The South Dakota Legislature was unsuccessful in its attempt at passing House Bills 1197, 1198, and 1199, all meant to ban unions (and collective bargaining) for employees of the state’s K-12 public schools and six public universities.
Mark Mickelson (R), Speaker of the House of Representatives, successfully passed legislation ending collective bargaining for the state’s four technical institutes last year, and during fall 2017 announced his intention to sponsor these bills. His HB 1197 would ban unions/collective bargaining for K-12 administrators, HB 1198 would ban schools from paying official union negotiators, and HB 1199 would ban unions/collective bargaining for post-secondary faculty members.
Opponents and public-school educators claimed HB 1197 was unnecessary, as barring unions for principals would not change collective bargaining for classroom educators in most districts. Mickelson countered with, “If you guys stay married to the status quo, you’re going to turn around and wonder what the heck happened. The world changed, and we didn’t change with it.” Members of the House Education Committee voted 8-6 to defer the bill, effectively killing it and its companion, HB 1198.
However, SD’s House of Representatives voted 37-28 in approval of HB 1199, moving it to the Senate for consideration and voting. Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) had declared his support for the bill, stating his concern that unionization has made it difficult for administrators to retain certain employees and discipline others when needed.
Mickelson maintained the bill was freeing the state’s institutions, making them nimbler in adding and eliminating courses, rather than as an affront to its faculty members. Others agreed, declaring collective bargaining hinders those wanting to excel, and that unions promote mediocrity.
Opponents asserted ending unions and collective bargaining for post-secondary faculty would deter efforts to recruit and retain qualified professors, plus deflate morale. Representative Ray Ring (D), commented that if SD wants to compete, particularly by paying less than the going rate, not providing protections found at virtually every other university would make it extremely difficult to do so. Senator Art Rush (R) echoed Ring by stating, “We certainly can’t attract faculty here because of our wonderful salaries, so why do we want to take any kind of step that would detract them from coming here?”
After a tense waiting period as the bill progressed through the Capitol, the South Dakota Senate voted 16-18 against HB 1199, two votes short of passage and halting its delivery to the governor. At this time, there is no indication as to whether or not the bill will be redesigned or otherwise presented to the legislature in a future session, so unions/collective bargaining remain undisturbed in South Dakota’s public K-12 and post-secondary institutions.