For the second time this year, student group Le Frigo Vert has been refused the opportunity to ask Concordia undergraduates for more money.
“We can’t continue the same way anymore,” Amanda Dorter, a member of the food cooperative, said after learning Concordia Student Union’s council turned down the group’s request to have students vote on increased funding.
Undergraduate students already pay 25 cents per credit to Le Frigo Vert. Graduate students pay $4 per year.
A cooperative is a business run and operated by its members and the people who use it. It is not owned by any one person or group.
In order to maintain its services, Le Frigo Vert employees said the store needs an extra 12 cents per credit from undergraduate students.
In order for student groups to obtain or increase a fee levies 8212; a tax students pay per credit to the group 8212; student council must approve a request to include the question on one of two CSU referendums held each academic year.
Twice this year Le Frigo Vert went to council with this request, both times asking for the same increase, and both times being denied. Last week, after a lengthy closed session, a secret ballot ended with seven councillors voting in favour of adding the question the March referendum, and nine opposing it 8212; a notable improvement over October, when only two councillors…
…voted in favour of adding the question, and 13 voted against it.
“It is crazy to not let our student population support this initiative,” said Ethan Cox, an independent councillor who tried unsuccessfully to have council reconsider its decision.
Dorter, who presented to council on behalf of Le Frigo Vert last week, had a hard time wrapping her head around the outcome. “I don’t understand under what circumstances this would be voted down,” she said before pleading with councillors to explain their concerns. “Why won’t you let students vote on this?” she later asked.
During discussions that preceded and followed the vote, councillors and students at large voiced concerns about Le Frigo Vert’s finances.
Christopher Calkins Jr., a councillor with JMSB, asked Dorter if the cooperative ever considered paying a more modest wage to members who work in the store. While employees currently earn $14 per hour, Dorter said part of the increased fee levy would help increase it to $15 per hour. At the October council meeting, Le Frigo Vert said it wanted to increase the salary to $16 per hour.
“We’re working under the poverty line,” Dorter said. “Even at $15 we’d be under the poverty line because most of us are laid off over the summer.”
Discussing the issue two days after council, CSU president Amine Dabchy said the question of salary was a point of contention for voting councillors. “We have no problem with their salary,” he said. “But to have the students subsidize a raise, that was an issue for council.” Dabchy said the group may have had a better chance at getting their question on the ballot if they had requested a smaller increase.
Dorter said the income from the fee levy would have also gone toward having more products on their shelves, increasing hours of operation and having outreach programs for disabled students and the Loyola campus.
“I don’t know what we’re going to cut,” she said. “We pushed really hard this year, but we can’t continue like this.”
Adding 60 per cent to the markup was one idea Dorter mentioned at the council meeting.
A 15 per cent markup already applies to foods considered “essential” or “healthy,” and there is a 50 per cent mark-up on other items like candies and junk food.
The markup brings in $30,968, which Dorter said is only enough to cover annual rent.