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Mickelson Wants to Ban Unions from SD Public Universities

The South Dakota Legislature briefly considered a Scott Walker/Wisconsin-style ban on collective bargaining for public employees in 2012. That bill quickly failed.

But our Republican legislators are still working steadily to erode what little remains of labor rights in South Dakota. Last spring, the Legislature kicked unions out of our vo-tech schools. Union-busting Speaker G. Mark Mickelson says unions at our public universities are next on his hit list:

Rep. Mark Mickelson told the Executive Board on Monday that he would work to ban labor unions that represent more than 1,000 faculty members in South Dakota.

The Sioux Falls Republican said he was inspired to bring the proposal when he chaired a panel considering moving the South Dakota School of Law to Sioux Falls from Vermillion. He said professors weren’t willing enough to teach courses on weekends or weeknights due to terms of their contracts, prompting his frustration.

“Something needs to change, these people need to be shaken up a little bit,” Mickelson said.

…”I don’t think it serves the mission of educating our kids, the pendulum swung too far,” Mickelson said [Dana Ferguson, “Lawmaker to Propose Ban on Unions at South Dakota’s Public Colleges,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.11.13].

Someone remind me: how many weeknights and weekends does Mickelson convene the House of Representatives for formal sessions?

Mickelson and his fellow Republicans are on pretty thin ice when they start talking about serving the mission of educating out college students. Letting tuition rise 32% from 2008 to 2016, appropriating less per student full-time equivalent than 41 other states, and sticking students with over 60% of the cost of the college degrees seems a far more direct hindrance to getting an education than letting profs work together to negotiate better contracts.

Conservatives complain that government gets too big and threatens our liberty. You’d think they would support teachers working together to protect themselves from a government taking away their academic freedom, imposing unfair workplace conditions, and firing them without due cause. But South Dakota’s conservatives would rather give the best professors one more reason to go work elsewhere.


  1. grudznick 2017-11-14 19:45

    You knew this was coming.

    Unions are bad. They are bad.

  2. leslie 2017-11-14 22:35

    u were a legislator, grudz, I understand. sounds like one of the stupidest things trump might say, grudz. really stupid. Higher ed, k-12 unions are essential to protect the meager rights members negotiate in this red state.

  3. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-11-15 00:52

    Let me get this right, Speaker Mickelson wants to ban unions on South Dakota campuses and his wife, who is a Sioux Falls School Board member, would like to turn our public schools into “Workforce Development” factories…. So I guess, when you are anti-union and you want to turn our school children into mere tools of the economy, then it is fair to say, that you are not really a friend of the worker, rather a disciple of the corporate bosses, who have effectively turned South Dakota into a fine example of wage collusion, unaffordable housing, and regressive taxation….

  4. David Newquist 2017-11-15 09:08

    While living in Illinois, I worked with a bunch of professors throughout the state on updating and refining some history projects. I resigned from the group when I moved to Aberdeen, and shortly was relayed a message from a professor at the U. of Ill. He was a distinguished professor of the development of higher education and also a very active leader in the Association of American University Professors. His message was, “What the hell are you doing?” He was referring to the fact that I took a job at a college that had been on the censure list of AAUP for ten years.

    at the previous college where I worked, the administration encouraged faculty to belong to AAUP because of its leadership in establishing and maintaining the standards and integrity of the profession. I became involved in trying to removed the censure and hosted AAUP representatives in my home when they came to town to try to work things out. Eventually the censure was removed from Northern State and responsibility was placed on the Board of Regents, along with a censure of SDSU. Shortly thereafter, the BOR paid damages to professors who had been dismissed without due process and procedures that would prevent such incidents again were written into the collective bargaining contract. Much of the contract is devoted to identifying lapses in performance, and correcting those problems through constructive plans or dismissal.

    The claim that due process protects “bad teachers” is a favorite falsehood. It protects the brightest and hardest working teachers who are most often the targets of defamations of the bigoted and resentful of highly intelligent and educated people.

    As for Mickelson’s claim that “professors weren’t willing enough to teach courses on weekends or weeknights due to terms of their contracts ,” there is nothing in the contract that addresses that other than the general workload policy. I often taught evenings and during the first years at NSU, I enjoyed the weekend classes taught by extension in outlying communities. That program was curtailed because of the per diem costs of travel, food, and lodging involved. As is the standard tactic of the GOP, especially now with the example of Trump, I fear Michelson’s criticism no basis in fact.

  5. David Newquist 2017-11-15 09:11

    I had some struggles with autocorrect in that above post. Sorry I lost.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-15 09:35

    [You fight a noble fight, David. Don’t let the machines win!]

  7. o 2017-11-15 10:33

    This seems like a confusion of causality. A contract does not dictate conditions of work, workers determine the conditions they are willing to abide by (for determined compensation) and denote those conditions in contract. I think Speaker Mickelson is having a discussion about power, and the root of his objection is that contracts give power to the employees to have voice and clearly define their workplace conditions. Contracts are not arbitrary. Much like budgets, contracts are moral documents to show what those who create them stand for. The very existence of contract language means that this issue of work load HAD been mutually discussed and mutually resolved. I would love to see more detail about Speaker Mickelson’s proposed request for evening and weekend class assignment to university professors – what was the context of compensation for that request? What was offered in exchange to give up personal, family, de-stressing time for a non-traditional work load assignment? To that point, David’s writing that evening and weekend class loads are not on-face forbidden does seem to track back to a fair compensation issue.

    The value of a contract seems now more essential in the context of this conflict: here the mutual agreement (yes, contracts must have mutual agreement between parties) is brought into question because the one-sided attempt to order an employee to do something he or she does not want to do has been challenged. The one-sided, absolute authority of the boss ought not be checked by “the help.” “. . . these people need to be shaken up a bit,” because they did not cede absolute authority and power to Speaker Mickelson’s request is what has left me most troubled here. The answer was not to create positive incentives to make professors want to expand re-define their traditional teaching load, but instead to strip their opportunity/ability to say no (a “no” that had been discussed and decided before this discussion began).

    When added to the list of University challenges Cory identifies, I cannot see faculty devaluation as a pathway to bring a quality, university education to SD students.

  8. Robin 2017-11-15 12:18

    Watch them plan b is just as brutal. Are lockouts illegal ? If not move quick to make them illegal

  9. Roger Elgersma 2017-11-15 13:03

    Those lawyers in the law school should read their constitution and realize that we have the right to assemble. That does not mean that once we assemble that we can not agree on anything to do together. If they do not want forced unions is one thing but to force no union is unconstitutional.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-16 06:21

    Former faculty union chief Gary Aguiar from SDSU wrote in 2014 that South Dakota has “the weakest set of tools available to labor.” Yet Mickelson and the Republicans are determined to rub out any challenge to their absolute authority.

    Lockouts, Robin? Interesting concern. Strikes by professors and any other public employees are illegal (SDCL 3-18-10), but might not our anti-union statutes (falsely labeled “right to work”) also prohibited the Regents from locking profs out of their classrooms due to union activity?

  11. Robin 2017-11-16 13:10

    Cory, Long Island University professors were locked out last year not because of union activity but because they refused to take a $ 10, 000 year cut. They came to work and were locked out . Regents taught classes. I think I have the right dollar amount .

  12. Donald Pay 2017-11-16 13:31

    Here’s the nut graph: “Someone remind me: how many weeknights and weekends does Mickelson convene the House of Representatives for formal sessions?”

    Some committees work some nights during the crunch time of the Legislature, and sometimes the floor sessions extend past 5:00, or at least they used to, but, in general, that doesn’t happen. The workweek of the Legislature has really shortened, however, over the last 17 years. The Legislature used to work Monday-Friday, and even some Saturdays when there was a Monday holiday. Now they work 4 days a week.

    You know, I don’t begrude legislators some time off. They need time to touch base with people back home and their families. But the Scott Walkerish idea that what’s good for me, you don’t deserve is really indicative of Republicanism. These people are just absolutely corrupt.

    Mickelson talks a big game, but he’s got nothing. Give this clown enough rope and he’ll hang himself.

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