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Indian Tribes May Adopt Right-to-Work Provisions
Description The San Juan Pueblo Indians adopted a right-to-work ordinance to apply on Tribal lands, stating that union membership could not be compulsory. The district court rejected the NLRB position that Indian Tribes may not adopt right-to-work laws.
Topic Labor Law
Key Words Right to Work, Indian Tribes
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The San Juan Pueblo Indian Reservation has a contract with a timber company operating on Tribal lands. The contract provides that the timber company will give employment preference to Tribal members and that "right-to-work" rules apply regarding union membership and payment of union dues. When a union tried to organize the workers at the timber company, the Pueblo enacted a Labor Ordinance "stating that union membership could not be required of anyone employed on Pueblo lands." The NLRB sued, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that federal labor law preempts any such legislation by the Tribe. "The Pueblo asserts that the Ordinance is a valid exercise of its inherent sovereign authority."
Decision NLRB complaint dismissed with prejudice. This is an issue of first impression. "As a sovereign nation, the Pueblo has the inherent authority to regulate the manner in which commerce is conducted within its territorial limits, which includes the inherent authority to regulate the commercial conduct of non-Indians who choose to engage in business on Indian land." Congress did not mention Indian Tribes in the NLRA. That silence does not mean that Indian sovereign authority on labor issues was abrogated. Further, given that Congress allows the states to choose right-to-work statutes, "it is simply speculation to assert that the same deference would not be accorded to the Indian Tribes."
Citation NLRB v. Pueblo of San Juan, --F.Supp.2d-- (1998 WL 864762, D., N.M.)
or
30 F.Supp.2d 1348 (D., N.M., 1998)

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