The White House announced Tuesday it isÂ opposing aRepublican bill to grant workers on American-Indian landsindependence from federal labor regulations, despite claiming torespect tribal sovereignty.
The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015 passed the HouseTuesday. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Barrassoargued during a recent hearing that the billwillÂ empower and respect Indians. It allows tribes toregulate their own businesses outside the vast scope of federallabor regulations. The White House, however, says it respectstribal sovereignty but asserts the bill is troublesome.
“The Administration is deeply committed to respectingtribal sovereignty and maintaining government-to-governmentrelationships with Indian tribes,” the White House said in apress release. “At the same time, the President is firmly dedicated to protecting Americanworkers. The Administration vigorously enforces Federal labor lawsand has repeatedly emphasized the importance of strengtheningworkers’ rights to collective bargaining.”
The main issue is that tribes could disregard federal laborregulations enacted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).The board has been critical to pushing much of President BarackObama’s agenda outside of Congress. The White House hasclaimed the regulations are critical to protecting workers. It doesadmit, though, tribes have done a good job at protecting workerswhen granted privileges outside of federal law, such as having theability to operate casinos. Nevertheless, it notes, federalregulations must be in place to ensure worker rights.
“The Administration is encouraged by the efforts of sometribal governments to balance these important interests and findcommon ground when formulating compacts to operate casinos ontribal land,” the press release continued. “Thoughthese compacts differ on minor details, what they have in common isthat they generally protect tribal self-governance while alsoensuring that most casino workers retain important and effectivelabor rights.”
The White House notes it’s open to supporting bills thatstrengthen tribal sovereignty so long as they also balance federallabor rules. Supporters of the bill, though, note it will greatlyhelp both tribes and the workers within them. They also notefederal regulations, like those decided by the NLRB, are oftenmisguided. As such, they are not a perfect solution to ensuringworker rights and protections.
The Honorable E. Paul Torres noted during the Committee onIndian Affairs hearing that the bill willÂ be greatlybeneficial because the NLRB often infringes on Indian rights asopposed to protecting them. Torres serves as governor of the Puebloof Isleta tribal territory in New Mexico.
â€œThe NLRBâ€™s authority toattack tribes is fabricated out of thin air,without express authorization from Congress and is imposed withoutthe kind of government-to-government consultation and evaluation bywhich appropriate policy determinations should be made,”Torres noted. “But the NLRB wonâ€™t stopunless Congress says it never had the power over tribes that it nowclaims. As we see it, the choice is clear â€“tribal self-government is protected and furthered by supporting andpassing S. 248.â€
The bill now waits to be picked up by the Senate. Obama coulduse his veto powers if it goes to his desk. A two-thirdssupermajority from both the House and Senate isÂ neededto override the veto.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller NewsFoundation.