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

August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail