By Ken Davison
In a decision that could eventually affect the Mohegan Tribe, a federal labor official ruled this afternoon that a union election be held at Foxwoods Resort Casino, located on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation in Connecticut.
The decision is a setback for the Tribe but the fight for its sovereignty is not over.
The ruling by Peter B. Hoffman, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), would allow table dealers to vote on whether to join a union. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union petitioned the NLRB last month and is trying to organize 3,000 dealers at the casino.
No date has been set for the union election and the Tribe is expected to appeal the decision, maintaining the position that the Tribe is not subject to federal labor law.
Hoffman wrote, "I find that the incidental affects on tribal government that could potentially occur as a result of the application of the (National Labor Relations Act) to Foxwoods’ employees, which the employer claims would directly threaten the tribe’s political or economic security, are insufficient to deny the exercise of the board’s jurisdiction," he wrote.
Hoffman pointed to a ruling in the San Manuel Indian Casino case which decided that tribal businesses that are acting in interstate commerce do not fall under the ‘self-governance’ exception that apply to Indian tribes.
The Mashantucket Tribe responded by saying,“The UAW would like people to believe that this issue is about the right to organize; this is not the case. The issue is one of respecting the Tribe as a government. The Tribe has enacted a Tribal Labor Relations Law which gives employees the right to organize and bargain collectively if they choose. Tribal employees are government employees, in the same way that State employees are government employees and the Tribal law was modeled after other government’s labor laws, including Connecticut’s.
“We strongly believe that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction as the Tribe is the governing body which has the inherent authority to regulate employment on its reservation and it has historically done so. The UAW would like people to believe that the Tribe is not being fair-in fact it is the Union that is not being fair.
“There is a simple way to respect the Tribe as a government and at the same time address any organizing interests of our employees. That would be to file the petition pursuant to Tribal law. The UAW would prefer to litigate this for years to come in their attempt to undermine Tribal government, instead of respecting what they claim are employee concerns and addressing their issues in the tribal forum.”
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