FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The UAW vs. Indian Casinos

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

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail