The White House announced Tuesday it is opposing a Republican bill to grant workers on American-Indian lands independence from federal labor regulations, despite claiming to respect tribal sovereignty.
The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015 passed the House Tuesday. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Barrasso argued during a recent hearing that the bill will empower and respect Indians. It allows tribes to regulate their own businesses outside the vast scope of federal labor regulations. The White House, however, says it respects tribal sovereignty but asserts the bill is troublesome.
“The Administration is deeply committed to respecting tribal sovereignty and maintaining government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes,” the White House said in a press release. “At the same time, the President is firmly dedicated to protecting American workers. The Administration vigorously enforces Federal labor laws and has repeatedly emphasized the importance of strengthening workers’ rights to collective bargaining.”
The main issue is that tribes could disregard federal labor regulations enacted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The board has been critical to pushing much of President Barack Obama’s agenda outside of Congress. The White House has claimed the regulations are critical to protecting workers. It does admit, though, tribes have done a good job at protecting workers when granted privileges outside of federal law, such as having the ability to operate casinos. Nevertheless, it notes, federal regulations must be in place to ensure worker rights.
“The Administration is encouraged by the efforts of some tribal governments to balance these important interests and find common ground when formulating compacts to operate casinos on tribal land,” the press release continued. “Though these compacts differ on minor details, what they have in common is that they generally protect tribal self-governance while also ensuring that most casino workers retain important and effective labor rights.”
The White House notes it’s open to supporting bills that strengthen tribal sovereignty so long as they also balance federal labor rules. Supporters of the bill, though, note it will greatly help both tribes and the workers within them. They also note federal regulations, like those decided by the NLRB, are often misguided. As such, they are not a perfect solution to ensuring worker rights and protections.
The Honorable E. Paul Torres noted during the Committee on Indian Affairs hearing that the bill will be greatly beneficial because the NLRB often infringes on Indian rights as opposed to protecting them. Torres serves as governor of the Pueblo of Isleta tribal territory in New Mexico.
“The NLRB’s authority to attack tribes is fabricated out of thin air, without express authorization from Congress and is imposed without the kind of government-to-government consultation and evaluation by which appropriate policy determinations should be made,” Torres noted. “But the NLRB won’t stop unless Congress says it never had the power over tribes that it now claims. As we see it, the choice is clear – tribal self-government is protected and furthered by supporting and passing S. 248.”
The bill now waits to be picked up by the Senate. Obama could use his veto powers if it goes to his desk. A two-thirds supermajority from both the House and Senate is needed to override the veto.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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