Republican leader says Clinton threatens sovereignty with unions

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - A clear party line has been drawn by Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., regarding unions in Indian country.

In a speech before the Mid-West Alliance of Sovereign Tribes (MAST), Hayworth accused the Clinton/Gore Administration of threatening tribal sovereignty by forcing unions on tribal enterprises.

The Clinton/Gore Administration depends on union bosses for support, said Hayworth. They will hand over your employs to those unions.

Through a bill he introduced late last year, H.R. 2992, Hayworth hopes to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to protect Indian tribes from coerced labor agreements. The bill was drafted in response to a California Supreme Court decision that overturned Proposition 5, which in 1998 confirmed gaming rights for California tribes.

Following the decision, the federal government determined that all tribal gaming in California must cease unless tribal/state compacts were signed by Oct. 13, 1999.

Hayworth claims that 61 California tribes were essentially forced to sign gaming compacts with California Gov. Gray Davis on the condition that they sign separate labor agreements that could result in the forced intrusion of labor unions on sovereign tribal lands.

You should not be forced to cede your sovereignty to anybody, Hayworth said. It is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, which recognizes tribes as sovereign governmental entities.

In a decision by the National Labor Relations Board, triballyowned and operated businesses located on tribal lands are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act based on a provision which exempts governmental entities. Hayworth believes that labor agreements forced on the tribes establish jurisdiction outside of the National Labor Relations Board and would instead be enforceable in state court.

The situation in California is part of a broader attack on tribal sovereignty led by labor-backed interests, he added. The inclusion of labor agreements within tribal/state compacts could undermine the stated purposes of IGRA.

Hayworth claims that in a speech before California tribes, Lynne Cutler, deputy assistant to the president on Native American affairs, asked tribes not to force the administration to choose between the interests of labor unions and tribal governments.

If you choose to have unions, it is your choice, Hayworth said. You should not have unions forced on you by the states or the federal government.

In response to Hayworth, NCAI President and Yurok Tribal Chairwoman Susan Masten said that while she agrees it is up to the tribes to decide the role of unions on tribal lands, it would be dangerous to open up IGRA to any amendments at this time, since it could draw the attention of those looking to weaken the law. She also said that this appears to be political posturing.

"I think we can deal with the unions without opening up IGRA to amendments", said Masten.

A National Gambling Impact Study Commission report recommended that tribal governments voluntarily enter into agreements with organized labor. If the tribes do not reach such agreements within a reasonable period of time, it said, Congress should enact legislation establishing labor organizing rights in Indian country.

California's Proposition 1A, an initiative similar to Proposition 5, passed by an overwhelming majority in statewide elections March 7. It confirms the right of tribal governments to engage in gaming activities. While Proposition 1A can be challenged in the courts, it is the second time in two years Californians showed support for tribal sovereignty and the rights of tribes regarding economic development.