Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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It's the will of the people.
The woman, a retired professor, who headed the policy review committee for an organization that analyzes civil rights and government accountability shook her head every time a complaint was brought in from from South Dakota. Her advice was not comforting. She told the people with complaints, if you do not like the system of repressions in South Dakota, move.
That is not to say that she did not think change was needed and, even, possible. But she was quick to point out that the general population was not concerned about repression, discrimination, and denials of freedom, equality, and equal justice. A majority either likes the system of repressions or prefers to ignore it.
South Dakota is often ranked very high for its business climate. That is because of low business taxes, few regulations governing the way companies are allowed to do business, and a system of laws and regulations that regard employees as bonded servants, or worse. South Dakota is an "at will" state, meaning that employees are treated at the will and discretion of their employers. No rules requiring honesty and fair play govern the work place in South Dakota, so when most employees walk through their work place doors, they revert to the status of serfs, whose lives are governed at the pleasure of their "superiors."
However, that high ranking in business climate is exactly what makes South Dakota a terrible place to work. Unless an employee works for a company or boss that possesses a sense of genuine work ethics, there is no American principle in the South Dakota workplace. And no one, but a few oppressed workers, seems to care. That is one of the reasons businesses close or fail to start up in South Dakota: good workers move and refuse to come here.
South Dakotans are said to possess a strong "work ethic," but employers generally do not. The work ethics in South Dakota are among the reasons it stays at the bottom of many state rankings. They include:
- South Dakota has the lowest average annual salary in the nation. (And it has the highest number of families in which two or more families contribute to the income to stay out of the poverty level.)
- It has the poorest counties in the nation.
- It has labor laws that deny real good-faith bargaining for unions, and that deny binding arbitration in labor disputes.
- It pays its teachers, the people most involved in preparing kids for the future, the lowest in the nation according to rankings put out by the U.S. Dept. of Education, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.
- It is ranked 50th by the Better Government Association study on integrity in government (funded by the Ford Foundation).
In the portion of the government integrity survey that deals with freedom of information, South Dakota receives a zero. The people (and the press) have no legally-enforced access to information on how government performs, no access to justice when they are ripped off by private companies or government agencies, and no recourse when information that is considered public information is denied them.
In many aspects, South Dakota is part of the Third World. Why? Well, no one really cares. The diffidence is bi-partisan.
The only initiative we have seen in state government to bring the state somehow in line with the basic matters of freedom and integrity enjoyed in other states is the persistent introduction to the state legislature of binding arbitration. It loses every year.
And so people who want the benefits of America move.