Raucous West Chester meeting prompts more ‘Right to Work’ discussion

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Area union workers protest Right to Work during a West Chester Twp meeting.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

West Chester Twp. trustees will hold a separate special meeting to discuss their stance on "Right to Work" after about 100 union workers protested during Tuesday night's trustee meeting.

West Chester leaders came under fire after the Journal-News reported the township’s plans to become a “Right to Work” place, meaning companies and unions in the private sector cannot force workers to join a union or pay dues.

MORE: West Chester trustees want Right to Work resolution

“I believe it is going to show this community that West Chester is open for business, we mean it, we stand behind our businesses and we will continue to dominate the market from an economic development perspective. It’s going to make us more attractive to businesses…” township Trustee George Lang told the Journal-News last week.

Lang’s comments and those similar from Trustee President Mark Welch attracted the interest of several union leaders and members from across the region, and many showed up at Tuesday’s trustees meeting wanting to comment on the issue.

The meeting started out amicably enough with several West Chester Twp. residents addressing the trustees.

Sharon Mays, the Lakota Education Association president representing 960 teachers and staff, said none of the members are forced to be full union members, but 98 percent of them are. She called Right to Work deceptive.

“I live in West Chester, I work in West Chester. I would hate to see the loss in income and the loss in morale and changes that might take place if Right to Work would go through,” she told the trustees.” I am absolutely against it and anyone that says there is a good reason for it, I’m not sure what it is because it seems like we’re fine. West Chester is working fine and I’m not sure why this is an issue to begin with.”

Several other union members tried to speak but were rebuffed when Welch informed the crowd that only West Chester residents, business and property owners would be allowed to speak.

“They didn’t understand the rules or the protocol of the meeting, and there were people there that were agitators,” Welch later told the Journal-News. “Trying to maintain control of the meeting was a challenge.”

The audience erupted on a number of occasions, shouting at, laughing at and interrupting the trustees when they tried to make statements.

The trustees also turned testy with one another, and Trustee Lee Wong refused to second Welch’s motion to adjourn the meeting — Lang said he had to leave early — several times, saying trustees had a duty to listen to the crowd.

Wong does not agree with his fellow trustees’ stance on the Right to Work issue. He said they have no business dipping their toes into a national issue.

“That’s really not the job of the trustees to get involved into this political football,” Wong told the Journal-News. “We are here to take care of our township roads, cemeteries, police and fire, safety of the people. We shouldn’t be getting involved in these national debate issues.”

Lang said Wong has it all wrong.

“Our job is to bring forward the best government that we can and this is not a national issue, it’s a local issue, there is no national Right to Work law,” he said. “Right to Work is happening on a state-by-state and community-by-community basis. If Mr. Wong thinks this is a national issue. I think he doesn’t understand the issue.”

Welch said before they pass a resolution on Right to Work, he will convene a special meeting to discuss it. But he won’t brook any disrespect from those who attend.

“They were there to make a scene, to disrupt the meeting, to cause a circus event…,” he said. “It’s not going to happen again, I’m going to lock it down so tight.”

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