FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The UAW vs. Indian Casinos

by DAVID MACARAY

Looking back on it, was it wildly optimistic for organized labor to assume that a people who’d been as screwed-over as Native Americans—who’d been disrespected, slandered, lied to, disenfranchised, and systematically murdered—would automatically be sympathetic to the struggles of working men and women trying to earn a living?

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe might consider that a loaded question.  They might argue that the more realistic question is:  Why should they give a hoot about “white man’s law” after all the abuses they’ve suffered in the name of it—especially after being ignored for over a century while they lived in poverty and despair, and drawing attention only lately, when they found a way to make some decent money?

We’re speaking here of Indian gambling casinos and their opposition to labor unions.  It’s a tricky question, with both legal and ethical ramifications. Should federal labor law (i.e., the provisions laid out in the landmark 1935 National Labor Relations Act) be the determining factor here?

Or, as the Mashantucket Pequots (who own Foxwoods Resort Casino, in Connecticut) argue, should the matter fall under the jurisdiction of tribal law, which the U.S. government has recognized since the early 19th century, and which is more or less alluded to in the U.S. Constitution?  (Native Americans are specifically mentioned in Article 1, Section 2, Article 1, Section 8, and the 14th amendment of the Constitution.)

In any event, Foxwoods was an unfortunate stand-off.  While organized labor has come to expect opposition from companies like Coca-Cola, General Electric, Honeywell and—the granddaddy of all anti-union campaigns—Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., it came as a disappointment (but not a total surprise) when the Indians threw up a roadblock by hiring a team of union-busters to represent them.

The decision in this matter was reached in 2007, when the NLRB ruled that federal labor law took precedence over tribal law.  Foxwoods (which opened in 1992 and is the largest employer in Connecticut) was forced to comply with the NLRA and allow its employees to vote on whether or not to join a union, in this case the UAW (United Auto Workers).

After spending 14 years trying organize the resort, the UAW finally succeeded.  By a 60-40 margin, 83-percent of Foxwoods’ 10,000 employees voted to become union members.  In truth, as bad as things have been for organized labor over the last couple of decades, it has had a fair amount of success in the gaming industry, from Atlantic City to Las Vegas.  One advantage:  They can’t digitalize living, breathing blackjack dealers or have them deal cards from China (at least not yet).

People who have criticized the Foxwoods 60-40 margin for lacking a clear mandate, don’t know much about elections, union or otherwise.  Mandates are rare.  Consider Ronald Reagan’s win over Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election.  Even though the popular vote was slightly less than 60-40, that election has been referred to ever since as a “landslide.”

What clearly hurt the Mashantucket Pequots was an earlier NLRB ruling involving the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, in Highland, California.  Indeed, the California ruling laid the groundwork for Connecticut.  In the San Manuel case, the fact that only a tiny percentage of the employees and customers were members of the tribe worked against the argument for reservation jurisdiction.

The same was true at Foxwoods.  Of the resort’s 10,000 employees, only about 30 were determined to be tribal members.  That was a killer statistic.  On the other hand, if one is determined to find good news here, at least Foxwoods wasn’t a case of Indians trying to exploit other Indians.  Like any other run-of-the-mill employer, the Mashantucket Pequots were simply looking to squeeze whomever worked for them.

When people say that “It’s not about the money, it’s about the principle,” it’s usually about the money.  In 2007, the casino industry generated an estimated $58 billion, with $26 billion coming from Indian casinos.  Or, as Tom Hagen said to Santino Corleone, in The Godfather, “It’s business, Sonny!”

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s Slurs Against China
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail