Legislation | Opinion

John Yellowbird Steele: Restore tribal sovereignty over labor




Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Yellowbird Steele speaks at the Ramah class action settlement announcement in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on September 17, 2015. Photo from Bureau of Indian Affairs / Twitter

John Yellowbird Steele, the president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, calls on President Barack Obama to support passage of H.R.511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act:
Indian self-determination and self-government are the foremost principles of modern Indian affairs policy: Indian nations and Native peoples have the right to make our own laws and be ruled by them.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal for Indian nations and tribes, the Indian Reorganization Act, acknowledged our right to self-government. The New Deal for labor, the National Labor Relations Act, applies to private industry not governments, Federal, state or local. For 70 years, Indian nations and tribes were treated as governments that are exempt from the NLRA. In a highly politicized decision in 2004, the NLRB flipped the Act on its head, deciding that Indian gaming is commercial in nature, and applied the NLRA to an Indian tribe that had already voluntarily acknowledged the Communications Workers of America as the union representative of its labor force.

The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act simply restores the original meaning of the National Labor Relations Act consistent with FDR’s “New Deal for Indians,” enacted the year before the NLRA.

President Obama: Indian gaming is governmental gaming, as Congress has declared. Please read the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act—its essential purpose is to build strong tribal governments. First and foremost, Indian gaming revenue goes to fund basic government services—police and fire protection, education, health care, housing, sanitation and water services. It is wrong for the Administration to say Indian gaming is commercial in nature and wrong to suggest that the National Labor Relations Act should override Indian sovereignty on Indian lands—Indian nations were sovereign nations for many thousands of years before Columbus landed on American shores.

Get the Story:
John Yellowbird Steele: Obama should study the Constitution and the treaties (The Hill 11/23)

From the Indianz.Com Archive:
Tribal labor law rider killed by wide margin in House (June 27, 2005)
NCAI between 'rock and a hard place' on labor rider (September 13, 2004)
Tribal labor amendment fails in House vote (September 13, 2004)
Federal labor board expands jurisdiction over tribes (June 4, 2004)

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