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
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
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...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Ruth Hopkins: Tell indigenous youth that their lives really matter (5/2)
Peter d'Errico: Suicides are outcome of intergenerational trauma (5/2)
Gathering scheduled in June at site of former BIA insane asylum (4/29)
Native Sun News: Tribal college student overcomes challenges (4/29)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Ancestors are gone but language lives on (4/29)
Mike Rounds: Eliminate 'hateful' and 'paternalistic' federal laws (4/29)
Harlan McKosato: White privilege fuels Donald Trump's fanbase (4/29)
Indian Health Service faulted for lengthy waits for patient care (4/29)
Mescalero Apache woman to compete for Miss United States (4/29)
Environmental Protection Agency pays little to tribes for spill (4/29)
Measure to declare bison as official mammal ready for Obama (4/29)
John Wayne's negative views about tribes resurface in debate (4/29)
Chumash Tribe picks Kenneth Kahn as first new leader in years (4/29)
Mille Lacs Band announces upgrades as casino marks 25 years (4/29)
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe sees warmer reception to casino bid (4/29)
Florida racks up legal bills in gaming fight with Seminole Tribe (4/29)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe sues Indian Health Service over shutdown (4/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee approves eight bills at meeting (4/28)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe to debut justice center (4/28)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne official fired from tribal job (4/28)
Native Sun News: Comments sought on Black Hills mine cleanup (4/28)
Editorial: Native Sun News endorses Hillary Clinton for president (4/28)
Cronkite News: EPA slammed for response to Gold King Mine spill (4/28)
Steve Russell: Donald Trump advisor accuses tribes of terror plot (4/28)
Alex Jacobs: Hillary Clinton must answer to role in Honduras coup (4/28)
Northwest tribes inch closer to reburial of Kennewick Man remains (4/28)
Santee Sioux Tribe hosts task force to address substance abuse (4/28)
Huge crowds flock to New Mexico for annual Gathering of Nations (4/28)
Muckleshoot Tribe to host $50K 'Gold Cup' for Indian relay racing (4/28)
Member of Puyallup Tribe develops 'Teepee' tribal directory app (4/28)
Man in long fight with Shingle Springs Band faces longer sentence (4/28)
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe enters gaming agreement with Mohegan Tribe (4/28)
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe sees casino as a path to self-sufficiency (4/28)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe announces another hire at casino (4/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe welcomes rejection of rival casino bid (4/28)
Senate passes measure to include Indian Country in tourism plans (4/27)
Amanda Blackhorse to deliver commencement speech at Haskell (4/27)
Native Sun News: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe aims to stop pipeline (4/27)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge artist gains national recognition (4/27)
Brandon Ecoffey: 'Bull Dawg' represents the Oglala Lakota Nation (4/27)
Mark Trahant: Tribes endorse Native candidates for US Congress (4/27)
John Thune: Tribal citizens suffer with Indian Health Service care (4/27)
Cronkite News: Tribes support more protections at Grand Canyon (4/27)
Gabe Galanda: A moral responsibility to stop tribal disenrollment (4/27)
Vernice Moncooyea Willis: Bernie Sanders deserves our support (4/27)
Jennifer Denetdale: University must stop celebrating genocide (4/27)
Eastern Cherokee group hails Tribal Marijuana Sovereignty Act (4/27)
Leader of Fort Peck Tribes blames baby's death on drug abuse (4/27)
Chippewa Cree Tribe and FBI investigate theft of drugs at clinic (4/27)
Former comptroller of Crow Tribe accused of embezzling $28K (4/27)
Congress set to pass bill to declare bison as national mammal (4/27)
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moving closer to nominations (4/27)
Fond du Lac Band won't confirm plan for site adjacent to casino (4/27)
Graton Rancheria on track to complete $175M casino expansion (4/27)
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.