indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
N.M. tribe seals winning case on labor laws
Tuesday, December 9, 2003

After battling federal labor officials for six years, a northern New Mexico tribe can finally rest its case.

San Juan Pueblo won a series of court decisions affirming its right to enact its own labor laws. A federal judge and two separate panels of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals backed the tribe's sovereign rights in nearly unanimous rulings.

But it wasn't until last week that the tribe, which has about 3,000 members, was able to recover nearly $400,000 it spent to defend itself from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez ordered the government to repay the money under the Equal Access to Justice Act.

"The NLRB has failed to establish that its position during this litigation was substantially justified," she wrote on December 4.

The decision brought praise from San Juan Pueblo Gov. Earl Salazar, whose one-year term is up at the end of the month. "So many times, Indian tribes are forced to bear great expenses in defending themselves against challenges to their authority," he said in a statement. "It is nice to know that at least once in a while those expenses will be reimbursed by those who have brought such challenges without foundation."

The dispute between centered over the tribe's law against forced unionism. Labor unions aren't outlawed on the reservation but in November 1996, the tribal council passed an ordinance prohibiting unions and employers from entering into union security agreements.

The agreements, which are legal under the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), force employees who aren't part of a union to pay fees to a union. A timber company that leased tribal land had entered into this type of arrangement with the local union.

To battle the ordinance, the union and the NLRB sued the tribe in January 1998. They argued that the NLRA applied to the tribe as a separate sovereign.

But in three separate decisions, the federal courts rejected the assertion. On two occasions, a majority of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the tribe's stance in the case.

"Like states and territories, the Pueblo has a strong interest as a sovereign in regulating economic activity involving its own members within its own territory," wrote Judge Deanell R. Tacha in a 9-1 decision issued in January 2002, "and it therefore may enact laws governing such activity."

Tribal leaders feared NLRB would appeal the case to the Supreme Court but the independent federal agency led the deadline pass in spring of 2002.

Still, the tribe was left with a hefty law firm bill. Since the union and NLRB refused to consolidate their complaints, the tribe was forced to pay extra costs to respond. The bill mounted when the union interests submitted 13 briefs the the district court in New Mexico and six briefs to the 10th Circuit. Each filing required significant time and resources to respond.

The Nordhaus Law Firm of Albuquerque represented the tribe throughout the case. Lead attorney Lee Bergen, the tribe's general counsel, said the court fee decision means "the Pueblo can use the money for its people."

A California tribe's health program tried to use the San Juan Pueblo case to fight the NLRB in a dispute over a union that was trying to organize. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2003 said the Rumsey Indian Rancheria's sovereignty wouldn't be infringed and authorized subpoenas requested by the NLRB.

In recent years, labor unions have become a bigger issue in Indian Country as tribes create jobs an economic development. In some states, tribes are being forced to accept unions through gaming compacts. California and New York placed union provisions in their casino agreements.

Last year, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), the co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, introduced a bill to invalidate existing compacts that contain forced unions. But it was met with significant resistance from Democrats.

"The issue here is not whether tribes should unionize their gaming facilities," Hayworth said at an April 2002 hearing. "But the issue is, who should make that decision? Should it be up to the sovereign tribal governments or should it be up to the states or the federal government?"

Attorney Fee Ruling:
NLRB v. San Juan Pueblo (December 4, 2003)

Labor Law Ruling:
NAT'L LABOR RELATIONS BD v. SAN JUAN PUEBLO NO. 1385, No. 99-2011, 99-2030 (10th Cir. January 11, 2002)

Relevant Links:
National Labor Relations Board - http://www.nlrb.gov
National Right to Work Foundation - http://www.nrtw.org
NCAI resolution on labor - http://www.ncai.org/data/docs/
resolution/2001_winter_session/ECWS001_05.htm

Related Stories:
Court denies tribal exemption from labor laws (01/17)
Tribal labor bill draws complaints (04/18)
Pueblo wins sovereignty case (1/14)

Copyright � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Tribes stand to benefit from public safety network as deadline approaches for states
Alaska Native corporation gets business up and running after devastating hurricane
Leader of Bureau of Indian Affairs among witnesses for controversial tribal land bill
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs holds business meeting for Klamath Tribes bill
Tim Giago: Scaring up some spooky stories from the old Pine Ridge boarding school
Mark Trahant: Native candidates cross Indian Country to raise funds for campaigns
Native Sun News Today: Tribal college leader calls for return of Black Hills territory
Dean Chavers: Boarding schools offered yet another way to 'civilize' Indian people
YES! Magazine: Native women pressure banks to divest from big energy projects
Carol Logan: Grand Ronde Tribes owed apology for destruction of our sacred site
Spokane Tribe ramps up hiring efforts as opening of long-awaited casino nears
Prairie Island Indian Community refutes speculation of new casino in Minnesota
'Ominous shadow' of President Trump looms over annual meeting of tribal leaders
Senate narrowly approves budget resolution without taking up pro-tribal provisions
Native Sun News Today: Tribes decry court ruling favoring Dakota Access Pipeline
Ivan Star Comes Out: Only dictators demand for their citizens to 'respect the flag'
Decision day for National Congress of American Indians with leadership changes
House subcommittee takes up controversial American Indian Empowerment Act
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on public safety measures
Arne Vainio: I wanted you to know you are loved and that I am bringing you home
Albert Bender: Native community celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day in Nashville
Native Sun News Today: Student speaks out about racism in South Dakota school
James Giago Davies: School fumbles historic opportunity after incident of racism
Tribes open their doors in response to devastating wildfires in northern California
National Congress of American Indians looks ahead to Tara Sweeney confirmation
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs sign agreement for Cobell buy-back program
Alaska Native executive Tara Sweeney named to top Bureau of Indian Affairs job
Tribes slam Trump administration for adding hurdles to land-into-trust process
Native Sun News Today: Native Americans are over-represented in county's jail
Tim Giago: Clones in Congress won't stand up to the Clown in the White House
Mark Trahant: Exploring the 'business' of news in Indian Country these days
Native Sun News Today: Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate debuts new grocery store
Bears Ears remains in limbo as Republicans leave tribes out of monument bill
Mark Trahant: Trump brings more chaos to health coverage for tribal citizens
YES! Magazine: Tribal hospital in Alaska brings traditional foods to patients
Native Sun News Today: Tribal leaders absent at border town liquor summit
Native Sun News Today Editorial: Teams continue to denigrate Indian people
Secretary Zinke requires special flag to be flown when he's in Interior building
Lawsuit seeks damages for death of girl at Bureau of Indian Education school
President of Northern Cheyenne Tribe remains in office after disputed removal
Republican candidate questions mural for depicting Indian people as too 'dark'
Bureau of Indian Affairs supports name change for 'Negro Bill Canyon' in Utah
Aroostook Band of Micmacs backs ballot referendum for new casino in Maine
Gun Lake Tribe secures strong local support in casino case except for one town
Second federal appeals court chimes in with decision favoring tribal homelands
Harold Frazier: Another incident of racism targets Native youth in South Dakota
Native American Voting Rights Coalition convenes second hearing in Wisconsin
Yurok Tribe welcomes introduction of bill to add important lands to reservation
YES! Magazine: Native family uses energy proceeds to benefit Indian Country
Native Sun News Today: Oglala Sioux Tribe refutes rumors of Black Hills 'sale'
James Giago Davies: A best friend sticks with us even at the very end of life
Cronkite News: Republicans quickly move bill to limit new national monuments
Raymond Hitchcock: Sorry but tribal casinos aren't linked to increases in crime
Osage Nation prepared to fight state over water rights on historic reservation
Eastern Cherokee council complete after second round of voting for one seat
Iowa Tribe announces 'Monsterous' deal linked to long-delayed poker website
>>> more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.