Senate Bill Banning Collective Bargaining for Public Universities Passes

Mar 3, 2020

Credit SDPB

One of two bills banning collective bargaining for public university faculty is on its way to the governor’s desk. Governor Noem has said she supports the idea in the past.

Supporters of Senate Bill 147 say dues paying members account for less than 10% of eligible university faculty, while the negotiation process is estimated to cost the Board of Regents $285,000.

Opponents say faculty aren’t obligated to join the union because South Dakota is a right-to-work state, but non-members also benefit from the negotiated contract. They also say removing collective bargaining will harm faculty recruitment and retention.

Representative Ray Ring, a retired economics professor, opposes the bill. On the floor, he reads a letter from a constituent noting the lack of collective bargaining for the state’s only medical school.

“In my time at USD I’ve watched multiple faculty I called friends flee USD’s medical school for medical schools in other states as a result of situations that would’ve been prevented by collective bargaining," the letter says. 

Because faculty union power is limited, Representative Timothy Johns sees the bill as unnecessary.

“I don’t see any reason why here, when the union cannot negotiate salaries, why they shouldn’t be available to represent both union and non-union members when there’s some problem between the faculty or the administration and some member of that workforce," he tells the body. "Someone needs to represent them.”

But others say removing collective bargaining makes universities flexible in a changing market. Representative Jon Hansen introduced the bill on the floor.

“If professors are failing our students—which is rare, I believe, but if they are—they can be given the tools to succeed. And if that doesn’t work, they need to be let go,” says Hansen.

The bill passes the House with 47 in favor and 19 opposed. It goes now to the governor’s desk.