Jana McKeag: Labor unions a threat to sovereignty

"American Indian sovereignty is facing its biggest threat since Andrew Jackson flagrantly ignored Chief Justice John Marshall in Worcster vs. Georgia and sent the Cherokee Nation and other tribes on a 3,000-mile death march to Oklahoma.

The current threat to tribal sovereignty isn’t manifested in attempts by federal regulators to impose minimal internal control standards, or a “CRIT fix,” on tribal government casinos. It is not exemplified in renewed efforts to tax tribal government revenues. Nor is it manifested in any legal or legislative battle over treaty agreements concerning water, hunting and fishing rights.

The threat is found in the rapidly growing efforts by labor unions to organize tribal gaming employees, a movement emboldened by a recent ruling by the federal courts that the National Labor Relations Act and its National Labor Relations Board has jurisdiction over labor law on tribal lands.

The labor movement on Indian lands is devastating to tribal sovereignty. And tribal governments nationwide are standing idly by while the threat builds momentum on a daily basis.

When Congress enacted the NLRA it recognized that sovereign governments required protection and sovereign immunity from suit without the government’s consent, noting the expense of unchecked legal action could bankrupt governments.

For more than 30 years the NLRB respected the sovereignty of tribal governments, providing tribes, states and local governments with an exemption to the act.

Then, in May of 2004, the NLRB reversed its longstanding position and ruled against the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in an unfair labor practice compliant filed by the HERE Unite labor union. The NLRB claimed that because tribes were not specifically named as a government in the exempted class that the governmental exemption did not apply to them."

Get the Story:
Jana McKeag: Unions Pose Serious Threat to Tribal Sovereignty (Indian Gaming Business February 2008)

Labor Union Bill:
Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2007 (H.R.3413)

D.C. Circuit Decision:
San Manuel Band v. National Labor Relations Board (February 9, 2007)

San Manuel Band v NLRB:
Briefs, Decisions and Documents (Native American Rights Fund)

National Labor Relations Board Decisions:
San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino | Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation

Relevant Links:
National Labor Relations Board - http://www.nlrb.gov

Related Stories:
Democrats assail National Labor Relations Board (12/14)
Federal court won't rehear tribal labor law dispute (6/13)
Clinton won't go to 'Rez' presidential forum (5/31)
'Prez on the Rez' could include GOP candidates (5/25)
Kalyn Free says union pressuring Democrats (5/24)
Opinion: Labor unions hold up tribal sovereignty (05/23)
House approves bill to ease union organization (03/02)
California tribe loses major sovereignty court case (02/12)
Tulalip Tribes creating new employment laws (12/08)
Labor union goes after Saginaw Chippewa Tribe (12/7)
Federal appeals court hears labor law dispute (11/07)
Arizona tribes join battle over federal labor law (08/07)
House panel debates controversial tribal labor measure (07/21)
Tribes take labor law battle to federal court (04/25)
NLRB reaffirms tribal sovereignty ruling (10/06)
Tribal labor law rider killed by wide margin in House (06/27)
Fight looms on tribal labor amendment in House (6/27
Republicans sign onto tribal labor law exemption bill (06/13)
California tribe's workers to negotiate union contract (05/05)
Unions turn on each other in tribal sovereignty clash (05/04)
Labor union challenges tribe's Indian preference (12/07)
Federal labor board to hold hearing involving tribe (12/6)
NCAI between 'rock and a hard place' on labor rider (09/13)
Tribal labor amendment fails in House vote (9/13)
Rep. J.D. Hayworth: I told you so! On tribal labor (06/25)
California tribe ponders next move in labor case (6/23)
Court ruling adds to debate over tribal-labor relations (06/14)
Editorial: Unions should be allowed at casinos (6/10)
Labor board ruling draws sharp barbs from tribes (6/9)
Labor board's tribal ruling a surprise to many (6/8)
Board rules tribes subject to labor law (6/4)
Arbiter allows pro-union flyers by tribal employees (03/26)
Pro-union hearing blasts Calif. tribe for sovereignty (03/17)
N.M. tribe seals winning case on labor laws (12/09)
Settlement pending in tribal labor dispute (08/07)
Court denies tribal exemption from labor laws (01/17)
Tribal labor bill draws complaints (04/18)
Pueblo wins sovereignty case (1/14)