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Unions Say IM23 Is About Fairness, Opponents Say It’s Forced Collection

Nate Wek

A union backed ballot measure in South Dakota seeks to give organizations the right to charge fees for services provided.

Unions, call it a matter of fairness. But opponents call the measure forced fees.


South Dakota is a right to work state, meaning unions are voluntary.   If passed, Initiated Measure 23 gives corporate organizations and non-profit organizations the right to charge a fee for any service provided.

The measure gives unions the chance to collect on services they say benefit workers who don’t pay dues.

Jason George is with the international union of operating engineers Local 49.

He says there’s a fundamental loophole in state law that allows non-union workers to reap the benefits of union contract negotiations.

“There’s other people that they work right next to that do pay. South Dakota law, there’s a right to work law a fundamental, what we’re calling a slacker loophole, that allows people in the work place—some people are paying for the services of negotiating the contract, etcetera, and some people aren’t. But everybody in the work place, whether you’re paying or not, gets the benefit of that contract.”

George says they are focusing on the fairness issue, regardless of whether or not people support unions. He estimates if IM 23 is passed, the fee for non-union workers would be somewhere under 35 dollars a month, which is an average union fee.

But opponents include David Owen, the president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce. He says IM23  is poorly written. He adds that it allows unions  to force collection of fees from non-union workers.

“IM 23 is going to put fees in place so hard working teachers, firefighters, city workers, state workers can be assessed a fee by the unions and unions they have chosen not to belong to, and we’re opposed to these kinds of fees.”

Owen says one of the Chamber’s concerns is whether or not a person has to agree with a contract the union negotiates.

If passed, the measure takes effect on JuIy first next year.


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