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SD Poised to Become Latest State to Ban Faculty Unions

Supporters of a bill banning labor unions at the state's public universities claim it would pave the way for professors who have more work experience outside of higher education. (Adobe Stock)
Supporters of a bill banning labor unions at the state's public universities claim it would pave the way for professors who have more work experience outside of higher education. (Adobe Stock)
March 6, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota's governor is expected to sign a bill that would ban faculty members at the state's public universities from any form of collective bargaining.

The proposal, pushed by Republicans in the state Legislature, recently cleared both the House and Senate. The office of GOP Gov. Kristi Noem has indicated she will approve it.

Mark Geary, president of the Council for Higher Education in South Dakota, calls the legislation "a gut punch" for faculty at all affected campuses.

"It discourages faculty voice," says Geary. "It discourages faculty from speaking up about their workplace environment."

Geary says it also threatens faculty members from receiving tenure.

But supporters of Senate Bill 147 disagree. They say it can help the state budget by removing costs associated with contract negotiations.

Other states that have adopted similar bans include Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Geary sees the ban as a major setback for schools going forward, especially as they try to attract top-level professors and other faculty.

"There are other states without collective bargaining agreements, but those other states are also paying faculty about $25,000 a year more," says Geary. "And they're also places that have four seasons, rather than one long winter."

South Dakota has six public universities spread across the state. The change would affect roughly 1,400 faculty members.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - SD