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Senate Indian Affairs Committee takes up tribal labor measure

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) sits on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Photo from Facebook

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee will hold a hearing later this month on S.248, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.

The bill treats tribes and their enterprises in the same manner as states and local governments when it comes to federal labor law. It essentially overturns an unprecedented 2004 ruling in which the National Labor Relations Board asserted jurisdiction over Indian Country for the first time in decades.

"It is not the place of the federal government to impinge upon the authority of the sovereign tribes," Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), a member of the committee who is sponsoring S.248, said in a letter to colleagues in January. "Tribal governments alone, accountable to their people, should decide the labor practices for the entities they own on their lands. This bill will permit them to do exactly that."

Tribes are not mentioned anywhere in the National Labor Relations Act, which was first passed in 1935, just a year after the Indian Reorganization Act began a new era of self-determination. Nevertheless, the 2004 ruling states that tribes must comply with the law if their enterprises employ a significant number of non-Indians or impact non-Indians in some manner.

Efforts to reverse the ruling have been met with fierce opposition from Democrats on Capitol Hill. But with Congress in the control of Republicans, tribal advocates are hoping the 114th session will be different.

"I am respectfully asking once again for tribes to support this bill that acknowledges our sovereignty by sending a letter or resolution to their Congressional delegation," Oliver Semans, the executive director of Four Directions, said in e-mail today.

Semans said the bill will get a hearing on April 29. An official notice hasn't been posted by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

The House version of the bill is H.R.511. It has yet to receive a hearing.

From the Indianz.Com Archive:
Tribal labor law rider killed by wide margin in House (6/27)
Federal labor board expands jurisdiction over tribes (6/4)

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