Legislation | Opinion

Ben Nighthorse Campbell: Pass the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act


Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Photo by Robert Cole / U.S. Navy

Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, explains why Congress should pass the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (H.R.511 | S.248) to treat the tribes the same as other governments under the National Labor Relations Act:
Indian tribal governments provide a huge array of services and programs to their members as well as to their surrounding communities. Tribal police and fire departments, emergency responders, schools and hospitals all play crucial roles in the safety, health and welfare of tribal communities. Subjecting them to the NLRA does not fit with the governmental nature of Indian tribes. Tribal governments are no more involved in enterprises than are state and local units of government who run convention centers, golf courses, port authorities, lottery games, hotel resorts, and liquor stores. No government can afford to have its enterprise revenue disrupted by labor strife.

That is why the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act has gained such momentum in both chambers of the current Congress. The House bill, H.R.511 (Todd Rokita, R-IN), is a bi-partisan bill with nearly five dozen supporters, including several Democrats like Betty McCollum, D-MN. H.R.511 passed the House in November 2015 by a 249-177 margin and is pending in the Senate.

The Senate version, S. 248 (Jerry Moran, R-KS) is pending in the Senate and could be added to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act when Congress returns from the Memorial Day Recess last week.

These are modest bills in terms of language, less than two pages. But their importance is profound: they would expressly exclude tribal governments from the definition of “employer” in the NLRA. Parity: no more, no less.

Get the Story:
Ben Nighthorse Campbell: Congress Should Pass the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (Indian Country Today 6/11)

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