This is a time of celebration!
As I write this column, it is one day after HB1199 was defeated in the Senate. HB1199 would have stripped collective bargaining from our 6 public universities and 2 special schools: the School for the Deaf and the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Not only did we defeat HB1199, but we also defeated HB1197 and HB1198, two more anti-union bills which would have prohibited administrators from bargaining and eliminated release time for local officers, association leave and member representation during the school day.
This is a time of celebration. Wins like this, especially in our red-state climate, happen because of member activism. While SDEA lobbyists worked these three bills at the capitol, it was our collective voice as their constituents at cracker barrels, in emails, and in phone calls that had an impact and turned the tide. COHE members and K12 members came together, worked hard at organizing other members and kept up the pressure for three weeks. The key factor to our success is the recognition that we are all in this together and what happens to one of us, happens to all of us.
So now what? By the time you read this, the 2018 Legislative Session will be over. We will have succeeded, but now we must take what we have learned to build our strength and move forward.
We learned how to work together and use our power. Now we must challenge ourselves to use this power to advocate in our own work place. What are the concerns of the members in your local? How can we work together, engage the decision makers and come together to lead with a common message? If we can do it legislatively, we can do it in every school/local…and that’s what moves the dial for our students and for our Association.
The true work of this Association is not what happens in Pierre. It is what happens in every local across SD led by the voices of those who work in the schools. This is where change occurs; this is where power lies.
We know what success looks like and feels like. We know how to talk to legislators; talking with our members and prospective members should be no different. There is strength in the number of emails and calls legislators receive; there is greater strength in the size of our locals and the size of our statewide membership. This year COHE has grown in numbers because COHE members are talking with each other, coming together for the common good, and working together to achieve their goals. This is what each local must do to remain strong and to grow. We simply must grow.
For a few days we will celebrate our legislative success and reflect on our path forward. Then, we are going to roll up our sleeves and go to work…reaching out to local leaders, listening to your needs, and working to help you plan, move ahead and grow.
Together we will increase our membership and strengthen our Association. We will continue to be the voice for the schools our students deserve…great public schools for all SD students.
See you at the SDEA Representative Assembly April 6–7!
Mary J. McCorkle