Northern Valley Beacon

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Stephanie Herseth, disaffected Democrats, and labor union woes

The MinneKota Consortium has given us permission to reprint these items of interest to South Dakota from its newsletter.


A growing rift among South Dakota Democrats

Shortly after the 2004 election, web logs by Democrats were noting that the members of the Tom Daschle campaign were angry with the Stephanie Herseth campaign for undercutting Daschle on some issues and taking a Republican stance on other key issues. Herseth's vote in support of Republican proposals to extend provisions of The Patriot Act has further caused discomfort among South Dakota Democrats. One Democrat blogger wrote, "No, the GOP doesn't need a candidate in the House race next year. It and Bush have about what they need in office already."** Backchannel communications is full of chatter about who could be put up to run against Herseth in the primary. This rift comes at a time when the South Dakota Democratic Party is in the process of hiring field directors to enhance its organization and unity.

One prominent South Dakota Democrat commented that the Democratic Party no longer supports the Democratic position on issues that matter. He said the flag burning amendment is a ludricous way to repeal the First Amendment and take away the right to seek a redress of grievances. But the attack on civil liberties through The Patriot Act puts the U.S. solidly in the ranks of Big Brother countries. He said if the liberal Democrats totally roll over just to win elections, the best option is move to a more compatible state.

Since the Daschle defeat, South Dakota has become a case study in what options disaffected liberals might pursue.

**[BEACON NOTE: The blogger stated this in a later post: "When she supports things like a flag burning amendment and an amendment to ban same-sex marriage and to extend the Patriot Act, I'm going to call her on it. It doesn't make much sense for me to call John Thune on those subjects and then give Herseth a pass. Rest assured strong Herseth supporters, that I still understand she is much preferable to the alternative."

Unions also experiencing rift

A number of unions within the AFL-CIO have walked out of the national convention held in Chicago this week. There are many disagreements about union strategies and agendas. The Democratic Party is nervous over the disagreements because it depends on unions for much of its organizational work. However, some union leaders from organizations not under the AFL-CIO umbrella, say the disagreement boils down to a tussle between those who see unionism as adhering to the old labor-based tactics and those who see unions as needing to change to represent the growing number of professions that are in collective bargaining, such as teachers, medical personnel, engineers, service workers. The professional unions contend that the shrinking numbers in union membership results from the lack of appeal and effectiveness that the labor-based programs have for professionals.
On this matter South Dakota again is the center of some controversy. It has labor laws that do not enhance collective bargaining, but provide ways of avoiding it.

The state has laws giving public employees the right to organize and bargain collectively. However, it also gives management the right to declare an impasse and impose a contract on the employees. Two counties in South Dakota imposed contract provisions on their employees that relinquished the right to bargain. The state supreme court struck down the imposed contract, but not on the grounds that the law was flawed, but on the technical detail that the counties did not provide a rationale for what they were doing.

Many workforce watchers think the disagreements among unions is the prelude to a resurgence in collective bargaining organizations. But no unions seem to have picked up on the absurdity of law in South Dakota. It is a place to watch.

MinneKota Consortium A clearinghouse for information on public policy.

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