to the other student bar called Bitters which is a 5 minute walk from the Breezeway. Boycotting Labatt's might not affect the customer numbers according to Candace Simms. What she fails to get is there are really good alternatives to the Breezeway nearby.

  • Wild Rose
    August 01, 2013 - 10:38

    These MUSNU students union sould be abolished like the rest of the union's that hold businesses hostages. They are left wing students . Get a job. I make $140,000 a year and I obey the laws and I dont' needy any socialist union to speak for me with the greedy millionaire union bosses.

    • LK
      August 02, 2013 - 07:50

      You don't need a union because you make 140k, not although you make 140k.

  • JStrickland
    August 01, 2013 - 10:31

    Ms. Simms writes that the Breezeway is a "Service" for students - a safe place for students to drink and get together. Then why is the bar not being frequented by enough students to make it profitable? There is another student bar on Campus called Bitters and it does not run losses like the Breezeway. Bitters is run by the Graduates Student Union, not MUNSU. In addressing the fact that the Breezeway lost over $161,000 last year, Ms. Simms writes that the MUNSU has "contributed $40,000 toards the problem and "projects" another $15,000 is savings. That POTENTIALLY reduces the operating losses by $55,000 - the Breezeway is still $106,000 in the hole. That is not a service to the few students who do frequent the Breezeway, that is misappropriation of student union fees paid to MUNSU to benefit the few. In closing, I wish to ask Ms. Simms or any member of the MUNSU executive to publish on this thread who much executive members are paid annually to responsibly handle student interests and manage our mandatory student union fees.

  • NewFundLand
    August 01, 2013 - 10:26

    This is childish Candace. You should be above spitting out bad rhetoric if you wish to represent students externally. Also, what makes $121,000.00 a victory? MUNSU is an organization that functions through debt and I'm not sure if the people at the helm have the capability or the desire to ever fix that.

  • No Need
    August 01, 2013 - 10:10

    "The Students’ Union undertakes ... services to improve the lives of our members. ... One such service is The Breezeway, ... offers low-cost products..." Exactly! This is what students need! More cheap drinks to encourage reckless binge drinking and alcoholism!

  • Commenter
    August 01, 2013 - 09:36

    What drivel and utter propaganda! The kind of entitlement that this article exemplifies is a bigger reason why students aren't doing well in the workforce than buisnesses finally figuring out that $80,000 is too much to pay entry-level workers.

    • david
      August 01, 2013 - 12:05

      Shhhh....the propaganda victms are busy eating it up, like the mindless lemmings they are. You can see where unions eventually get their obedient members, and the NDP get their....whatever they get.....

    • Joe
      August 01, 2013 - 13:45

      Memorial University gets its name from "Memorial" for the Newfoundlander's who fought for freedom in the two World Wars. These wonderful people did not fight for the carpetbaggers and others with zero skills and no education who apparently run the businesses in the Province. A free country apparently will never be on the agenda of these freeloaders.

  • Michael
    August 01, 2013 - 09:32

    I completely disagree with the commentator David, aside from your overly negative writing filled with word fluff you did not make any statements of substance with regards to the facts that Ms. Candace Simms provided in this letter to the editor. Noah Davis-Power needs to take, one, two, three maybe four steps back from anything related to leadership before he drives another organization into the ground, he did not get voted into a directorship position with the union by students for a reason! This is attack on the union boycott is simply another failed attempt by him to get attention in hopes of a bid for the position which Candace holds now, Director of External Affairs Communications and Research - in next years election.

  • dan
    August 01, 2013 - 09:18

    I guess David does not care for MUNSU doing the job they are supposed to do, speak for students and their issues. Good on you MUNSU, I am sure Molson will be happy to fill the glasses of thirsty students.

    • david
      August 01, 2013 - 12:14

      They "speak for the students" do they? Funny, no student union ever asked me what I thought about anything in university. They just took my obligatory Student Union dues and did what they felt like doing. Have things here changed that much? If so, I'm quite impressed. As I said before, this might be a very educational event for bright MUN students if they think about what just got done to them by their "leaders"...or not.

    • Commenter
      August 01, 2013 - 12:52

      That is not MUNSU's job - it is to provide meaningful services to students. Even if it was their jobs, this is not an issue of the students. It is an issue of "progressive" elitist arts students who control MUNSU who are completely removed from what most people actually care about.

  • david
    August 01, 2013 - 06:46

    Candace, aside form providing a great laugh, this letter is an immature, duplicitous, inconsistent piece of spin and revisionist drivel. But good luck in your future political career. You might do very well here.

    • Devin
      August 01, 2013 - 09:23

      David, instead of insulting the author, maybe you could explain what in the article you actually think is untrue? Your comment didn't address any of the facts of the article, and therefore, in my mind, doesn't hold any merit.

    • david
      August 01, 2013 - 12:00

      I didn't insult the author. In fact I ultimately complimented her on her skill, albeit a skill I do not value or appreciate. I simply pointed out that the letter is a defensive revisionist's fantasy, one that some weak-minded disciples will even believe.

    • Commenter
      August 01, 2013 - 12:53

      He didn't insult the author, he insulted the letter. The fact that you confuse the two is demonstrative of how you confuse support for something with support for making moral decisions for entire student populations.

  • CowMan
    August 01, 2013 - 06:07

    If it's a student service it's a complete waste of money which benefits few: patronage is low, and those that go aren't saving anything on beer prices. It's a business, and to characterize it otherwise is patently ridiculous - if that's MUNSU's position, then they should close the place as it's a waste of cash. As a business, deficit funding can at least be justified on the potential of future returns. The beer on campus doesn't matter now anyway, it's summer semester, no one is around to drink it. The pain to/or from Labatt's won't be felt until September. MUNSU might though appreciate the business school is more likely to graduate people into Labatt's management than Art's will onto the bottling floor. From a (very speculative) students future prospective, they should be siding with management. Realistically, they should be siding with neither - despite the occasional hyperbola, under the worst-case collective agreement the brewery jobs are still quite decent: this is not about exploitive slave labour, it's about profit sharing and picket-line animosity. If their committee would like to boycott Labatt's, go right ahead - on a personal level. Toss out some decrees even. Such social positions though are unwarranted from a student union whose fees are mandatory. They lack the mandate to speak for the student body on this issue. On second thought, perhaps I'll drop by the next MUNSU open meeting. I have no pension plan at work, maybe MUNSU would be in favour of boycotting my employeer entirely as well.

    • Dockside
      August 01, 2013 - 10:26

      As a MUN student I woud rather graduate into a healthy work environment. If we allow the corporate masters to have their way we would all be scrambling for whatever crumbs they throw us. I appreciate that the union movement has fought for labour and living standards that are enjoyed by all workers. I aslo know that when unions are weakened these standards fall for everyone. One only need to look at the mis-named "right to work" laws in the United States. I may or may not end up working in a unionized environment, but I'll be thankful that there is one..

    • NL
      August 01, 2013 - 15:39

      Dockside, stop drinking the kool-aid: wages have increased by 4 times the national average in right to work states, and unemployment is significantly lower. At the heart of your criticism is contempt for freedom. Because you like unions, you think everyone should be forced into them. Why don't we let the people choose?