House Committee on Education and the Workforce Moves H.R. 986, the "Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act," Out of Committee

To:

From:

 

Re:

Date:

NIGA Member Tribes

Chairman Ernest L. Stevens Jr.
Jason C. Giles, Executive Director
Danielle Her Many Horses, Deputy Executive Director/General Counsel

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Moves H.R. 986, the "Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act," Out of Committee

June 30, 2017

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce marked out of committee H.R. 986, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (TLSA), by a roll call vote of 22 for passage of the bill and 16 against. The roll call vote was split along party lines, with the Republican majority pushing the bill forward where it now awaits House floor for consideration.

At the mark-up, the bill's sponsor Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN) said, "The purpose of H.R. 986 is simple-to protect the sovereignty of tribal governments...the enduring principle of tribal sovereignty is respect and well established. It has been reaffirmed time and again by Congress, tribal sovereignty means tribes have an inherent right to self-government.... Just like state governments, just like local governments, tribes should be free to develop their own policies that promote jobs, freedom to work, and economic opportunity."

Congressman Rokita went on to say that this same bill passed the House in the previous Congress with bipartisan support and that this bill is necessary to provide parity to tribal governments with other governments. The TLSA simply would amend the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") to bring tribal government-owned and operated enterprises into parity with commercial enterprises owned and operated by all other sovereigns within the United States, including States, State political subdivisions (counties, cities, municipalities), the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories and possessions. Current interpretation of the law singles out Indian tribes as the only governmental entity subject to the NLRA - essentially making tribal governments second-class sovereigns.

The Senate companion bill was moved out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs earlier this year on February 8th. Now, the TLSA is awaiting floor consideration in both chambers of Congress. The Senate bill has 12 cosponsors and the House bill has 26 cosponsors (including three Democrats).

Thanks to your outreach, the TLSA has moved significantly through the legislative process over the past few months. Although, with a Congress focused on many other issues Indian Country has more work to do to show that this bill is a must pass. We urge you to continue to contact your congressional delegation to ask for their support of the TLSA and to correct misinformation on the true purpose of this bill. A draft letter is attached for your consideration.

We are getting closer to enactment, but need more support/cosponsors from Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. As noted above, we urge you to contact your federal congressional delegation and ask them to cosponsor the TLSA. Attached are draft letters for your consideration. Please contact Veronica Watters, Legislative Director, by email at vwatters@indiangaming.org or by phone at 202-546-7711 with any questions or concerns.

Roll Call Vote to Pass H.R. 986 on to Full House Consideration:

No:
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)
Rep. Susan A. Davis (D-CA)
Rep Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)
Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL)
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)
Rep. Alma S. Adams(D-NC)
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA)
Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ)
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE)
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL)
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Rep. Adriano Espaillat(D-NY)

Yes:
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)
Rep. Duncan Hunter(R-CA)
Rep. David P. Roe (R-TN) 
Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-PA)
Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)
Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN)
Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN)
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL)
Rep. David Brat (R-VA)
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI)
Rep. Elise StefaniK (R-IN)
Rep. Rick W. Allen (R-GA)
Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN)
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL)
Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI)
Rep. Tom Garrett, Jr. (R-VA)
Rep. Lloyd K. Smucker (R-PA)
Rep. A. Drew Ferguson, IV (R-GA)
Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS)
Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA)

Members not voting:
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA)
Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-N. Mariana Islands)

To view the hearing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reTw36ChIaU


 [TRIBAL LETTERHEAD]

[DATE]

The Honorable ______
[United States Senate/U.S. House of Representatives]
[Washington, DC 20510/Washington, DC 20515]
Email: [ staffcontact@____.senate.gov or staffcontact@mail.house.gov]

Re: Request to Cosponsor S. 63/H.R. 986, the "Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act"

Senator/Congressperson ______:

I write on behalf of the [tribe/nation] to respectfully ask that you cosponsor S. 63/H.R. 986, the "Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act." The bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") to bring tribal government-owned and operated commercial enterprises into parity with commercial enterprises owned and operated by all other sovereigns within the United States, including States, State political subdivisions (counties, cities, municipalities), the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories and possessions. Current law singles out Indian tribes as the only governmental entity subject to the NLRA - essentially making tribal governments second-class sovereigns. The issue is centered on tribal sovereignty and the treatment of Indian tribes as governments.

The NLRA was enacted in 1935 to address worker concerns in private industry.  Government employers were expressly exempted from the Act.  Although the NLRA did not list all forms of government subject to the exemption, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) consistently interpreted the government exemption to include the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and possessions, and tribal governments-as well as enterprises operated by these governments.

In 2004, the NLRB in San Manuel Indian Bingo reversed decades of its own precedent to apply the NLRA to tribal government enterprises.  As a result, tribal governments are the only sovereigns in the U.S. to be subject to the NLRA. The Board's reasoning in its 2004 decision asserts that tribal government-owned enterprises are commercial enterprises in direct competition with similar non-tribal businesses.  This is a dangerous misstatement of fact that disrespects tribal sovereignty and ignores the economic realities facing many tribal governments.

Tribal governments generally lack an effective tax base-Indian lands are held in trust by the U.S. and cannot be subjected to real estate taxation, high reservation unemployment makes income taxation unworkable, and restrictive Supreme Court rulings have severely limited tribal government sales taxes.  For many tribal governments, Indian gaming operations, tribal timber operations, and other tribal government enterprises constitute the sole source of governmental revenue that is used to fund tribal public safety, education, health, housing and other essential services to reservation residents.  Ignoring the purpose of tribal government enterprises subjects vital tribal government programs to shutdowns and work stoppages.

With specific regard to Indian gaming, tribal casinos are wholly owned and operated by tribal governments. Equating Indian gaming to commercial gaming completely ignores the text and intent of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).  Congress imposed IGRA on Indian gaming operations to establish a system of federal regulation and "to provide a means of promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments."  IGRA mandates that tribes use revenues generated from Indian gaming for one of five government purposes: to fund tribal government operations, programs, and services; to provide for the general welfare of the community; to promote tribal economic development; to donate to charitable organizations; or to fund local government operations. Conversely, commercial gaming enterprises are for-profit individually owned operations.

This issue is solely about tribal sovereignty, respect for Indian tribes as governments and the need to protect a source of government revenue that funds essential services and programs to reservation residents.

Tribes and unions have a long track record of working together on labor agreements pursuant to tribal laws and regulations, not federally imposed mandates. Historically, many Native people have been and continue to be trained and employed by unions.  Indian Country has a long history of working cooperatively with the major trade organizations to help construct many of the facilities that house tribal government enterprises today. Amending the NLRA to treat Indian tribes as governments would not impact these agreements or future negotiations.

Indian Country has voiced strong and universal support of the TLSA.  As a result, I again ask you to co-sponsor S. 63/H.R. 986, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.  The Act comports with the U.S. Constitution, respects Indian tribes as governments, and protects the essential programs and services that provide for the general welfare of our community.  Thank you for consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

[Tribal Official's Name and Title]