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Labor Leader Caraway Agrees with TenHaken: City Worker Bonuses Can’t Wait for Election

Last night the Sioux Falls City Council approved $2,000 bonuses for most of its full-time employees, a $17.50 minimum wage for city employees, a $500 referral incentive for full-timers who help find a new hire, and better sick leave and vacation time. Some city council members and mayoral candidates joined South DaCola in raising ethical concerns, saying that giving city employees these raises and benefits within two months of the municipal election smells like a way for the mayor and city council members to buy some votes. Council member Janet Brekke, who is seeking reëlection in April, actually recused herself from last herself from last night’s votes:

“I believe the timing and comprehensiveness of these midterm benefit proposals are being voted on so close to an election in which I am a candidate that it creates an appearance of impropriety under section 34.005 of the city’s code of ethics, and creates a conflict of interest for me to participate in them,” Brekke said before stepping away from the dais [Trevor J. Mitchell, “Sioux Falls Council Advances Plan to Give City Employees $2,000 Bonus After Heated Discussion,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.02.15].

Mayoral candidates David Zokaites and Taneeza Islam said Mayor Paul TenHaken’s plan smells political:

“I don’t see any evidence of city employees leaving like that, and I don’t see great number of vacancies, so to grant such a large retention bonus so close to the election, looks just like dirty politics to me,” Zokaites said.

“If the mayor has waited this long to pay our city employees a wage that they deserve, he can wait until the elections are done,” said Taneeza Islam, who is also running for mayor.

Islam agrees with Zokaites.

“Unfortunately, the timing of this is just wrong,” Islam said. “I’m not saying you can buy city employee votes, ’cause surely you cannot, however, the timing of it is wrong” [Dan Santella, “TenHaken Says $2K Not Political; Opponents Disagree,” KELO-TV, 2022.02.15].

Mayor TenHaken says governing and labor policy can’t wait until after the election. Kooper Caraway, president of the South Dakota Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, agrees:

Kooper Caraway, tweets, 2022.02.15.
Kooper Caraway, tweets, 2022.02.15.

Election or no, workers gotta eat, and the city’s gotta work. The business of government cannot wait for the voters to decide who gets to do that business next term.


  1. M 2022-02-16 06:10

    This smells worse than the Smithfield plant.

  2. Scott Ehrisman 2022-02-16 08:45

    If this is so urgent, why wasn’t it done in October or November? That’s when RC decided to do there’s and they had a very public discussion about it. We decided to do this behind closed doors (remember, they were NOT negotiating raises, this is just a one time payment hardly a contract negotiation). Sorry, this is very political, on both sides, who should be embarrassed about their total disregard to open government. Starr said it best last night, the council was pushed in a corner and forced to approve what was handed to them a couple of days ago. A piss poor way to run government.

  3. Scott Ehrisman 2022-02-16 08:49

    Oh, and BTW, where was Kooper last night? Many people testified last night, pro and con, didn’t see anyone from labor there. Oh that’s right, because they were already promised this 6 weeks ago and the mayor told them it would be a cake walk. Once again, extremely political.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-02-18 05:43

    Maybe the timing is political, but if labor isn’t complaining about any real harm to workers, the issue won’t have political legs.

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