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Chickasaw Nation wins case against labor board over jurisdiction in union-organizing complaints

Blackjack dealers at WinStar World Casino in southern Oklahoma alleged unfair labor practices during a union drive last year, but the Chickasaw Nation said it was exempt from federal labor relations law.
BY PAUL MONIES Published: July 20, 2011

“Interference from the National Labor Relations Board is a violation of tribal sovereignty and an obstacle to economic development,” Cole said Tuesday in a statement. “This bill would ensure tribal businesses in Oklahoma and around the nation aren't held back by government overregulation.”

Stephen Greetham, chief general counsel for the Chickasaw Nation's Commerce Division, said the tribe tried to work with the labor relations board to settle areas of jurisdiction before the board filed unfair labor complaints.

“This case is about a tribal government being forced to defend itself from a federal agency's effort to aggressively expand its jurisdiction at the expense of tribal treaties, tribal legal and governmental systems and tribal regulatory obligations under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” Greetham said in an email.

Ron Cobb, president and business manager for Teamsters Local 886 in Oklahoma City, said the union has no intention of withdrawing its complaints against WinStar. The union local has about 2,100 members across the state in several types of industries.

Cobb said the employee complaints are in limbo as the jurisdictional issues get worked out in the courts. He said the complaints are with WinStar management, not the tribe itself.

“To say they don't fall under federal law and then use the federal system to change that, there's some irony there,” Cobb said.

The Chickasaw Nation has its own right-to-work ordinance that also states the tribe “does not consent to the jurisdiction of any nontribal agency, federal or state, for the regulation of tribal-employee relations.” That ordinance was enacted in November 2004.

To say they don't fall under federal law and then use the federal system to change that, there's some irony there.”

Ron Cobb

President and business manager, Teamsters Local 886, Oklahoma City

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