- Associated Press - Thursday, December 6, 2018

REDFIELD, S.D. (AP) - A workers union is alleging that the state-run South Dakota Developmental Center is chronically understaffed and puts employees at risk of injury.

The union has filed charges with the state Department of Labor and Regulation claiming unfair labor practices at the Redfield facility, where care is provided for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Argus Leader reported.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees chapter is also alleging that the center has denied state employees their right to union representation.

The chapter represents 180 employees at the developmental center, which is overseen by the South Dakota Department of Human Services.

Kooper Caraway, a chapter representative, said staff members at the facility are often left without support when working with clients. Caraway said that exposes workers to risks in cases where an individual becomes unruly or violent.

“There’ve been situations lately where a (living facility) should have a staffing level of five or six people, but a cottage might only have one or two people for an overnight shift,” he said.

Center employees reported 42 injuries through the first 10 months of this year, according to data provided by the state Department of Human Services. That compares to 64 employee injuries reported in 2017, and 59 worker injuries reported in 2016, according to the data.

Dan Hoblick, the department’s communications officer, said the center hasn’t yet been notified of the charge. He said safety is a priority at the center for both clients and staff.

The center strives to exceed federal staffing guidelines and has a practice of keeping three staff members on duty during the day and evening shifts, Hoblick said. He didn’t address allegations about workers being denied representation by their union.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com


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