Bargaining process: It’s all about respect

Bargaining process: It's all about respect by SD Education Association There is an old adage � Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely � that rings true when we look at the public employees' collective bargaining process in South Dakota. In many places, there is little respect for the persons involved and little or no respect for the process laid out in law.

Too often, power has replaced respect in the collective bargaining process. Rather than working through the collective bargaining process, including approaching mediation and fact finding with the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable solution, power is used to impose top down decisions.

The Council on Higher Education (COHE), an affiliate of SDEA, and several other SDEA local associations are still in some stage of the bargaining process. In those instances, current contracts remain in place and, like the Board of Regents faculty, proposed salary increases have not been received. A key issue for our members is respect � respect for the process, respect for their ideas/issues, and respect for the profession. Our members expect fairness and honesty in the process. They expect a genuine interest in resolving the issues. They are willing to engage in compromise that will complete the process.

Unfortunately, instead of respect, what we often receive are:

* School boards who come to the bargaining table with a "You might as well accept our offer because we intend to impose it anyway attitude."

* School boards who attend mediation sessions with no commitment to participate.

* School boards who come to Department of Labor fact finding sessions unprepared to present facts that support their positions.

* School boards who do impose contrary to Department of Labor fact finding reports.

One of the more egregious examples of lack of respect is the Board of Regents' attempt to circumvent the bargaining process with COHE that require SD Supreme Court intervention.

During the 1998 Legislative Session SDEA lobbyists talked on several occasions to Dr. Tad Perry and Dr. Jim Shekelton, Board of Regents lobbyists, about the need for additional monies for higher education. Sdea indicated our intent to support and work for those additional dollars. At no time during the Legislative Session did either of them inform the three SDEA lobbyists about their talks with legislators and their intentions to avoid bargaining with COHE.

Individuals and groups may disagree on what should be done and how it should be done, but common courtesy dictates up-front honesty about proposals that could dramatically change the way public employees bargain across this state.

Incredibly, after twice being ordered by the Supreme Court to follow the law and bargain with COHE, the Board of Regents remains intent on using power to impose their salary proposal. Even worse, the Board of Regents has taken the ultimate step in lack of respect, "blame the victim." COHE had to go to the Board of Regents to bargain salaries with COHE. Now, according to the Board of Regents, "It is COHE's fault that faculty members must continue to work without a raise under last year's contracts."

It is time to stop the blaming and the power games. It is time for the Board of Regents and local school boards to respect the process and come to the bargaining table willing to work toward resolution of the issues.

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