South Dakota Takes ‘a Good Early Step’ Lawmakers Ban Monopolistic Government Unionism in Universities

Now that Gov. Noem has signed S.B. 147 into law, union bosses will no longer be able to usurp the ability of hundreds of nonunion nonmembers in higher education to speak for themselves on key matters concerning their jobs. Credit: James Nord/AP

In November 2016, freedom-loving citizens in South Dakota, with both strategic and financial support from the National Right to Work Committee, resoundingly defeated a Big Labor scheme to destroy, at the ballot box, the Mount Rushmore State’s seven-decade-old ban on forced union dues and fees.

The overwhelming 80%-to-20% popular vote against the union bosses’ pro-compulsory unionism Initiated Measure 23 (or IM 23) sternly rebuked Organized Labor strategists, and evidently sent a clear message to state lawmakers in Pierre.

Since the beginning of the 2017 legislative session, state senators and representatives have been far more receptive to grassroots pleas that they roll back special privileges for union chiefs that have long been enshrined in the South Dakota Code.

Late this winter, pro-Right to Work legislators and Gov. Kristi Noem (R) granted freedom-loving citizens their latest victory by approving legislation that terminates union bosses’ monopoly-bargaining power over professors and other public university employees.

Camouflaged Bid to Foist Forced Dues on South Dakota Was Lopsidedly Rejected

Four years ago, top officials of Minneapolis-based Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) spearheaded the campaign for IM 23, a craftily worded assault on employees’ personal freedom.

Although it didn’t even include the words “Right to Work,” had it been adopted, IM 23 would have gutted South Dakota’s constitutional provision of that name by forcing union nonmembers to pay dues or fees for Big Labor monopoly bargaining they didn’t want, and never asked for.

The National Right to Work Committee led the charge to save South Dakota from compulsory unionism. Thanks to the generosity of members and supporters across the country, the Committee was able to contribute $145,000 to grass-roots opponents of IM 23, more than twice as much as any other single contributor.

With the Committee’s help, the Aberdeen, S.D.-based group South Dakotans for Freedom and Jobs was able to run effective TV advertising and mail campaigns in a low-cost, low-population state.

Although Big Labor ultimately outspent Right to Work proponents by three-to-one (according to official records that, no doubt, greatly understate union-boss expenditures), efforts by the Committee and its allies sufficed to unmask IM 23. That’s why four times as many citizens voted against it as voted for it.

Workers Put ‘Under Powerful Compulsion to Join’ Unions By Monopoly Bargaining

“Saving South Dakota’s Right to Work law in 2016 was an important victory,” said Committee President Mark Mix, “but opponents of coercive unionism have much additional work to do in the Mount Rushmore State.

“Although the Right to Work remains protected, state law continues to force thousands and thousands of public servants to be subject to union monopoly bargaining on matters concerning their pay, benefits, and work rules in order to work for the taxpayer.

“As the late Thomas E. Harris, then a top AFL-CIO lawyer, acknowledged back in 1962, the very fact that a union is legally empowered to ‘negotiate the contract which regulates the incidents of [a worker’s] industrial life puts him under powerful compulsion to join the union.’”(Emphasis added.)

Fortunately, since Big Labor’s IM 23 debacle, South Dakota legislative majorities have demonstrated a willingness at least to take modest steps to curtail government union bosses’ so-called “exclusive” bargaining privileges.

In 2017, they stripped union bosses of the power to negotiate contract terms for member and nonmember faculty alike at four technical institutes (soon to be transformed into colleges) run by school districts in Sioux City, Rapid City, Mitchell and Watertown.

And just this March, the Legislature adopted and Ms. Noem signed S.B.147, which shields faculty and other employees of state universities in Vermillion, Brookings, Madison, Aberdeen, Rapid, Brookings, Madison, Aberdeen, Rapid, City and Spear Fish, as well as employees at branch campuses in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, from Big Labor domination.

On behalf of Committee members in South Dakota and nationwide, Mr. Mix had written to lawmakers and Ms. Noem to request their support for S.B.147. He commended the new law as a “good early step.”

“But it’s just the beginning,” he emphasized. “Right to Work supporters are pressing for the protection, in the near future, of all South Dakota public employees from union monopoly bargaining.”