Right to work worthiness earns Senate debate, endorsement


Dana Hess
Community News Service

PIERRE — A Senate resolution endorsing the right to work provision of the South Dakota Constitution and the Labor Management Relations Act that prohibits forced union membership led to a debate about the worth of resolutions and meaning of the right to work.

Resolutions don’t have the weight of law but are open for debate and offer an insight into the views of the Legislature.

Sen. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, offered the resolution on Monday. “The right to work concept is important in our state,” Bolin said, noting that today’s U.S. Congress could learn from the bipartisan manner in which the Labor Management Relations Act was passed.

The worth of such a resolution was questioned by Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission. “I don’t believe this is an issue right now,” Heinert said.

The right to work was a misnomer, according to Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, who said federal law prohibits workers from being forced to join a union. Right to work provisions keep workers from organizing, Nesiba said.

“They tilt the balance of power to big corporations,” Nesiba said.

The right to work may be connected to two recurring themes in the Legislature, workforce development and budget shortages. Nesiba noted that workers in right to work states make, on average, $1,500 less than workers in other states.

Multiplying $1,500 by 400,000 workers in the state equals $600 million in additional wages, Nesiba said.

The resolution was endorsed on a 28-5 vote.