House bill would allow tribes to set own labor rules

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2015 5:51 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Native American tribes could have more autonomy in setting their own labor rules under legislation passed by the House.

The House voted 249-177 on Tuesday to give the National Labor Relations Board less authority to oversee labor organization on American Indian reservations. Republicans who supported the bill said it would free struggling tribes from government overreach.

The legislation "stops yet another example of needless and illegitimate federal intervention, restoring the sovereignty of tribes to create labor policies that are best for their members," said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Many tribes have supported the bill, saying the labor oversight could harm developing American Indian economies and violate their sovereign rights. They noted that some tribes have encouraged labor organization on their own.

The Obama administration opposed the bill, saying it would not do enough to protect employees at businesses on Indian lands.

It is "possible to protect both tribal sovereignty and workers' rights, and the administration can only support approaches that accomplish that result," the White House said in a statement.

The administration said it would support the waiving of the NLRB's authority only if tribes were required to adopt equivalent labor standards. The NLRB was created to protect employees' rights to organize and prevent unfair labor practices.

Democrats during the House debate said the legislation would undermine the rights of working Americans in tribally-owned workplaces, including casinos and hotels.

Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia said the legislation "chooses sovereignty for some over the longstanding rights of others."

A similar bill is pending in the Senate.


Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at