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House Debate on Tribal Labor Law Amendment

The following is the official Congressional record on the debate of the tribal labor law amendment. It was defeated by a 256 to 146 vote on Friday, June 24, 2005 [Roll Call].

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 minutes.

Mr. Chairman, in May 2004, the National Labor Relations Board overturned 30 years of its own precedent and ruled that it has jurisdiction over tribal government enterprises located on tribes' own sovereign lands. Where tribal law has governed relations between tribes and their employees, the NLRB seeks to replace that law with its authority in this area. This decision is a frontal assault on tribal sovereign rights.

The National Labor Relations Act expressly exempts States, cities, and local governments from its coverage; and the NLRB has ruled that territorial governments, such as Puerto Rico and Guam, are also exempt from NLRB jurisdiction. But the NLRB incorrectly decided that it should exercise its jurisdiction over tribal governments on their own lands. If this unfair decision stands, the only governments that will be subject to NLRB jurisdiction will be tribal governments.

The NLRB misunderstands that tribal governments, like State governments, rely upon government-owned enterprises to generate revenues to support governmental purposes such as reservation, law enforcement and fire services, and programs for the health, education, and welfare benefit of tribal members. Consistent with the policy behind the NLRB exemptions for governments, private parties such as labor unions should not be able to hold government-owned enterprises hostage when disagreements arise.

Ironically, the NLRB specifically ruled against the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, a tribe based in Southern California that has enacted into its tribal law a tribal labor relations ordinance with greater labor union rights than the National Labor Relations Act.

[Time: 13:45]

In fact, the tribe has a collective bargaining agreement with the Communication Workers of America. The heavy-handed activist NLRB overlaid an incompatible legal regime where a tribal one, agreed to on a government-to-government basis with the State of California, was in place and was working.

Now, San Manuel and other tribes have conflicting laws and great uncertainty about which one applies.

Mr. Chairman, my colleagues, make no mistake, sovereignty cannot be situational. To reverse 30 years of policy by bureaucratic fiat is wrong. Adopt the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve balance of my time.

Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Chairman, I claim time in opposition.

Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I might consume. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment. Last year, Members from both sides of the aisle voted down a similar amendment. I had hoped that in a year's time the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Hayworth) and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner) would work together to address this issue in the committee of jurisdiction. But that did not occur.

The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner) and I have had discussions on scheduling hearings in the committee of jurisdiction, the Committee on Education and the Workforce. During my 40 years of public service, I have established a strong record for defending the sovereign rights of Indian tribes. I have often led the fight to defeat legislative riders on appropriation bills because of my confidence in the regular procedures guiding us through the legislative process.

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I am committed to finding a permanent solution to this issue, but the appropriations process is not the way to solve this issue. I urge my colleagues to vote no on the Hayworth amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 15 seconds.

Mr. Chairman, the bottom line here is not process or legislative jurisdiction. Until Congress can consider a permanent solution to this problem, this amendment simply calls for a temporary time-out to allow us to work together for a more substantive solution, to avoid additional confusion among the tribes.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Kennedy).

Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island. Mr. Chairman, in politics there are show horses and there are work horses. This process, instead of seeking a solution, only sought headlines. We had an opportunity to make real progress and address the concerns of these tribes.

Instead of addressing this issue in a substantive manner in committee, we are once again addressing it in a political way on the floor of the House simply for political gain.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 30 seconds.

Mr. Chairman, quoting the words of my friend, the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Kennedy) to Indian Country Today Newspaper, he said he would push for a compromise bill through Congress that would support on-reservation tribal sovereignty against the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, while accepting the board's role as arbiter of labor-employee disputes and union organizing on off-reservation tribally owned business.

The only workable bill is an authorizing bill, H.R. 16. As I have pointed out, we come here with this recourse because of uncertainty and because of bureaucratic fiat. Adopt this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Berkley).

Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to the Hayworth amendment. Tribal Nations have established commercial gaming enterprises because of the economic boom it brings to their community. My hometown of Las Vegas looked to gaming many years ago, and now it has the one of the most vibrant economies in the country.

One of the keys to Las Vegas' success has been a strong relationship between labor and management. Because of this relationship, workers have good-paying jobs and benefits and safe working conditions, and can take care of their families. We should give the workers at the tribal gaming facilities the same chance.

Last year the National Labor Relations Board correctly ruled that it had jurisdiction over on-reservation commercial tribal enterprises such as casinos.

Make no mistake about it, Indian gaming is a big business. And the people working in Indian gaming on the reservations have the right and are entitled to the protections of the NLRB. I encourage the Indian tribes and the tribal workers and the labor unions to work together to protect workers like they have done in Las Vegas. I urge my colleagues to vote against this ridiculous amendment.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 15 seconds.

Mr. Chairman, my colleagues, we would do well to heed the marketing advice, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens on tribal lands with their sovereignty should likewise be governed by the sovereign governments there. Sovereignty is not situational.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) the ranking member of the Education and Workforce Committee.

Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time. And first and foremost, we must understand that this amendment that is being offered has no impact on this process. These tribes will not know whether or not they are violating the law or not violating the law. This amendment does nothing for that.

The law as is currently interpreted continues to go forward. What this amendment does is suggest that somehow that those workers on a reservation, working in a casino, who are not enrolled members of that tribe have no rights; have no rights. In California they do, under a compromise that was worked out.

Last year we were working out a compromise for the first time ever. We had labor and the union and tribes sit down together. They left the room because this amendment was offered last year, and nobody has come back because this amendment continues to be dangled as somehow it is the answer to the concerns that they have.

This amendment does not answer a single concern. It just kicks the can down the road, and people are still in limbo if they are seeking to work out an arrangement for those tribal lands and for labor relations on those tribal lands. That has not happened.

We were engaged in those historic conversations when the gentleman offered this amendment last year. And nobody has come back to the table since then.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 30 seconds.

My friend from California proves my point. He admits that in a government-to-government relationship, as the San Manuel Band has done already, they actually put together an agreement with greater union rights than the NLRA. That is precisely the point. Tribes should have the sovereign ability to decide that if they want to bring in those expansion of rights, yes. But it should be their decision.

Sovereignty is not situational, and any attempt to paint this otherwise is wrong. That is why the amendment should be passed.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I want to explain to the House why it is that I vigorously oppose this amendment. I am the only Member of the Chamber who was exposed to a recall effort because of my support for tribal sovereignty. Even though the Constitution of the United States does not provide for such a recall, our State constitution thought it did. And so I had to endure an effort in recall because of my fierce support for tribal sovereignty.

But having said that, I want to say that the gentleman's amendment goes far too far in that regard. Now I will tell you why.

In my State, we had an experience in which one of the tribes contracted out to a private party to run their casino. That private party took advantage of the fact that the compact that the Governor set up with the tribe was defective. And under that defect, they made quite clear to female employees of the casino that it was their obligation, in blunt language, to either put out or get out.

Now, we all know what that means. And what the gentleman's amendment means under those circumstances is that when you remove the protection of the National Labor Relations Act, you subject individuals with no power at all to that kind of treatment by shysters and bums.

Now, as far as I am concerned, I heard a whole lot about family values from that side of the aisle. You think this amendment represents family values in that situation? Give me a break. It does not.

Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. OBEY. I yield to the gentleman from California.

Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman has exactly made the point. These casinos now hire thousands of workers who are nonresidents of the reservation, who are not enrolled members of the tribe. If the tribe chooses not to grant them any rights, then they have no rights.

We lecture countries all over the world that you cannot do this to workers, that you have to have minimum standards. But right here in the middle of the United States, under this amendment, a tribe can grant to their workers no rights. That is just untenable.

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And we understand how strongly held sovereignty is. It is fundamental and basic to these tribes. We also understand how fundamental and basic the right to organize and the freedom of association is to the workers. We have been trying to work that out. This amendment is not helpful in working that out.

But the gentleman is exactly right. You can end up with thousands of American workers having no rights. This is like the situation you had in the northern Mariana Islands, where you had people who could not get a minimum wage, who could not get protection of immigration laws. This is re-creating this on these lands.

Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, I simply want to say institutions, no matter what they are, whether they are tribe or any other institution, they have a capacity to violate human rights. And with the gentleman's amendment, you will be opening a loophole in the law as big as a 65-foot truck. This amendment is a terrible amendment. It ought to be buried in a box and we ought to pretend it never was presented.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 45 seconds. Mr. Chairman, after the rhetorical display, I know my friends did not mean to insinuate that tribes are composed of bums and scoundrels. Yet, what we are hearing here is that somehow the very worst in human nature would come out.

Mr. OBEY. But the contractors are bums.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, this is my time, is it not?

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Wisconsin will suspend. The gentleman from Arizona controls the time.

Mr. HAYWORTH. I thank the chairman. We are making the point that we are dealing with sovereignty. Yes, this is an imperfect world. But I scarcely imagine that a gross violation of human rights will transpire when we live up to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which says: The Congress shall have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, States, and with the Indian tribes.

Tribes have sovereign immunity. They have sovereignty. It is not situational, no matter what some leaders in the AFL-CIO may say.

Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee).

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I thank the distinguished gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Kildee) a well-known champion for Native American rights. We all have Native Americans in our States, and we have gaming.

But, Mr. Chairman, sovereignty is not inconsistent with decency and humanity and human rights. Sovereignty is not inconsistent with protecting underage workers and juveniles who are working. Sovereignty is not inconsistent with making sure that workers have a quality of life. And sovereignty is not inconsistent with international treaties which ensure that that happens in nations around the world.

This is a bad promise on a bad premise. And what we need to do is to work with the committees of jurisdiction and solve the problem, not eliminate the rights. I would hope that my colleague would join me on finding an amendment to stop the abuse of lobbyists who take money from Native Americans and Indian tribes and reservations and not do a darn thing with it.

I am offended by that. I will join the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Hayworth) anytime he wants to come to the floor to get rid of lobbyists who take money from unsuspecting Native Americans and their businesses. That should be a question of criminal violation, but this one is one that can be solved with good law and good negotiations. I ask my colleagues to vote ``no.''

[Time: 14:00]


Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I have a parliamentary inquiry. During the course of my previous presentation, was the extra-curricular activity outburst included in my time when others sought control of the microphone?

The CHAIRMAN. No, it was not.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, how much time do I have remaining?

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Hayworth) has 45 seconds remaining. The gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Kildee) has 30 seconds remaining.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, do I have the right to close?

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Hayworth) has the right to close.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, I have been involved in defending Indian sovereignty for 40 years when I began my tenure in the Michigan legislature. And I will never abdicate my responsibility on that.

I think it is extremely important that this Congress on an issue so delicate and so important to two groups for whom we have great affection, be done in the appropriate committee, the committee of jurisdiction. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner) and I have discussed having hearings in that committee.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, the choice is simple, either you support the premises of sovereignty as reflected in article I, section 8 of the Constitution or you equivocate or you try to give the National Labor Relations Board preeminence over the Constitution of the United States. I do not believe that sovereignty is situational. This is a mechanism where we can actually correct the wrong and put in place what had stood 30 years previously respecting sovereignty.

Vote for the amendment.

  • [Begin Insert]

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I am a strong supporter of tribal sovereignty but rise in reluctant opposition to this amendment because it has not been subject to full debate in committee or the House.

I would like to articulate the importance of tribal sovereignty. Because Indian tribes are sovereign governments, the U.S. Government has long read the Commerce Clause and the 11th Amendment as upholding the sovereign immunity of tribes. Congress's intent in preserving sovereignty has been recognized even recently; in 1991, in Oklahoma Tax Common v. Potawatomi Tribe, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the long-standing existence and importance of tribal sovereignty:

  • [End Insert]

In light of this Court's reaffirmation, in a number of cases, of its longstanding doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity, and Congress' consistent reiteration of its approval of the doctrine in order to promote Indian self-government, self-sufficiency, and economic development, the Court is not disposed to modify or abandon the doctrine [of sovereign immunity].

  • [Begin Insert]

Tribal sovereignty is and should remain one of the fundamental principles of the United States, and we should not define its parameters in a ten minute debate.

  • [End Insert]

The CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Hayworth).

The question was taken; and the Chairman announced that the noes appeared to have it.

Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.