Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act moves forward after markup session

capitol hill, congress

By Kim Morrison, World Casino News

H.R.511 gains momentum as members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce attend the July 22, 2015 markup session which was packed with members of the National Indian Gaming Association in Washington, D.C., for a legislative summit.

The Act which exempts tribes and their casinos from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act was passed on Wednesday at the short markup session on Capitol Hill.

According to the Chairman of the Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-Minnesota) who introduced the bill, “it’s not about big business versus big labor and it’s not about Republican versus Democrat.”

Kline went on to add that “the bill we are considering today is about whether Native Americans should be free to govern employee-employer relations in a way they determine is best for their workplace.”

In what Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) described as a “bipartisan, commonsense proposal that will provide legal certainty to the Native American community,” the Act would exempt tribes and their casinos from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from asserting jurisdiction at those businesses.

Rokita also went on to state that the Act would give authority back to tribal leaders and end the National Labor Review Board’s (NLRB) overreach, and restore the standard that was in place long before the National Labor Relations Board made the misguided decision to change course. An amendment in the nature of a substitute to clarify that tribal governments are also exempt from the NLRA, was offered by Rokita.

Opposition to the Sovereignty Act was voiced by the only Democrats present, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin), Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut) and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), who accused Republicans and their allies of using tribal sovereignty as a smokescreen to attack the NLRB.

Representative Pocan accused proponents of the bill, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, of endorsing the bill in an attempt to help destroy the NLRB rather than support for the sovereignty of the tribes.

The three also noted that most employees of tribal casinos are non-Indians and argued that the bill will degrade labor standards Indian Country.

Although it hasn’t been taken up by the full Senate, on June 10th the Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved S.248, its version of the bill which is gaining traction among lawmakers from both parties.

At that legislative summit which opened Tuesday on Capitol Hill (hosted by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA)), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) stressed that every conversation about gaming should begin by stating that gaming is not something that the federal government authorized you to do, but a sovereign right.

She added that, “If the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act went away tomorrow, you would still be able to conduct gaming,”

Exemption from the NLRA has been sought after by the tribes ever since a 2004 ruling in which the NLRB asserted jurisdiction over Indian Country for the first time in decades, but efforts to address the issue ran into serious opposition from Democrats and their labor union allies at that time.

Since that 2004 ruling, tribes have won support from key Democrats by pitching the issue as one of parity with other governments, and with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, the bill has moved quickly in the 114th Congress.

The bill would resolve uncertainties like the one that arose in early June when the NLRB declined to assert jurisdiction at the WinStar World Casino and Resort, a casino owned by the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, citing the tribe’s treaty-protected right to self-governance.

Less than a week later, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals backed the NLRB’s jurisdiction over the Little River Casino and Resort, a casino owned by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Michigan, and three weeks later, expressing serious doubts about the application of the NLRA in Indian Country, the same court rejected the treaty claims of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, also in Michigan.

The U.S. federal law that establishes the jurisdictional framework that governs Indian gaming, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), has been a source of extensive controversy and litigation since it was passed in 1988.

John Kieffer Memorial Award Presented to Deborah Parker

519Source: National Indian Gaming Association

Albuquerque, NM (October 30, 2012) – The National Indian Gaming Association honored Tulalip Tribes Vice Chairwoman Deborah Parker at the 15th Annual Sovereignty Awards Banquet on Tuesday with their prestigious John G. Kieffer Memorial Award.

The award recognizes a selfless dedication to advancing the lives of Indian peoples socially and economically, building self-sufficiency through gaming enterprises, and being an advocate for Indian self-determination.

Deborah Parker demonstrated tremendous leadership this year by helping Indian country push through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  VAWA guarantees sweeping changes in the way violent offenders on tribal lands are brought to justice and held accountable for crimes against native women. Vice-Chairwoman Parker became a leading Native voice in support of VAWA and with great courage stepped forward with her own personal story amid heightened Congressional debate about violence against women.

NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. said at the banquet, “We honor this leader from the Tulalip Tribes who devoted her life to improving the well being of women, Native women, her people, her community and Indian country. The historical impact of what Deborah Parker has accomplished will be told for many generations as a true woman warrior. Through her work, she has upheld tribal sovereignty. Vice Chairwoman Parker’s determination of telling her story has inspired many beyond her tribe and the nation. She has increased awareness and given back a sense of pride to Native women, and we thank her for her devoted service.”

Prior to her election as Vice-Chairwoman, Deborah Parker served as a legislative policy analyst in the Office of Governmental Affairs from 2005-2012 for the Tulalip Tribes, where she worked with the State of Washington on behalf of the Tulalip Tribes by providing quality analysis of issues most pertinent to the exercise of sovereignty and tribal governance.

Deborah Parker also served as Director of the Residential Healing School of the Tseil-Waututh Nation in Canada, and in the Treaty Taskforce Office of the Lummi Nation. As a passionate advocate for improved education for tribal members, and a belief in the inherent right of all Native Americans to expect and receive a quality education, one that is free from racial or cultural bias, Deborah is focused on educational reform, which includes developing curriculum that is a true reflection of an Indigenous ethics and knowledge system.

She is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Ethnic Studies and Sociology.

The John G. Kieffer award is presented at NIGA’s Mid-Year Conference each year.  The award is named in honor of former Spokane Tribes Vice-Chairman John G. Kieffer, known nationally for his work on Indian gaming issues and was a founding member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

The award is presented annually at the National Indian Gaming Association’s Mid-Year Conference, this year hosted by the Sandia Resort and Casino located on the Sandia Pueblo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Stevens and Leecy: Establish a Native American Heritage Day



Ernie Stevens and Kevin Leecy, the chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Indian Gaming Association, call for the creation of Native American Heritage Day:

As the chairman and vice chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, we offer this Columbus Day message on behalf of the 184 tribes that form our organization. Throughout this great and diverse Nation, there are certain holidays that carry more weight for certain segments of our nation than for others. This is true for Indian people as well. There are certain holidays that generate discussion amongst our Tribal citizens and their tribal governments because they speak to our place in the history of this great democracy. Columbus Day is certainly one of those holidays. Indian people have their own governments, cultures, societies, and values that were in place long before we were supposedly “discovered.” Our status as preexisting sovereign nations is acknowledged in the Constitution of the United States in three separate sections. The treaties our ancestors signed with the United States are still in force today and are as the Constitution states: “The supreme law of the land.” Tribes have great respect for the preservation of our roles as separate sovereigns under the Constitution and at the same time Indian people are proud American citizens as shown through our high rates of participation in military service to this nation. Tribes are determined to uphold their rights assured through the treaties with the United States of America and to ensure that our children are provided with accurate historical accounts of our families, societies, governments, and status as separate nations, as well as our true place in world history.

Get the Story:
Ernest L. Stevens Jr. & Kevin Leecy: NIGA Talks About Columbus Day and the History of Indian Country (Indian Country Today 10/14)