Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and United Auto Workers Move Closer to Battle in Federal Court

Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and United Auto Workers Move Closer to Battle in Federal Court

7/23/2008
By: Sarah E. Harris The continually rising tension between the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe - owners and operators of the Foxwoods Resort Casino - and the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) is now expected to erupt in federal court. On June 30, 2008, the National Labor Relation's Board (NLRB) issued a unanimous decision upholding and certifying a November 24, 2007 election whereby table games dealers at Foxwoods voted 1,289 to 852 in favor of organizing with the UAW. But in a July 10, 2008, letter from the Tribe, tribal attorney Jackson King announced that there would be no collective bargaining between the Pequots and the dealers. King's letter - addressed to Julie Kushner, assistant director of the UAW offices responsible for Connecticut - reportedly stated "[a]s you know, this requires Foxwoods, as an arm of the tribal government and as a tribal employer within the meaning of the Mashantucket Pequot Labor Relations Law, to decline your invitation to bargain pursuant to the NLRB's certification." UAW regional director Bob Madore fired back that the UAW "is confident that workers at Foxwoods will prevail over management's latest attempt to deny them their fundamental right to collectively bargain for a contract." Union officials vowed to file unfair labor practices claim with the NLRB that very day - July 10, 2008. Only eight days later, on July 18, 2008, the NLRB in Hartford issued a complaint affirming the unfair labor practices claim filed by the UAW. All of the parties involved view the NLRB complaint merely as a formality. However, the complaint moves the Tribe one step closer in its march to the U.S. Court of Appeals where the tribe will seek review of its case. "This is just sort of a procedure to allow the employer to take the matter to the courts," John Cotter, assistant regional director for the NLRB in Hartford, told a local Connecticut newspaper. "Everyone knows where we're headed." The Tribe has until August 1, 2008, to file a response to the complaint which will likely be sent, once again, to the NLRB's D.C. headquarters. If the NLRB once again orders the tribe to negotiate, the tribe can refuse to do so and seek review of the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals. In court the Tribe is expected to maintain its position that the NLRB did not have jurisdiction to administer last year's dealer election because the tribe is a sovereign entity.
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