Federal ruling could open door to unions at casinos

A federal labor ruling could open the door to unions trying to organize workers at Connecticuts two Indian-owned casinos.

The National Labor Relations Board last week issued a decision in a California case that ends a longstanding precedent that excluded American Indian employers from federal labor law.

The decision concerned a California Indian tribes refusal to allow a particular union to organize at its casino and bingo hall. Indian reservations, which have limited self-government, have been exempt from federal labor law until now.

“It could mean sweeping, profoundly significant safeguards for tens of thousands of Connecticut residents who work at the casinos,” Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Monday. “It ensures that working men and women at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods have the same protections as employees anywhere else in the state under the National Labor Relations Act.”

The decision could clear the way for the 20,000 employees who work at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun the right to join unions, engage in collective bargaining and take their workplace complaints to a federal agency.

The decision involved a dispute between the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians, a California gaming tribe, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, which is attempting to organize casino workers throughout the country.

Though the arguments were centered on the West Coast, the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes submitted briefs in support of the San Manuel Indians, and the state of Connecticut joined the case as an intervenor.