Unions Push to Organize Indian Tribal Businesses

April 24, 2013
By Neal Tepel

Mount Pleasant, Michigan – Since union organizing is now taking place with Indian tribal businesses, the autonomy of companies owned by legal tribes is being reviewed by the courts: Including what laws these tribal businesses need to follow.

The question in several court cases:
Can the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) assert authority over businesses owned and operated by tribal governments?

According to, on April 16th, the NLRB cautioned the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan for prohibiting workers at its Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant and Saganing Eagles Landing Casino in Standish, Michigan from talking about unionizing. In another instance in Michigan, on April 15, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians took a case to court for review of the NLRB decision limiting the tribe’s ability to regulate worker organization and collective bargaining on tribal lands.

In an October 2012 op-ed for Indian Country Today Media Network, Fred Wszolek, a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute, spoke out against the NLRB separating a tribe’s "commercial enterprises from its governmental functions, ignoring reality and the distinctive nature of tribal governments," he said. "It penalizes tribes for participating in the national economy and achieving the economic self-sufficiency that has always been the goal of Congressional Indian policy."

Labor laws must be followed by employers in all businesses in the USA. Worker rights are as important in the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, Michigan or a Trump Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. With tribal businesses growing in wealth and importance across the USA, it must be clear to these businesses that they must follow the laws and regulations of the United States concerning health, safety, and employment.

April 23, 2013

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