Union opts to proceed under tribal law

For the past several years, various unions have tried to organize in Indian country. A decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C Circuit in about 2008, held that federal labor laws applied to tribal employers and they had to allow unions.

In an interesting twist, an engineers’ union that is trying to organize engineering workers at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut has voluntarily chosen to proceed under the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe’s labor laws instead of federal law.

Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers withdrew its peition to the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a union election at Foxwoods and is instead opting to proceed under the labor laws of the Indian Tribe that owns the casino.

“The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is pleased that the International Association of Operating Engineers has decided to pursue its goals under the Tribal system,” the tribe said in a statement Wednesday. “This move avoided another lengthy jurisdictional fight that would have been costly for all parties.”

Tribal labor law prohibits strikes by workers and provides for binding arbitration in the case of an impasse in negotiations.

The Mashantucket Employment Rights Office, which enforces the tribal labor law, is expected to conduct the May 13 election among some 260 employees who work in the casino’s engineering, facilities, projects, engineering apprenticeship and interior landscape departments. A majority of those eligible to vote would have to endorse the union for it to prevail.

Local 30’s first attempt to organize Foxwoods workers was rejected by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio in a May 1, 2008 vote.

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