On May 16, 2011, approximately 400 bartenders and servers at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s Foxwoods casino for the second time voted to form a union. However, this time the workers voted under the Tribe’s labor laws rather than the National Labor Relations Act.
In 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversaw an election in which workers voted to form a bargaining unit with Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). The Tribe, however, contested the authority of the NLRB to oversee that election and filed suit in federal district court after losing its administrative challenges before the NLRB.
The Bartenders were confronted with the possibility of a lengthy appeals process. The Tribe faced a possible decision in favor of the NLRB under the 2005 San Manuel ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The San Manuel decision reversed years of precedent and held that in certain circumstances, tribes may be subject to the collective bargaining requirements of the National Labor Relations Act with enforcement by the NLRB.
This year, the bartenders decided to seek certification under tribal law, rather than federal law. As a result of the election, the UFCW will commence the negotiation of a first contract with the Tribe.
The UFCW is the third union to successfully organize workers under tribal law at Foxwoods. The United Autoworkers Union organized table game dealers and the International Union of Operating Engineers organized plant workers. In addition, the Mashantucket Pequot Fire Department voted to join the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association of Connecticut.
Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding unionization efforts and tribal labor laws applicable to unions.