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Latest News - November 2014

November 13, 2014
Tribe continues to challenge federal labor law jurisdiction
Source: Morning Sun
By: Morning Sun staff

Saginaw Chippewa Tribal officials will continue federal court appeals to National Labor Relations Board jurisdictional claims and will not rehire a fired employee and inform casino staff of their right to discuss labor union organization on their own time on Tribal property, as ordered by the board last month.

Federal regulators on Oct. 27 had again, reaffirming a challenged order from an April 2013 ruling, told the Tribe to post and distribute notices telling employees that the Soaring Eagle Casino has violated federal law and that management has suspended no-solicitation rules aimed at stopping efforts to form unions.

But Tribal officials, who did not respond to inquiries on the initial story that ran last week, said in a proposed advertisement sent to the Morning Sun on Thursday that nothing would change while it pursues court challenges to the NLRB’s jurisdiction over it.

“The Tribe has a right to appeal the Board’s decision and does not have to comply with the Board’s order unless and until the Tribe ultimately loses its case at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Tribe said in the proposed advertisement.

In it’s late-October order, the NLRB told the tribe to rehire a fired union organizer and distribute and post notices to employees that contain, among other things, guarantees that “we will… revise or rescind our no-solicitation rule prohibiting employees from soliciting other employees during non-work time to support the union or any other labor organization, and distributing union literature or campaign paraphernalia during non-work time in non-work areas.”

That ruling, though, is but the latest salvo in the Tribe’s three-year battle with the NLRB over its claiming jurisdiction over tribes operating casinos because they engage in interstate commerce.

“The board’s new position regarding tribes ignores the inherent sovereignty of Indian tribes and appears to be ignorant of the history of Indian tribes and the fact that most tribes have been involved in what is now called interstate commerce through the fur trade and other means hundreds of years before enactment of the National Labor Relations Act,” the Tribe said in a press release last week.

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has been in litigation over that stance since 2011.

“The Tribe has and continues to maintain that the National Labor Relations Act does not apply to the Tribe and that the Board does not have jurisdiction over the Tribe or its casino,” the Tribe said in the proposed ad.

Advertising executives at the Morning Sun have declined to run the proposed advertisement in its entirety because, besides outlining facts that Tribal officials did not share on the record for news stories, it contains attacks on the Morning Sun editor.

A Tribal advertising agent then asked, if an ad would not be published, that the content be published as a letter to the editor.

Morning Sun journalists prefer to discuss newsworthy issues with the Tribal chief, attorney or public relations staff on the record rather than through advertisements or letters.

The latest NLRB order meanwhile came on the same day that Tribal officials said another labor organization effort had failed at the casino.

Security workers at the casino voted against joining a union for the third time on Oct. 27, according to the press release. Of 159 possible ballots, 129 were cast and only 16 supported joining the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America union.

Tribal officials used last week’s vote as a rallying point in the decade-long battle tribes nationwide have waged since the NRLB ruled that tribes are engaged in interstate commerce and, therefore, are subject to federal rules and oversight in labor relations.

“I have the upmost confidence in our associates and their ability to make an informed and well thought out decision,” said Tribal Chief Steve Pego in last week’s press release. “We have some of the finest people working with us and we are proud of the service and product that we provide.”



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