Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Photo: House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Tribes in Connecticut support passage of Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe are among the many in Indian Country pushing for passage of a bill that exempts tribes and their enterprises from federal labor laws.

Mashantucket Chairman Rodney Butler testified in support of a prior version of the bill. He told The New London Day that the measure recognizes the ability of tribes to make their own laws.

“That’s all we want — to be treated like other governments,” Butler told The Day.

The Mohegans also support the measure. Chuck Bunnell, the tribe's chief of staff, told the paper that tribes should be treated the same as state and local governments when it comes to labor laws.

“We’re not anti-union, never have been,” Bunnell told the paper. “We do believe tribal governments should be on a par with other governments. That’s essentially what this bill would do.”

The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act was introduced in the 115th Congress as H.R. 986. Though a prior version passed the House by a large margin in 2015, Republican leaders decided to attach it to S.140, an unrelated and otherwise non-controversial Indian bill.

S.140 passed the House two weeks ago by a vote of 239 to 137. All five of Connecticut's representatives -- all of whom are Democrats, the traditional allies of labor unions -- voted against the bill.

S.140 previously cleared the Senate by unanimous consent. Since the text of the bill was changed in the House, it must be sent back to the Senate for another vote.

Prospects of passage in the Senate are uncertain though some Democrats, in the past, have indicated they will support it. But Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) isn't one of them.

“While I strongly support the sovereignty of federally recognized tribes and their right to self-governance, this bill has little to do with that important cornerstone of federal-tribal relations or tribal authority,” Blumenthal said in a statement to The Day. “The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act — despite what its name implies — would instead strip millions of workers of their rights, robbing them of fundamental workplace protections.”

Read More on the Story:
Tribes, state congressional delegation differ on labor-law amendment (The New London Day January 23, 2018)

From the Indianz.Com Archive:
Tribal labor law rider killed by wide margin in House (June 27, 2005)
NCAI between 'rock and a hard place' on labor rider (September 13, 2004)
Tribal labor amendment fails in House vote (September 10, 2004)
Federal labor board expands jurisdiction over tribes (June 4, 2004)

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