|Free Speech Fight Over Right-to-Work|
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The lawsuit seeks a Temporary Restraining Order that would lift restrictions on a campus chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty. The state school is accused of suppressing efforts to gather signatures for a right-to-work ballot amendment. YAL is on the opposite end of the political spectrum from the Occupy Wall Street movement, yet both groups have had to fight in the courts for access to public spaces. U.S. District Judge Timothy Black in Cincinnati has yet to set a hearing on the case, which likely will be fast-tracked through the federal courthouse. The student group contends it cannot freely circulate petitions for a workplace freedom amendment on the 41,000-student campus and was explicitly told in writing members cannot "walk around campus" to gather names. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on the dispute two days ago, but the story did not mention the phrase "right-to-work" and some readers may have missed the significance. In effect, the AFL-CIO says the goal of the right-to-work movement is to outlaw union shops in Ohio.
The unions argue the intention is to give Ohioans a right to work for less money in their paychecks. Ohio AFL-CIO president Tim Burga -- who is not involved in the Cincinnati lawsuit -- has been outspoken in denouncing the petition drive as an assault on union workers. Burga said in an e-mail Thursday the AFL-CIO is going to launch a statewide education plan "to help inform every Ohioan on what this Amendment will really mean to the middle class and those who aspire to get there." He called the right-to-work amendment "nothing more than Senate Bill 5 of Steroids."
So how did U.C. become ground zero is this struggle? The school said YAL president Christopher Morbitzer would have to stay in a designated "free speech" zone on the northwest corner of McMicken Commons. Morbitzer is limited to an area about 0.1% the size of the entire campus. College officials said they would call the cops if he stepped outside to collect names on his anti-union petitions. His lawyers said Morbitzer was confined to 10,000 square feet within the 8,506,833 square feet on the campus.
In the request for a temporary restraining order, Morbitzer's lawyers said the student was trying to educate his fellow students and had no plans to disrupt anybody and no plans to block doors or sidewalks. He simply wanted to ask people to sign his petition. The lawyers said it's the university creating the disruption:
"Ironically, prohibiting Mr. Morbitzer and YAL from educating their fellow students on public sidewalks and open spaces serves to disrupt the education process and the spirit of free debate to which the University claims commitment in its statement of interest. Indeed, by restricting expression such as the Plaintiff's to a mere sliver of campus, the University disrupts the ability of its students to enjoy the educational benefits of dialogue on the public university campus . . .
"Finally, YAL's desired speech does not occupy space desirable for other educational uses, create noise or commotion, block traffic, or otherwise interfere with any university locations. Ironically, if relegated to the Free Speech Area, the experience of Mr. Morbitzer and YAL only confirms that these students need to shout and scream to draw attention to themselves, in order to get their classmates on the other 99.9 percent of the campus to come to them and sign the petition. This is actually more likely to disrupt education at UC than simply permitting plaintiff's to engage in the supposedly criminal offense of 'walking around.'
The lawyers who challenged UC are Ryan D. Walters and Maurice A. Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in Columbus. Local co-counsel if Curt C. Hartman of Amelia. Thompson said in a statement: "Fortunately, the First Amendment allows us to protect the education of UC students from their educators . . ." You can find information about the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law by clicking on this link.