Brian Patterson: Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act restores our rights

United South and Eastern Tribes President Brian Patterson, right, with Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler, left, and Narragansett Tribe Ambassador and Council Member Randy Noka. Photo from USET

The United South and Eastern Tribes support the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015 (H.R.511 | S.248) as a matter of parity between sovereign nations. The legislation would honor and uphold the sovereign right of tribal governments to determine their own labor practices.

By law, all federal, state, and local government enterprises are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). For nearly 70 years, the National Labor Relations Board included tribes in this exemption.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reversed decades of its own precedent in 2004 and established “a new standard for determining the circumstances under which the Board will assert jurisdiction over Indian owned and operated enterprises.” The NLRB ruled that tribal governments are subject to the NLRA when acting more “commercially” than “governmentally.”

This ruling is a distinction and classification that the NLRB has never applied to federal, state, or local governments operating enterprises, liquor stores, lotteries, and providing other goods and services in the marketplace.

Like other sovereign nations, tribal governments are responsible for providing essential services to their citizens, including health care, education, law enforcement, housing, and social services. These services are delivered by generating revenue through the operation of tribal enterprises, which provide goods and services in the marketplace.

The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act restores parity with the application of the NLRA to all sovereign governments across the United States. USET strongly supports this legislation because it promotes the inherent sovereign rights of tribal nations, recognized by the Constitution, supported by the courts, and numerous laws, by honoring a tribe’s ability to self-govern within its own jurisdiction.

Brian Patterson, a member of the Oneida Nation of New York, serves as president of the United South and Eastern Tribes, an organization that represents 26 tribes from Maine to Florida to Texas.

From the Indianz.Com Archive:
Tribal labor law rider killed by wide margin in House (June 27, 2005)
Federal labor board expands jurisdiction over tribes (June 4, 2004)

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