A bill to prohibit collective bargaining for employees of the state’s public universities is moving to the Senate floor.
Proponents argue it gives the Board of Regents more flexibility to stay competitive. Opponents say it sends a negative message to the state’s professors—and complicates the hiring process.
Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 147. She says the current contracting agreement for public university faculty is more than 100 pages of time-locked agreements that hinder institutional flexibility.
“This bill seeks to enhance the ability of our universities to compete in a competitive and ever changing market by removing the barrier of the bargaining process and affording our universities the flexibility to adjust to the changing market in a timely and efficient fashion and to provide for the future workforce needs of our state,” says Langer.
A representative from Governor Noem’s office also supports the bill, saying it could empower faculty senates who use open meetings to decide employment policies, as opposed to closed bargaining meetings.
The faculty labor union COHE—or, the Council of Higher Education—opposes the bill. Jeremiah Murphy is the registered lobbyist for the South Dakota Education Association, which includes COHE. He says this bill doesn’t achieve the supposed goal.
“What they’re eliminating is the very mechanism that creates efficiencies because you’ve got one union that covers the six campuses as opposed to six diverse faculty senates that you now have to have six discussions to do what under the status quo you can do with one discussion,” says Murphy.
As for empowering faculty senates, Murphy says four out of six faculty senates in the state oppose this bill. The remaining two haven’t yet been surveyed. He adds under existing law, the BOR is already able to impose a policy in the event of an impasse with the union.
The bill passes committee on a six to three vote and moves next to the Senate floor.
Representative Scyller Borglum introduced a similar bill in the House Judiciary committee Monday morning. The committee deferred action until Wednesday.