Senate Rejects License for Reservations to Ignore Basic Labor Laws

The U.S. Senate wisely chose not to roll back basic labor protections like the minimum wage and overtime pay for workers on Native American reservations.The measure would have affected more than half a million casino employees alone. It should come as no surprise that both U.S. Senators from Texas, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, voted in favor of the legislation.

The AFL-CIO worked to halt momentum for this very bad idea, The New York Times reports:

Organized labor managed an increasingly rare feat on Monday - a political victory - when its allies turned back a Senate measure aimed at rolling back labor rights on tribal lands.

The legislation, called the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, would have exempted enterprises owned and operated by Native American tribes from federal labor standards, even for employees who were not tribal citizens.

The A.F.L.-C.I.O. said passage of the measure, the subject of several years of tribal lobbying, would have amounted to the most aggressive erosion of labor protections since 1940s.

 A package of bills containing the measure fell five votes short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster.

 The House passed the measure in January. It is unclear if the Senate will try again.

Proponents of the bill argued that the National Labor Relations Board acted arbitrarily in 2004 when it ruled that employees of tribal enterprises could be covered by federal labor law even if the enterprise was on tribal trust land. For decades before that, the board typically applied federal labor law only to tribal enterprises outside tribal trust land.

The congressional legislation would have denied employees of casinos and other enterprises on tribal trust land recourse to federal labor law if, for example, they were fired for trying to organize a union or collectively protesting work conditions.

 More than half a million people are employed by casinos and affiliated resorts on tribal trust land, and a vast majority are not citizens of tribes. Thousands employed in other tribal enterprises could have been affected as well.