Judge Blocks Union Picketing at Kent State

     (CN) – A judge granted Kent State University a restraining order to keep union employees from picketing the upcoming inauguration of its new president.
     The northeast Ohio private school had filed the lawsuit seeking such relief on April 22 in Portage County Court of Common Pleas. It named two chapters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, plus union representatives, as defendants.
     A judge granted the temporary restraining order that same day, the student newspaper KentWired reported.
     According to the six-page lawsuit, Kent State and the union had a collective bargaining agreement that expired on Sept. 30, 2014, and was extended to Nov. 14, 2015.
     With no contract in sight, and the parties “engaged in fact-finding,” “defendants have communicated an intent to picket between April 25, 2015, and May 1, 2015,” according to the complaint.
     Kent State said those date coincide with “activities relating to the inauguration of” is new president, Beverly Warren.
     After the May 1 inauguration ceremony, Kent State worried that the union members could also picket the commencement activities on May 8 and 9.
     The court gave Kent State a restraining order that runs from April 25 to May 9.
     KentWired reports that United Students Against Sweatshops, a student group supporting the union workers, has been protesting for months on behalf of the workers.
     They confronted Warren on campus and staged a “sit-in” in her office lobby, KentWired says.
     Kent State told the court it needs an injunction to prevent picketers from causing “great and irreparable interference and damage to the university’s operations on the dates at issue.”
     The lawsuit wants the picketers banned from any entrance to a university building and kept at least 300 feet away from the basketball area, student recreation center, baseball field, the center of the tree grove and the center of the student ballroom.
     Picketers should stay 200 feet away from the Student Memorial Garden and the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, according to the complaint.
     David Schuckert, the president of the Local 153, told Kent State’s TV 2: “It’s pretty obvious everyone is extremely angry about it.”
     Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield told the TV station, “These legal measures are being taken to ensure that the events are not interrupted in a way that would detract from the events’ significance or diminish their meaning.”
     James Wilkins, special counsel to the Ohio Attorney General and member of the Akron law firm of Kaster Westman & Wilkins, is representing the university in the lawsuit. The case was assigned to Judge Becky Doherty.

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