The Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise and the UAW at Foxwoods have jointly announced today that they have reached a historic agreement to negotiate a union contract under tribal law, without either party waiving their rights under federal law.
Early this month the parties agreed to a 30-day period of discussions to determine whether an agreement could be reached to bargain under tribal law without either party waiving their rights under federal law.
During this period the parties had been reviewing and discussing tribal labor laws focused on ensuring the UAW and its members that their rights to be represented by a union and bargain for a union contract will be fully respected and enforced by tribal institutions.
In resolutions passed Tuesday, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council certified the UAW as the exclusive representative of a unit of table games, poker and dual-rate dealers and addressed other concerns raised by the union.
Both parties recognize the historic significance of this agreement and appreciate the fact that it could not have been accomplished without mutual respect for the legitimate concerns of all affected parties.
While today's agreement is not a collective bargaining agreement, it permits the negotiations to start. Both parties are optimistic that it will result in a constructive dialogue leading to successful negotiations.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement within five months, either of the parties has the right to have unresolved issues submitted to binding arbitration under the tribal system which provides for a final decision by a neutral party agreed to by the employer and the union.
"The concepts of tribal sovereignty and self-government are very important to all Native American tribes," said Jackson King, general counsel of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. "We are very pleased to have come to an understanding that both acknowledges employees' rights to join unions and respects the rights of Native American governments."
"This is a very important agreement, and the first step toward achieving a contract for workers at Foxwoods," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union's Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Organizing Department. "It came about because both parties were willing to listen and address each other's concerns. The Mashantucket Pequots have set an extraordinary example by respecting the rights of workers, and we look forward to building a strong relationship in the future."
"Everyone at work is very excited," said Bonnie Forman, a 7 1/2-year dealer at Foxwoods. "This is exactly what we have been working for -- an opportunity to sit down with management so we can improve our workplace and make Foxwoods the best possible choice for our customers."
In November 2007 the National Labor Relations Board conducted an election among dealers at Foxwoods, and a majority voted for representation by the UAW. The tribe has challenged the NLRB's jurisdiction over activities on the reservation, and that lawsuit is pending in the United States Court of Appeals.
Both parties extend their thanks to the regional and national offices of the NRLB, which have agreed to stay proceedings while this matter proceeds. Litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals will also be stayed pending the outcome of negotiations.