House speaker takes aim at faculty unions

© 2017-Brookings Register

PIERRE (AP) – South Dakota’s House speaker said Monday that lawmakers will consider legislation to end collective bargaining at the state’s public universities.

Republican Rep. Mark Mickelson said he doesn’t think collective bargaining “serves the mission of educating our kids.” Union contracts cover more than 1,300 staff members at the state’s six public universities and at schools for the blind and deaf.

Alan Aldrich, state president of the Council of Higher Education, the faculty labor union, didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment from The Associated Press. Past President Bill Adamson told the Argus Leader that it’s a “dangerous trend.”

“You’re not going to attract any good professors,” Adamson said.

Sandra Waltman, spokeswoman for the South Dakota Education Association, which is affiliated with the faculty union, said that members can’t bargain for salary and benefits. Waltman said the union negotiates on issues such as academic freedom, grievance rights, evaluation and tenure.

“We want faculty to have a say in their working conditions, and this would really limit their voice in what their working conditions look like,” Waltman said. “That has an impact on the students’ learning conditions.”

Paul Turman, vice president for academic affairs with the Board of Regents, said in an email that 8.7 percent of the bargaining-unit faculty in the regental system are dues-paying members of the Council of Higher Education; 28 percent of staff at the two special schools who are dues-paying members.

The Board of Regents doesn’t convene next until December and hasn’t had an opportunity to react to Mickelson’s intention to end collective bargaining, Turman said.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, said that the Republican governor hasn’t yet reviewed the proposal. Daugaard earlier this year signed a bill that banned collective bargaining at the four technical institutes in right-to-work South Dakota.


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