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Legislative Alert from NIGA

April 17, 2018


The Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on S. 140 which includes the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (TLSA) for Monday April 16, 2019. We urge you to contact your Senator to vote on cloture for S. 140. and also to vote to pass the bill.  This is the final hurdle we have to attain passage of this critical piece of legislation for Indian Country.

We strongly encourage you to call your Senators and ask for their vote for cloture on S. 140. Model talking points are attached for your consideration.  

The TLSA will reverse the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) misguided 2004 decision in San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino by clarifying that Tribal governments and governmental enterprises are excluded from the application of the NLRA. The NLRA expressly exempts governmental employers, including the United States and “State or political subdivision” employers, including business enterprises operated by these entities. The NLRB has interpreted the NLRA’s government exemption for “State or political subdivisions” to also implicitly include the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories and possessions.  In 1976, the Board in Fort Apache Timber Company interpreted this exemption to also include tribal governments and on-reservation commercial enterprises owned and operated by tribal governments.

However, in 2004, the NLRB overturnedFort Apache,ruling that the NLRA applies to Indian gaming enterprises owned and operated by tribal governments. The Board inSan Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino reasoned that the Tribe’s casino is a “purely commercial enterprise” that “employs significant numbers of non-Indians” and “caters to a non-Indian clientele that lives off the reservation.” The Ninth Circuit upheld the NLRB San Manuelruling in 2007.

The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act would amend the NLRA to treat tribes rightfully as sovereigns by excluding tribes and tribal government-owned and operated enterprises in the same manner as enterprises owned and operated by all other sovereigns within the United States, including States, State political subdivisions (counties, cities, municipalities), the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories and possessions.

Please help reinforce the importance of the TLSA by calling and your Senators urging a “YES” vote for cloture and final passage. To find the phone number for your Senator follow this link: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm


Please contact Danielle Her Many Horses, Deputy Executive Director by email dhermanyhorses@indiangaming.org or phone (202) 546-7711 with any questions or concerns. NIGA thanks you for your continued efforts and support in advocating for TLSA.


Vote YES on S. 140 and Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

NIGA is calling on all its Member Tribes to call their Senators directly and tell them to Vote For Cloture and final passage of S. 140 which includes the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.

  • TLSA is Pro-Sovereignty and Non-partisan!
  • The effort to amend the NLRA remains solely about respect for tribal sovereignty and the U.S. Constitution’s acknowledgement of Indian tribes as separate forms of governments within our federalist system.
  • For over 70 years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) promulgated regulations that define the term “State and political subdivision” to also implicitly include “the District of Columbia and all States, territories, and possessions of the United States.”
  • For over 70 years, the NLRB included Indian tribal governments and “commercial enterprises” operated by tribes as falling within the NLRA’s governmental exemption.
  • In 2004, in the case of San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino the NLRB ruled that enterprises owned and operated by Indian tribes are not governments. As a result, Indian tribes are the only forms of governments in the U.S. federalist system not considered a government for purposes of the NLRA.
  • To reverse the second class sovereign treatment of Indian tribes in the NLRA, and restore Tribal Government parity,  the NLRA must be amended to restore respect for Indian tribes in the same manner that state, local, and territorial governments are treated.
  • Indian Country uniformly supports enactment of the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.
    • Over 500 Tribal Nations represented by the following organizations in support of TLSA:
      • National Indian Gaming Association,
      • the National Congress of American Indians

Last modified: April 17, 2018