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UAW/Foxwoods – Insight into the Tribe’s Sovereignty Argument at the NLRB

Posted in Labor Law & NRLB, Litigation

Readers of the blog will no doubt know that the battle for unionization at Foxwoods Resort Casino  is one of the most significant labor issues in Connecticut in many years A hearing on the tribe’s objections to the election of UAW is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Januay 15th, which I’ve discussed before.

In advance of that hearing, The Day (which has been on top of the election throughout) published a very interesting column today by Timothy "Quietbear" Walker entitled Work With Tribe, Avoid Turf War.  

Walker, a citizen of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, shifts the discussion from the objections to the election — which contests the way the election was run — to larger issues of tribal sovereignty, which it has raised before to no avail so far.  As Walker notes, "the battle is over the NLRB reversing 30 years of federal policy because of the actions of one small tribal group in California."
 
Walker argues that the NLRB’s recent decision to exercise jurisdiction over tribal enterprises in some situations (including a tribal casino in California) is unfair and flawed. He argues that Tribes have the legal right to govern labor relations on tribal lands:  "Each tribal nation has the inherent authority to pass its own laws, tax its citizens, and determine the structure and operation of its government."

In doing so, he points to statement which he says "the federal government acknowledges ‘the sovereign status of federally recognized Indian tribes as domestic dependent nations’".  What is this document? A June 1, 1995 Memorandum on Indian Soveriegnty by the U.S. Attorney General, which can be found here.  Its worth reading to understand that the "tribal sovereignty" is among the most wide-ranging and important rules for federally-recognized Indian tribes.

Walker’s column argues that public education does a poor job of explaining this and argues that  many American were probably not aware that Native Americans were still around until the "media buzz on Indian Gaming".  He thus suggests that "15 minutes of research on the Internet will provide anyone interested with a simple understanding of the major issues being debated."  With the advent of Google, such information is now at your fingertips.

There are also two museums that are, frankly, worth visiting as well to get a better understanding.  (My law school did a good job explaining it, but its a little more expensive.) In Connecticut, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center is a sight to see. 

And In Washington, D.C., the National Museum of the American Indian has tons of information — much of it from a different perspective than most have probably been taught.  I had the opportunity to visit it last month and would highly recommend adding it to your itenerary on your next visit. 

(Hat Tip to Workplace Horizons Blog, which covered this today; the lawfirm behind the blog, Kilpatrick Stockton, has been representing Foxwoods in the UAW/Foxwoods dispute.)

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