The Chickasaw Nation owns and operates the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. It's considered the largest gaming facility in the world. Photo: WinStar

Chickasaw Nation spends big on lobbying for Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

The Chickasaw Nation already enjoys an exemption from federal labor law at its gaming facilities but has been spending big in an effort to help the rest of Indian Country.

According to The New York Times, the Chickasaws spent more than $1.6 million on lobbying for the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. The tribe also contributed at least $3 million to political candidates and committees since 2011, the paper said.

The effort has paid off in some corners of Capitol Hill. The Republican-led House has passed the bill twice, first in November 2015 and again in January.

The Senate is also under Republican control but most bills need at least 60 votes to advance in the closely-divided chamber. That didn't happen when the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act was put to a procedural vote on Monday evening.

“Obviously, this is disappointing,” National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel, who also serves as the lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation, said on Tuesday morning.


In 2015, the Chickasaws secured an exemption from the National Labor Relations Act. In the landmark ruling, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal agency, said a provision in the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek "forecloses application" of the law on the tribe's gaming enterprise in Oklahoma.

The ruling is the first and only one of its kind. Tribes and their enterprises remain subject to the whims of the NLRB, which asserted jurisdiction over Indian Country in 2004 based largely on the fact that casinos employ non-Indians and cater to non-Indians.

Passage of the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act would change that. The bill treats tribes in a manner similar to states and local governments, which already enjoy an exemption from the federal law.

How much does your tribe spend on lobbying? Head to the Senate Office of Public Records and search on "Client Name."

“This is an issue of parity. It is not an effort to deunionize but to clarify the paradigm under which unionizing could occur,” Dan Mahoney, the executive director of the Native American Enterprise Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told The Times in a statement. The chamber is among the groups that has supported the bill.

The Chickasaws operate the largest gaming facility in the world. The tribe also operates more casinos than any other in Oklahoma or in the United States.

Read More on the Story:
Senate Bill to Curtail Labor Rights on Tribal Land Falls Short (The New York Times April 16, 2018)

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Gyasi Ross: Democrats turn on tribes and vote against our sovereignty (April 17, 2018)
Senate places controversial Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act on schedule (April 16, 2018)
Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act remains in limbo without action in Senate (April 12, 2018)
Mashantucket Tribe oversees another union election for casino workers (April 5, 2018)
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Union slams Democrats who supported Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (January 23, 2018)
Vote anticipated in February on bill with Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (January 22, 2018)
Cronkite News: White Mountain Apache water bill sidetracked in partisan fight (January 12, 2018)
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