(Senate - February 13, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 28 (Tuesday, February 13, 2018)]
[Pages S927-S928]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                      TRIBAL LABOR SOVEREIGNTY ACT

  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, this week, the National Congress of 
American Indians is holding its Executive Council Winter Session here 
in the Nation's Capital, and Tribes and Tribal leaders throughout the 
Nation are here to meet and to confer and advocate on policies that are 
important to them and to their Tribal members. I welcome them to 
Washington, DC, and I encourage them to make known to us as Members of 
the Senate things that are important to them as Tribal leaders and 
things that matter directly to their Tribal members.
  One of the priorities that I know exist is the issue of Tribal 
sovereignty. Throughout the conversations you have with Tribal leaders, 
there is the importance of maintaining the sovereignty of their Tribe.
  Tonight, I want to highlight for my colleagues S. 140, a package of 
Tribal bills that includes the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which I 
introduced here in the Senate some time ago.
  By moving forward on this legislation, and with its passage, we would 
return to the days where the law was as it existed for 70 years after 
the passage of the National Labor Relations Act. That was true for 70 
years until the National Labor Relations Board stripped the Tribes of 
their governmental status under NLRA. Passage of this legislation would 
correct this decade-old error made by the NRLB.
  The National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935. It exempted 
public sector employees of Federal, State, and local governments. 
Although it was not explicitly included, Tribal governments had their 
sovereign status respected by the NLRB for the next 70 years. This 
approach caused no problems and was what was expected.
  Yet, in 2004, the National Labor Relations Board abruptly reversed 
its treatment of Tribal governments to enact right-to-work laws. Tribes 
have struggled to find economic success and provide for their people, 
and many of them still do, but the NLRB has now intruded on the gains 
that have been made.
  The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act that was introduced, and will be 

[[Page S928]]

the Senate before long, is pretty straightforward. It is 
straightforward. It amends the National Labor Relations Act to exempt 
Tribal-owned entities operated on Tribal-owned lands--no more, no less. 
Businesses owned by individual Tribal members or any operations off the 
Tribal lands still remain subject to the scrutiny of the National Labor 
Relations Board.
  In 2013, the U.S. Senate voted on the reauthorization of the Violence 
Against Women Act. It included new authorities for Tribal governments 
to protect Native American women, including when harmed by non-Indians. 
With VAWA's passage, Congress placed our trust in Tribes to exact 
justice. We rightly determined that Tribes should have the ability to 
punish Indian and non-Indian offenders, but today it is being argued we 
cannot trust Tribes or Tribal members to justly treat Indian and non-
Indian employees.
  Many Tribes have the highest wages and provide the best benefits in 
their region. Tribal jobs are coveted because prospective employees 
know they are good jobs.
  In 2015, the Indian Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, held a 
legislative hearing on TLSA, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. 
Testifying that day, among others, was Robert Welch, chairman of the 
Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians in California. That Tribe is a 
unionized Tribe, but Chairman Welch testified in support of the Tribal 
Labor Sovereignty Act. Many Tribes do welcome labor unions, and that is 
all fine. The point here is, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act says it 
is up to Tribes to decide, not the NLRB. More than 160 Tribes and 
Tribal organizations support this legislation.
  In my view, the vote I seek shouldn't be seen as anything partisan. I 
have worked to pass this legislation without a recorded vote. I have 
taken it to the floor to do a live UC request but was met with 
objections. I have worked to get it included in appropriations bills, 
and yet, at the last minute, it was always forced to be withdrawn, 
which brings us close to a floor vote on this legislation.
  Nearly two dozen Democrats, Members of the U.S. House of 
Representatives, including a Member from the Democratic leadership, 
supported this legislation in January, as it passed the House of 
Representatives in a strong bipartisan way. We also have strong 
bipartisan backing of this legislation in the U.S. Senate. In fact, the 
Indian Affairs Committee reported this legislation out by a voice vote 
last summer.
  My point is, the bill is not about labor. This is about the ability 
of Tribal governments to provide vital services without intrusion. That 
was the point of the NLRA exemption.
  Jefferson Keel, who is the President of the National Congress of 
American Indians, wrote this week:

       Tribes make an array of public services available to their 
     tribal citizens and other local residents: law enforcement, 
     fire and EMS departments, schools and hospitals, and natural 
     resource management. All tribal governments play critical 
     roles in ensuring the safety, health, and stability of tribal 
     and surrounding communities.

  That is why cities and counties--local units of government, 
governmental entities--are excluded from NLRB, and that is why Tribes 
should also be excluded.
  Eighty years later, why is it that every other form of government in 
this country is treated one way and Tribes are treated a different way? 
Why do Tribes have to accept this Federal intrusion? The answer is, 
they should not. This is a matter of sovereignty, and they should be 
treated just like every other governmental entity under this law.
  Members of this Chamber should believe that Tribal governments, 
elected by their members, possess the right to make informed decisions 
on behalf of those they represent. I say they do. If their Tribal 
members believe they have made errors, then they, too, are subject to 
elections, just like we are.
  I rise this evening to encourage my colleagues to reach that same 
conclusion; that sovereignty is an important component of the way we 
should treat Native Americans and that Tribes should have the ability 
to manage their affairs on Tribal lands with Tribal businesses.
  I urge my colleagues to vote that way when this legislation reaches 
the Senate floor.
  I yield the floor.