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SD Labor Groups Voice Three Major Priorities for 2009

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November 12, 2008

Sioux Falls, SD - With a new group of state and national political leaders about to take office in January, South Dakota union members are wasting no time drawing up lists of priorities they say will help working families. Mark Anderson with the South Dakota State Federation of Labor says fixing the economy tops the list. He says income inequality is a major problem in South Dakota, and boosting wages at the bottom would give people more money to spend and would jump-start the economy.

"In the last eight years the bottom 95 percent of wage-earners lost 3,600 dollars each in income, while the top one percent got 50,000 dollars each in tax cuts. We've got to do something to fix that. Of the total income in the United States, 23 percent is controlled by the top one percent of earners."

Anderson says that giving workers more freedom to organize in the workplace would also help improve employee wages. He's hopeful the Employee Free Choice Act, which passed in the U.S. House but failed in the Senate last year, will be looked on more favorably by the new President and Congress.

"All the Employee Free Choice Act does is make it easier for people who don't have a union at their workplace to organize. It also makes it easier for them to get a first contract. President-Elect Obama has said that he'll sign it if it comes out of Congress."

Opponents of the bill say it takes away the secret ballot and could lead to intimidation by unions. Supporters say it's needed to help fight current anti-unionization intimidation by management.

Anderson says health care is another major concern, with premiums going up by more than 100 percent in the last eight years. He says that's taking a big bite out of the income of every South Dakota worker.

David Law, Public News Service - SD