Senator John ThuneEaster is a time to celebrate with family, and I was fortunate to be able to do so in South Dakota. With the U.S. Senate being out of session, I spent a great deal of time traveling around South Dakota and talking to people across the state. Even as many South Dakotans are feeling the effects of the challenging times, I see many reasons for optimism in our state.
One thing I almost always do when the Senate is out of session is visit South Dakota schools. Earlier this month I had the honor of attending the Armour School's ceremony to celebrate their achievement of being named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Less than 300 public schools nationwide earned the Blue Ribbon award this year. The students, teachers, and parents of Armour are justly proud of this achievement, and I am grateful to have been a part of their ceremony.
I also had a chance to visit high schools in North Sioux City and Rapid City, where I was equally impressed with the caliber of the students and faculty. South Dakota schools, from the elementary level through college, produce the future leaders of our state, which is why it is so important to keep South Dakota's businesses growing and creating jobs.
Over the Easter break I also toured Masaba Mining in Vermillion. In addition to learning about the manufacturing floor operations of the facility, I had a chance to speak to the employees and discuss their concerns. Like so many in South Dakota, Masaba's employees are concerned with the excessive spending and bailout mentality that they see coming out of Washington. Visits like these help me to gather more insights from constituents and to take their ideas back to the Senate.
Preserving and creating good jobs in South Dakota will require conditions in which small businesses can thrive. I recently hosted a roundtable discussion in Rapid City with small business leaders from throughout the Black Hills to discuss the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act" that has been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This bill would effectively deprive workers of the right to a secret ballot in choosing whether or not to unionize their workplace, and it would allow government bureaucrats to impose contract terms on workers and employers.
I am deeply concerned that further government intrusion into the workplace, especially without the consent of many workers and employers. Such action has been shown to drive up business operating costs and force businesses to lay off employees or even close their doors for good.
As long as South Dakota schools continue to prepare our students for success and as long as business and state leaders work to preserve a good climate to create jobs, South Dakotans can be optimistic about the future. My visits around South Dakota in recent weeks have given me a lot of insight and good ideas, which I look forward to taking back to Washington.