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Legislature Kicks Unions out of Vo-Techs; Redfield SDDC Employees Join AFSCME

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.

How nice.

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].


  1. grudznick 2017-03-11

    I expect the workers at this SDDC place are among the lowest paid and probably least educated in the workforce. I am not surprised that a group comprised mostly of ignorant slackards would try to unionize. Unions are bad, they are bad, and they are mostly dying. I expect this SDDC business will close soon and fire most or all of these employees. They should not have unionized, they should have buckled down and worked harder.

  2. Chuck-Z 2017-03-11

    I suspect grudznick is the most ignorant person on this site. One brain-dead troll type comment after another.

  3. grudznick 2017-03-11

    Not true, Mr. Chuck-Z. I often correct mistakes and clarify issues others do not understand. I am a valuable resource, even if you may disagree with me. And as a bonus, when I disagree with you I try to do it in an agreeable manner, not rude and name-calling like some of the out-of-staters do.

  4. Chuck-Z 2017-03-11

    Calling Redfield employees and citizens “the least educated”, “ignorant slackards”, and implying they are lazy make you a “valuable resource”?

  5. grudznick 2017-03-11


    On a related note, did you realize the Redfieldonians had a shot at having The Borehole near them, it would have saved their town. But, in ignorant fear of Science, they chased it away.

    Redfield is dying as surely as are unions.

  6. Darin Larson 2017-03-11

    Pass laws undermining or abolishing the collective bargaining rights of unions, lament the stagnation of wages and then go back to bashing unions for their irrelevancy. Rinse and repeat as directed by Republican leadership.

  7. Chuck-Z 2017-03-11

    This article and the decision to unionize is about employees being safe from physical harm at work. Perhaps Redfield is dying, that doesn’t mean the employees need to.

    Not sure how being safe at work relates to some borehole hysteria? Ignorance on parade in South Dakota.

  8. bearcreekbat 2017-03-12

    This is the oddest comment I have seen for a while:

    No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts . . . .

    It sounds as if the speaker is channeling Trump.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-03-12

    Good reading, bearcreekbat!

    In an effort to pull the bishops’ fat out of the logical fire, I suggest that the bishops can oppose certain organized efforts to deny workers the right to organize without denying CEOs and other big money interests their right to organize. Likewise speech: I can support your right to speak but still firmly oppose what you say.

  10. Caleb 2017-03-12

    And transfer of USA’s public power to private business holders continues. I maybe wouldn’t mind if that process weren’t most beneficial to the most elite in our society while being detrimental to those who were convinced it was beneficial for them.

    On that note…Grudz, have you ever seen the documentary named “Harlan County”? If not, I recommend it:

  11. mike from iowa 2017-03-12

    Nice try, Caleb, but Grudz doesn’t do links of any kind-unless they are pork and smothered in gravy-taters. He prefers to have Powers inform him of his views.

    He doesn’t care for outsiders, either. Might mess up the purity of his white man thoughts.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-03-12

    Caleb does identify a key problem with HB 1184: we are giving the private sector even more power over a key public institution, our post-secondary vo-tech program. If businesses complete control over their vocational training programs, then businesses should foot the bill and train their own workers. Our vo-tech program should serve workers first, not businesses.

  13. Francis Schaffer 2017-03-12

    That is not a good catch by bearcreekbat. Read the entire sentence with the commas. The organized efforts they want opposed are those which break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing. That being said, quoting the Catholic bishops may not be a wish choice; remember this is the same group who will not turn over criminals to local authorities even when they have the knowledge and evidence of sexual predators in their employment.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-03-12

    We all have our sins, Francis, and the Catholic Church’s sins on child predation are pretty bad. But given the publicly professed piety of many of our legislators, invoking the wisdom of church elders seems like a good idea… especially for a Democratic Senator.

  15. Francis Schaffer 2017-03-13

    I get what you are saying and I sent an email to Brock about my opposition to this bill, you see how that turned out. I would call the predation by priests of the Catholic Church crimes not sins and the cover up by the hierarchy in my opinion is racketeering. You realize some dioceses have declared financial bankruptcy, yet the moral bankruptcy came first. You have been at some of the cracker barrel seasons, has any of the elected representatives ever asked the assembled group what they wanted from the legislative season?

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-03-13

    Good observation in that last question, Francis. I don’t recall such a question at a crackerbarrel. But it’s worth noting that the crackerbarrels aren’t set up well for that sort of dialogue. Crackerbarrel moderators generally discourage real dialogue (although I hear the alternative/non-Chamber crackerbarrels in Rapid City did invite such conversation).

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