Thanks to Amendment R and Senate Bill 65, the vo-techs can finally get local school boards out of their hair, if they want. Thanks to House Bill 1184, the vo-techs can also get unions out of their hair.
Among the bushel of bills Governor Daugaard signed Friday, HB 1184 exempts any person performing work for our post-secondary technical institutes from “the collective bargaining provisions set forth in chapters 3-18 and 60-9A.” Chapter 3-18 governs public employees’ unions; Chapter 60-9A governs collective bargaining in general, for public and private employees.
As Senator Deb Peters explained during Senate debate Tuesday (see SDPB video, timestamp 2:21:00), HB 1184 allows vo-techs to respond more quickly to the demands of business interests. In other words, if business leaders tell the new vo-tech governing board they want fewer business teachers and more welding teachers, the vo-techs don’t have to wait until those gosh-darned collectively bargained contracts run out; they can can teachers and hire the new staff business wants.
Senator Troy Heinert tried to amend HB 1184 to at least let the custodial and maintenance staff unionize. After all, are business leaders really going to contend that they need to be able to demand the immediate breaking of groundskeepers’ contracts to satisfy Main Street’s immediate market demands?
Maybe. Senator Peters simply urged the body to resist the amendment, and they did, and then stripped all vo-tech employees of collective bargaining rights on a 27–8 vote.
Meanwhile, the underpaid and overworked employees of the state Developmental Center in Redfield have decided union representation is good for what ails them. AFSCME Council 65 sends out this notice that, after over a year of discussion and organizing, Redfield workers have voted to join that union:
Direct Support Employees and Medical Assistants at the South Dakota Developmental Center (SDDC) voted to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 65 (AFSCME Council 65). The vote caps an organizing drive by workers that began over a year ago. The tally in Tuesday night’s vote was 88 votes in favor of unionizing and 3 votes against. At the start of the campaign, former employee Paul Register resigned from his position and brought safety concerns at the facility into the public eye.
“My peers at SDDC led an employee union campaign for over a year,” said Register. “I’m a little awestruck at their determination. They stayed unified to have a voice for better safety measures for SDDC clients and staff.” In 2015, Register attempted to get the safety issues addressed by the State and ran into multiple roadblocks. “The only reason the State took steps to address safety problems was these issues were now in the public’s eye, but not enough has been done.” Register worked for SDDC for nearly a decade before resigning in January 2016 due to safety concerns.
…Next, the AFSCME-represented employees will nominate co-workers to establish their bargaining team to start negotiations. Their goal is to negotiate with SDDC to work towards a bilateral agreement. They would like the initial contract to address safety concerns, hours of work, overtime and other working conditions to ultimately maintain quality staff and improve SDDC services.
While the State Legislature sets the salaries of State Employees, the SDDC workers were determined to organize for improved safety protections for everyone. AFSCME Council 65 Labor Representative for South Dakota, Tim Hoss, commented “the union will also serve as a counter-balance to deal with other shortcomings related to safety. South Dakota is in the minority among U.S. States that that deny OSHA-approved safety plans for public employees” [AFSCME Council 65, press release, 2017.03.09].
Redfield workers recognize that collective bargaining can do them some good. Instead of finding strength in numbers, our vo-tech workers will now have to pray to the Invisible Hand or some other higher power not to nix their jobs.
No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing [U.S. Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, 1986; cited by Senator Reynold Nesiba, Senate floor debate on HB 1184, 2017.03.07, speech begins 2:26:40].