While most people are focusing on Connecticut’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriages, word leaked out late today that the UAW and Foxwoods agreed to enter into discussions for a possible labor agreement. (For background on the UAW/Foxwoods dispute, see prior blog coverage here.)
The joint press release — issued at 4:30 EST — is brief but dramatic in its wording.
Today – The UAW and the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise agreed to enter into discussions for 30 days to determine if an agreement can be reached to bargain under tribal law without either party waiving any of their rights or legal positions under the National Labor Relations Act.
The parties further agreed that they will not discuss the status of negotiations during this 30-day period.
If you blinked, you probably missed the biggest news contained here. It’s not that the parties agreed to enter into discussions; it is that the parties are working on an agreement under tribal law. This is a major victory for Foxwoods and a major concession by the UAW, both of which have been fighting for nearly a year over tribal sovereignty and whether federal or tribal law should apply to UAW’s efforts to organize workers at Foxwoods.
Foxwoods has long claimed that it is willing to negotiate — but only if tribal law applied. Why? Because Foxwoods believes that it has tribal sovereignty and that federal labor laws should not apply to it.
The press release further notes that such discussions and negotiations are being done without "either party waiving any of their rights or legal positions" under federal law — presumably referring to Foxwoods’ appeals of various NLRB rulings. But it is likely that if the parties reach an agreement — which is still a big if — they will then agree to withdraw any further appeals.
Despite the apparent concession by the UAW, this announcement does have some potential to be a win-win situation for both. Foxwoods can avoid potentially damaging rulings by federal courts applying labor laws to it, and UAW can start representing workers — albeit under tribal law.
I’ll have more analysis next week when I return from travels but in the meantime, feel free to post your comments below.