For immediate release
June 10, 2015
Senate Indian Affairs Committee To Vote on Bill That Strips American Workers of Rights on Tribal Lands
Washington, D.C.–Members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee are expected to vote today on S. 248 that, if enacted, will strip thousands of American workers from rights and protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when working on tribal lands.
S. 248 would exempt all businesses owned and operated by Indian nations of the NLRA. Critics of the bill say that tribal sovereignty should not mean that Americans working for Native Americans lose their U.S. rights under the NLRA, including “full freedom of association” and “self-organization” without “discrimination.” Businesses, like Indian-owned casinos, have workforces and customers that are almost all non-Indian. Dozens of members of UNITE HERE, a union representing 270,000 hospitality workers across North America, are appearing at the hearing to show their opposition to the law.
“Growing up in Louisiana, my grandparents had to use a separate water fountain. Things have progressed since then, but even today we have to continue to fight against discrimination of all kinds,” says Linda Taylor, a housekeeper at the Thunder Valley Resort and Casino in northern California. “Today I call on these Senators to do the right thing and vote no to taking away our all-American rights.”
Over the last 30 years, as Indian enterprises have entered the stream of interstate commerce, a number of federal laws protecting the workplace have been applied to Indian businesses: ERISA, OSHA, FLSA and NLRA. Critics of S. 248 say the NLRA should not be treated any differently than these other important laws protecting American workers.
“I have spent my entire adult life advocating for those who work hard and come to America seeking the American Dream—freedom and the opportunity to provide,” says Maria Elena Durazo, the General Vice President of Immigration, Civil Rights and Diversity with UNITE HERE. “This bill is a fundraiser, masked with the phony embrace of respect for tribal sovereignty. We won’t stand by as the Senate sells out all-American rights.”
S. 248 was introduced by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) in January 2015. Senators siting on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee have received a total of $248,434 in campaign contributions from Indian tribes for the 2014 cycle, with Republican members having received $74,600 and Democratic Senators having received $173,834.
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UNITE HERE represents 270,000 women and men across North America who work in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries. Learn more at www.unitehere.org.