Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Tribe in the Media

The following was printed in the November 30th edition of the New York Times and is reprinted here for the purpose of illustrating how the Tribe is portrayed in the media.

A Jackpot for Unions?: Organizing Indian Casinos
By The NYT Editorial Board

With unions in a prolonged decline, there has not been a lot of good news lately for the labor movement.

But there was some last month in Connecticut — a modest jackpot, so to speak. Three thousand dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino — the sprawling Connecticut gambling mecca — voted to join the United Auto Workers. The vote was the first union inroad at either of the two Native American casinos in Connecticut, for good reason: It was only this year that a court decision opened the door to Indian casino workers who want to organize.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in February that tribes must follow the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees’ collective bargaining rights. The tribes have long argued that since their casinos are located on reservations, they were subject to tribal law –and exempt from the NLRA.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns and operates Foxwoods, vowed to appeal to the National Labor Relations Board, and possibly federal court, too. Until those appeals run their course, not much will happen at Foxwoods, which has seen far more union organizing than the nearby Mohegan Sun casino, owned by the Mohegan Tribe.

It may seem odd to see the United Auto Workers organizing blackjack dealers, but the union is simply going where the jobs are. Between them, the two Connecticut casinos employ more than 20,000 workers —not just dealers, but cooks, food workers, and other job categories — none of whom belong to a union.

Nationally, tribal gambling employs more than 600,000 people, and takes in an estimated $25 billion a year.It’s only a start, but 3,000 dealers could be a small sign that labor’s fortunes are beginning to change.

Feather News Note: Foxwoods contested the November vote with the National Labor Relations Board on December 3rd, for lack of jurisdiction and alleging improper voting procedures and misconduct. Dealers at Foxwoods voted on November 24th by a margin of 1,289 - 852 to allow the United Auto Workers union to bargain on their behalf with the casino.