Foxwoods Resort and Casino – run by the Mashantucket Tribal Nation of Connecticut – has become the subject of a union organizing drive by the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW). The effort has reportedly escalated over the past month.
The UAW is moving to organize the 3,500 dealers and casino floor workers of the casino; there are 11,400 employees in Connecticut. The tribe also has a facility in Pennsylvania. Despite a June 1 report in which the union would not confirm their organizing drive, by June 25, according to the Associated Press, they had confirmed the organizing drive, but would not confirm the targeted bargaining units. Foxwoods employees report the organizing effort has picked up speed over the past weekend and that managers are actively interviewing those involved. Casino officials have made clear to employees that they will have to pay union dues and may ultimately lose benefits.
In February of this year, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) may apply to tribal enterprises.
Section 2(2) of the NLRA defines a covered “employer” as including any person “acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly,” but specifically excludes the United States government, or any state or political subdivision thereof. Despite a 1976 precedent ruling tribal enterprises are considered exempt political subdivisions, the board ruled in a 1992 case that the NLRA applies to off-reservation enterprises. In “San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino v. NLRB” the Court ruled that exemption must be interpreted narrowly.
In that case, the San Miguel Band of Serrano Mission Indians operated a casino on their reservation in California which was the target of an organizing drive by both The Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) in 1999. The NLRB ruled that while the NLRB’s interest in enforcing the Act would be likely lower if the enterprise was traditionally tribal in nature that did not involve non-Indians, in the San Miguel case the NLRA applies because the enterprise was a typical commercial enterprise employing and catering to non-Indians.
While the DC Circuit does not have jurisdiction over the District of Connecticut where Foxwoods is located – the Second Circuit has appellate jurisdiction there – it does have jurisdiction over the rulemaking and decisions of the NLRB.
The San Miguel Band could still appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but as of this writing have not done so. Under the NLRA, at least 30% of members for a proposed bargaining unit must sign authorization cards to force an election.
According to the Foxwoods website, a bingo hall was opened in 1986 and the first phase of the resort and casino was begun in 1992. It is the largest casino in the world.
“Mashantucket casino anticipates union effort”, URL: http://www.indianz.com/IndianGaming/2007/003213.asp
Mark Peters, Hartford Courant, “UAW Begins Signature Drive,” URL: http://www.courant.com/business/hcu-uawsigdrive-0625,0,7771243.story?coll=hc-headlines-home
Associated Press “Union Gathers Signatures in bid to Organize Foxwoods Workers” URL: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/local/state/hc-25141308.apds.m0854.bc-ct–foxwjun25,0,6964036,print.story?coll=hc-headlines-local-wire
Wikipedia, URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Court_of_Appeals_for_the_District_of_Columbia_Circuit
National Labor Relations Act Also cited NLRA or the Act; 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169, URL: http://www.nlrb.gov/about_us/overview/national_labor_relations_act.aspx
San Miguel Indian vs. NLRB decision, URL: http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200702/05-1392a.pdf
Joe Turzi & Gary Moss, “NLRB Applies to Tribal Enterprises, DC Appeals Court Rules” URL: http://www.dlapiper.com/files/upload/LaborEmployment_Alert_070216.html
The Connecticut Post, “Union wants to organize Foxwoods workers” URL: http://www.connpost.com/localnews/ci_6225675
About Foxwoods, URL: http://www.foxwoods.com/Aboutus/AboutFoxwoods/DefaultPage.aspx