‘Right to work’ figure at OU draws protest on campus

A group of roughly 75 Ohio University students and local and regional residents – many of them union members – gathered outside of Galbreath Chapel on College Green Monday evening to protest a speech from a lawyer associated with the “right-to-work” movement who successfully argued the Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court case in 2018.

Lawyer William Messenger, an OU alum and staff attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, was invited by the university’s George Washington Forum to give a “Constitution Day” lecture at Galbreath Chapel entitled “Can Free Speech be Compelled? The First Amendment and Speech Rights.”

As students, we have a responsibility to show the university that we don’t accept this attack on the workers who make this university what it is. We don’t accept the harmful rhetoric and lies of right to work and Bill Messenger.

Ohio University Student Dominic Detwiler

“Right to work” refers to a series of laws in roughly half of all U.S. states that ban employees in unionized workplaces from negotiating contracts with their employers that require all workers who benefit from the union contract to pay for the cost of the union’s representation

Ohio voters most recently in 2011 voted down a ballot initiative that would have implemented a form of right to work.

Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO labor union, said during a brief speech at the student-led protest outside Galbreath Monday that Ohioans have said “time and time again” that they don’t support right-to-work laws with their vote or their support of pro-union state and federal legislators.

“We have a right to come together collectively to say we want a voice at work,” Burga said. “To be able to take care of our families, have some benefits, a few days of vacation here and there, and being able to have a shot at the American dream, that’s what we’re talking about.”

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