Statement of USET President Brian Patterson Supporting the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act


The following is a statement from the United South and Eastern Tribe’s President Brian Patterson, Oneida Indian Nation, on the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015:

USET supports the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015 as a matter of parity between sovereign nations. The legislation would honor and uphold the sovereign right of tribal governments to determine their own labor practices. By law, all federal, state, and local government enterprises are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). For nearly 70 years, the National Labor Relations Board included tribes in this exemption.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reversed decades of its own precedent in 2004 and established “a new standard for determining the circumstances under which the Board will assert jurisdiction over Indian owned and operated enterprises.” The NLRB ruled that tribal governments are subject to the NLRA when acting more “commercially” than “governmentally.” This ruling is a distinction and classification that the NLRB has never applied to federal, state, or local governments operating enterprises, liquor stores, lotteries, and providing other goods and services in the marketplace.

Like other sovereign nations, tribal governments are responsible for providing essential services to their citizens, including health care, education, law enforcement, housing, and social services. These services are delivered by generating revenue through the operation of tribal enterprises, which provide goods and services in the marketplace.

The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act restores parity with the application of the NLRA to all sovereign governments across the United States. USET strongly supports this legislation because it promotes the inherent sovereign rights of tribal nations, recognized by the Constitution, supported by the courts, and numerous laws, by honoring a tribe’s ability to self-govern within its own jurisdiction.

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