The University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union has recently come under criticism for allegedly encouraging students to sign a petition opposing the newly-elected provincial Progressive Conservative Party’s move to freeze the formerly-ruling Liberal Party’s minimum wage hike, in exchange for free food.
The story went viral after the Daily Wire, a prominent online publication, featured a piece by Harry Khachatrian that questioned the ethics of a student-funded union.
While UTMSU president Felipe Nagata asserted to the Daily Wire that a refusal to sign the petition did not result in a denial of food, fourth-year political science specialist Janani Subramanian told The Medium that she was unable to get a burger without signing the petition.
“My friends and I tried to bypass the line, but [members of the union] stopped us, saying ‘you have to sign the petition first.’ We signed the petition and just signed our names with random postal codes. They were giving people raffle tickets after they signed the petition to get the food,” she said.
The UTMSU’s VP External Atif Abdullah commented on a Facebook post stating, “We talked to students about the necessity of Bill 148. I personally gave out many burgers to students who refused to sign [the petition].”
When asked by a student about why tickets were handed out at the table, Atif said that the tickets were used to ensure that students would talk to the UTMSU about the minimum wage freeze. “You come, find out what we’re talking about, sign the petition if you’d like and go grab a burger.”
According to an official press release on the UTMSU’s Facebook page, the event was hosted in partnership with the Canadian Union Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3902 and United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1998 as part of the “$15 and Fairness” Provincial Day of Action.
Over 550 students and staff attended.
“Our stance is clear, any cuts to workers’ benefits, rights and wage freezes harm students’ access to post-secondary education,” stated the UTMSU.
The UTM administration has yet to take a firm position on the situation: “It is primarily an issue for UTMSU officials and members to work through,” Dean of Student Affairs Mark Overton told The Medium.