GPNA Tip of The Week: Municipality and Unionization

GPNA Tip of The Week: Municipality and Unionization

Written on October 29th, 2020

If a municipality faces a unionization effort by its public employees, it should meet with those public employees and review South Dakota’s labor statutes with an attorney to determine who is eligible for participation in collective bargaining negotiations.  Pursuant to SDCL § 3-18-1(2), public employees eligible for membership in a collective bargaining unit do not include public employees having authority in the interests of the employer to hire, transfer, suspend, layoff, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other public employees.  The municipality should carefully examine the roles and responsibilities of its public employees engaging in collective bargaining because it will be helpful in determining who it needs to negotiate with.  A public employee with supervisory responsibilities will likely not be eligible for participation in a collective bargaining unit and therefore be disqualified from collective bargaining negotiations with management.

This GPNA tip is derived from Fraternal Order of Police , Vermillion Lodge No. 19, Yankton Police Officers' Ass'n v. City of Yankton, 2020 S.D. 52, ¶¶ 15-25, -- N.W.2d --, 3-7 (S.D. 2020).  The opinion was released by the South Dakota Supreme Court on September 16, 2020. In that case, the Supreme Court reversed a circuit court’s reversal of a determination by the Department of Labor that police sergeants were ineligible for participation in a collective bargaining agreement.  The Supreme Court reasoned that under SDCL § 3-18-1(2) the sergeants exercised independent judgment in recommending hiring decisions and thus the Department of Labor was correct in the first instance when it determined that sergeants were ineligible for participation in collective bargaining negotiations.

Read the Supreme Court’s decision here.