Have you ever had to work? Have you ever
had to earn your own way to pay any fraction of the food and beer
you consume or the exorbitant cost of college tuition? If so, the
University Party, the current minority party in the Michigan
Student Assembly, doesn’t want to represent you.
I don’t purport to be working class, but even still,
I’ve worked as a pizza delivery driver, a painter, a
reporter, a salesman and a dishwasher to come out financially
comfortable at the end of the month at various points in my life,
and I’ve known very few students who haven’t needed
supplementary income in addition to their parents’ dole cue
to meet the cost of everyday life, let alone the cost of higher
But I’m starting to think that the members of the U Party
are the lucky few that didn’t have to do any of this.
The U Party touts itself as a voice of neutrality, sweeping
aside anything political in MSA in order to pass resolutions that
affect students, like expanding the spending power of the Mcard. Of
course, the issue of lowering tuition is noticeably absent from its
Last week, MSA was presented with a resolution to support the
on-strike workers at the Liberty Street Borders, and U Party
representatives with the help of sympathetic Students First
anti-worker representatives like Brad Sugar, defeated it.
Again, the U Party reps flaunted their rhetoric in opposition to
this resolution, only trying to pathetically hide the fact that it
has more of a political agenda than the relatively ideology-less
Students First Party.
The Borders strike has every bit to do with students. The
Borders workers are asking for fair wages and benefits, and with
high rents and University budget cuts, students need to be ensured
that local employers offer adequate pay in order for students to
meet Ann Arbor’s high cost of living.
Students First representative Pierce Beckham said at last
week’s meeting, “Students who need jobs need to make a
fair wage especially if they don’t have transportation to
work off campus.”
In short, people who are not lucky enough to be born into an
economic privilege that hands them enough cash to slide through
college need sources of income, and a corporate, law-breaking
bookstore that doesn’t pay its workers enough to live in the
city in which it’s located just doesn’t make the
But some U Party members don’t think that such peasants
have a right to an education in the first place.
Joel Stone, a U Party representative voting against the
resolution said, according to the official MSA minutes, that
students “need to take into consideration the cost of
attending college and if you can’t afford it then you need to
make another choice.”
That’s right, folks. All you kids who don’t come
from rich suburbs and are on student loans can just forget about
higher education and upward mobility. But I’m sure
there’s an opening to be Joel Stone’s shoeshine
“Oh but we’re not elitists,” they’ll
cry, “we’re just wary of those thuggish, pesky labor
People have their reservations about organized labor unions, and
I can’t say I blame them. As someone who stood on his first
picket line eight years ago, I can say that I’ve had such
strong conflicts with union leadership that I’ve almost
wanted to walk away from it all. Union bosses can be undemocratic,
inept and even corrupt. So can CEOs.
Unions, like any large institution, have their organizational
flaws. But despite claims that unions are a subversive enemy to the
free market, what they really do is give employees an avenue to
hold their employers accountable to labor laws. The freedom of
assembly is a gift from the First Amendment, and the idea of
pressuring companies to comply with the law is far from a radical
In the case of the Borders strike, try to cast aside your
political dispositions and think of it this way. All the workers
want are wages that meet the community’s cost and to have
their employer, who is in violation of seven federal labor laws,
comply. Borders management wants to strip its workers of their
constitutional right to advocate for any of this in addition to
ignoring the law. Now who’s the subversive?
The U Party’s cloak of political neutrality is a sham.
It’s nothing more than a euphemism for these elitists to
block any agenda that wishes to create any kind of equity for
students with economic disadvantage.
Paul can be reached at