About 200 protesters marched around Galbreath Chapel on College Green on Monday night to take a stand against Right to Work laws and a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation speaker who spoke on campus.
The protest was organized in response to Ohio University scheduling William Messenger, staff attorney at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, as a campus speaker.
According to the protest’s event on Facebook, having Messenger speak gave a platform for that “would surely be filled with lies and deception.”
Messenger, who is an OU alumnus, began his lecture at 7:30 p.m., but at 6:30 p.m. protestors marched from college gateway to the chapel. They held signs against the movement and chanted “get up, get down, Athens is a union town” while circling around the chapel.
The Right to Work movement’s mission is to minimize union power through the legal system, public information and education programs, according to its website.
Ohio does not have a Right to Work law. If a Right to Work law were to be passed, Ohio workers’ wages, benefits and workplace safety would all be driven down, said Tim Burga, president of Ohio American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO. Workers may also be discouraged from whistle-blowing.
Gary Crihfield, an Athens worker who attended the protest, said he isn’t a union member. He attended the protest because he is concerned about wages being lowered if a Right to Work law were to be passed.
“My wages reflect the union wages,” Crihfield said. “Everyone who works at OU would be affected by it.”
Crihfield also attended because his wife works in the Athens City School District and her wages would also be affected by such a law.
Ohio AFL-CIO helps support trade unions and working families, according to its website. Burga said he attended as a representative of Ohio AFL-CIO to show his support for students who organized the event.
“When unions are attacked, all workers are attacked,” Burga said.
Dominic Detwiler, a senior studying sociology, was the main organizer of the protest. He said it grew mostly through Facebook and organic student involvement.
“It was very much a grassroots thing,” Detwiler said.
Not only would OU employees be impacted by a Right to Work law, but students whose parents are in unions would also be affected. Detwiler said his parents are union employees.
“This ideology doesn’t follow anything that anyone in this community really stands for,” Detwiler said.