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Labor Day Marks More Than End of Summer

August 29, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - South Dakota's labor unions say Labor Day should be more than a long weekend at the end of summer. It should also be time to recognize the hard work - and workers - around the state.

Mark Anderson, president of the South Dakota State Federation of Labor, said too many people and families still are having a hard time making ends meet. He said he thinks more should - and can - be done.

"One of the things that has always kept wages high is collective bargaining, and that seems to be anymore that's not a priority for anyone, and we need to get that fixed," he said. "I think training and education has kind of come to the front, in South Dakota and on a federal level."

Anderson said South Dakotans will have a rare opportunity to decide whether to improve wages when they vote on an increase in the state minimum wage in November.

Before its summer recess, he said, Congress managed to pass at least one bill that could help improve the job prospects for some workers.

"One of the few bills that got passed this year on a federal level out in Congress was one that's called the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act," he said. "That will go into effect next summer, and that's going to be focused on training and education. It's going to move away from four-year degrees and focus more on apprenticeships."

The South Dakota Department of Labor predicts that workforce needs in the state will grow by almost 9 percent by 2020. Anderson said the federal training act will be especially helpful for those who want to stay close to home.

"This particular kind of training program is designed for people that want to live in a particular area, but still have a job that pays them a good wage," he said.

The state labor department reports average wages in South Dakota rose about 8 percent from 2011 to 2013.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD