Native News Network Staff in Native Briefs. Discussion »
MANISTEE, MICHIGAN Deepening a five year relationship under the labor law of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, the United Steelworkers Union and the Manistee, Michigan-based Little River Casino Resort have completed two new collective bargaining agreements. The contracts, which cover employees within the Resort’s security and slot tech departments, were ratified late last week by the Steelworkers.
Yet, oral arguments are scheduled before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Tuesday, October 8th in a case in which the National Labor Relations Board has challenged the authority of the Band to apply its labor law at the Resort.
“As far as we are aware, no other Indian tribe in the country has as many collective bargaining agreements entered into pursuant to tribal law,”
said Wendell Long, the General Manager for the Resort, and a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
“This exemplifies tribal sovereignty at work,”
said Virgil Johnson, the elected Speaker of the Band’s Tribal Council, which is responsible for enacting the Band’s laws.
“We are very proud of our success,”
In 2007, the Band enacted its Labor Organizations and Collective Bargaining Law to cover employees within its public sector operations, including the Little River Casino Resort. The Band conducts gaming as a substitute for a tax base to generate revenue to support governmental services it provides to its members under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Band’s gaming revenues from the Resort provide the bulk of funds for its health programs, police department, and court system, as well as many other governmental programs.
The Band’s labor law establishes a structure for union elections, bargaining rules, and the resolution of unfair labor practice charges.
“We found much to learn from the way state governments regulate collective bargaining,”
said Speaker Johnson,
“but in the end, this law reflects the unique values of our Ottawa community.”
The Resort and the Steelworkers have engaged in bargaining unit elections and collective bargaining over employment terms and conditions affecting more than 100 employees at the Resort. The first agreement was signed in December, 2010 and two others followed by October of 2012.
According to Bill Laney, Steelworkers Staff Representative:
“The USW and the Resort have developed a good working relationship and the successful outcome of these negotiations is proof that the Tribe’s collective bargaining law is now working. It gives employees a voice in determining their wages, hours and working conditions and the ratification of these two contracts shows that unit members are satisfied with the results.”
Ogema Larry Romanelli, the Band’s executive branch leader, has monitored management-union relations at the Band.
“A lot of hard work and long hours have gone into the negotiation of these collective bargaining agreements,”
“They reflect the good faith of union and management, alike.”
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent agency of the US government charged with conducting elections for labor union representation and with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices.
posted October 7, 2013 9:40 am edt