July 18, 2016
Recently, two Michigan tribes petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) authority to regulate labor practices at their casinos. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review either the Little River Band’s or the Saginaw Chippewa’s petition, leaving the Sixth Circuit rulings that the NLRB has jurisdiction as binding precedent.
In both NLRB v. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Government and Soaring Eagle Casino v. NLRB, the Sixth Circuit held that there is a presumption that federal laws generally apply equally to tribes on their reservation lands. However, a statute will not be applied to reservation lands if the law touches exclusive self-governance rights, if applying the law to the tribe would abrogate treaty rights, or if legislative history shows congressional intent to exclude tribes from the law’s application. The Sixth Circuit held that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) vests the NLRB with the fullest jurisdictional breadth constitutionally permissible under the Commerce Clause, and that enforcement of the Act in Indian country is not restricted by one of the exceptions to general applicability.
You can read more about the cases here.
To read an analysis of how the applicability of the NLRA to tribes has evolved over the past decade go here.