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The union UNITE HERE won’t give campaign contributions to House members who recently helped pass a bill that would shield tribal governments from federal labor requirements, the group’s president told Bloomberg Law Jan. 23.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan (N.M.) and the 22 other Democrats Jan. 10 joined House Republicans to pass a group of tribal-related bills by a 239-173 vote. The measures included the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (H.R. 986, S. 63), which would bar the National Labor Relations Board from exercising jurisdiction over tribal governments. That would mean workers at tribe-owned businesses in tribal territories, such as casinos, wouldn’t have the right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act.
“So it boggles the mind that Democratic House Campaign Chairman Lujan and 22 additional so-called ‘progressive’ Democrats voted to strip existing federal labor rights of American workers and current UNITE HERE members with their support of the Tribal Gaming bill,” UNITE HERE President D. Taylor told Bloomberg Law. Because of their vote to turn tribal casinos right-to-work, Taylor said, “UNITE HERE will decline to provide campaign funding and assistance to Lujan and his followers in the House for the 2018 campaign cycle and beyond.”
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are seeking a means to pass the tribal labor bill in that chamber.
UNITE HERE, which represents about 100,000 casino workers, has argued that the bill would erase some worker protections, including making it harder for employees to join a labor union. But Republicans assert that the bill would undo NLRB overreach, allowing tribal nations to self-govern.
A spokesman for Rep. Lujan referred Bloomberg Law to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for comment. The committee didn’t respond to the request for comment as of early evening Jan. 23.
Members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a conservative Democratic group, were among those Democrats voting in favor of the sovereignty bill. They include Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), J. Luis Correa (Calif.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Tom O’Halleran (Ariz.), and Filemon Vela (Texas).
UNITE HERE didn’t contribute to the 2016 election campaign of Lujan or any of the six Blue Dog members. The union contributed a total of $643,150 to House Democratic candidates during the 2016 campaign season, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
As for this election year, the union has given $175,000 to House Democrats as of Jan. 8. None appear to be any of the 23 who voted in favor of the labor sovereignty bill, according to the data.
The Senate version of the tribal labor sovereignty bill has stalled since the Committee on Indian Affairs approved the measure by a voice vote early last year. The legislation has yet to come up for floor consideration.
The recent House passage has ignited some optimism for Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who reintroduced the bill in January 2017. Tom Brandt, a Moran spokesman, told Bloomberg Law that he is “encouraged” by the bipartisan support the bill received in the House.
“Defending tribal sovereignty is a top priority for Indian Country, and Sen. Moran is working with the Leader’s office to bring this legislation to the floor as soon as possible,” Brandt said.
Moran will need votes from some Democrats to avoid a filibuster of the bill, which has 13 Republican co-sponsors.
Moran was unsuccessful in 2017 with an attempt to add the measure to the omnibus budget bill to keep the government running through the year.
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