Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act Would Strip Working People of Freedoms

Congress should protect worker freedom and uphold the sovereignty of Native American tribes, not pit the two against each other. Working people must have a legally enforceable right to form unions and negotiate together with the tribal enterprises that employ them. It’s fair, it’s democratic and it’s one important step toward an economy that works for all working people.

Corporate-backed politicians and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have a new disguise to cut back worker freedoms, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (S. 63, H.R. 986), which would deny National Labor Relations Act protection to more than 600,000 workers.

It’s the classic strategy of divide and conquer. The AFL-CIO supports tribal sovereignty and workers’ freedoms. The two should never be pitted against each other.

Tribal governments and labor unions share a host of basic values, including a desire for broad prosperity, good jobs and thriving communities.

America’s working people want new economic rules so we can raise pay and expand worker freedom, and that means rejecting the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.

Read more from our letter to representatives opposing the act:

The AFL-CIO supports the principle of sovereignty for tribal governments but does not believe that employers should use this principle to deny workers their collective bargaining rights and freedom of association. While the AFL-CIO continues to support the concept of tribal sovereignty in truly internal, self-governance matters, it is in no position to repudiate fundamental human rights that belong to every worker in every nation. Workers cannot be left without any legally enforceable right to form unions and bargain collectively in instances where they are working for a tribal enterprise, which is simply a commercial operation competing with non-tribal businesses....

The AFL-CIO opposes any effort to exempt on an across-the-board basis all tribal enterprises from the NLRA, without undertaking a specific review of all the circumstances—as current NLRB standards provide. Where the enterprise employs mainly Native American employees with mainly Native American customers, and involves self-governance or intramural affairs, leaving the matter to tribal governments may be appropriate. However, where the business employs primarily non-Native American employees and caters to primarily non-Native American customers, there is no basis for depriving employees of their rights and protections under the National Labor Relations Act.