Feb 2008 Ballot: Indian Tribes Fight Employee Rights

by: Elliott Petty

Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 19:55


If you don't follow the daily happenings in Sacramento, you can easily be confused about four ballot initiatives slated for the February 5th Presidential Primary Elections.  In four separate propositions, voters will be asked to approve state gaming compacts with four individual tribes looking to expand their casino fortunes. If approved, worker rights will continue to be non-existent at the Las Vegas-styled resorts.
Elliott Petty :: Feb 2008 Ballot: Indian Tribes Fight Employee Rights
At issue is the lack of basic worker rights that were passed into the California constitution generations ago, but don't apply at Indian gaming casinos and hotel resorts because of their official sovereignty.  California penal code doesn't apply in France, nor does it apply at Pechanga's resort just outside of Palm Springs.

Thus, Indian tribes and the American companies managing their properties don't have to honor anti-discrimination, sexual harassment or workers' compensation laws.  Imagine that.

This is only complicated by the fact that nearly 99 percent of employees and management of these resorts are non-Indian, California citizens. 

Seems unusual, but since the tribes are raking in a reported $7 billion a year in revenue with residuals going to tribe members in the form of direct cash payments, college scholarships and the like, members don't exactly need to work there.

But the Californian citizenry who make up almost their entire workforce are afforded no basic civil rights on the job.

Of course, their jobs wouldn't exist if the State of California didn't reach gaming compacts with specific tribes which allow them to operate the gambling cash cows in return for a share of the revenues.

At the end of this year's legislative session, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez worked their magic to ensure four tribes could increase the number of slot machines at their resorts without limits, paving the way for them to directly rival Las Vegas as the gambling Mecca of the United States.

These new compacts also ended the Hotel worker's union (UNITE HERE) who represent several Indian gaming casino and hotel resorts long-struggle to earn workers rights at these major employers.  Even under Pete Wilson's administration, gaming compacts included language that paved the way for unionization and basic civil rights on Indian land. 

But Nunez, a former Los Angeles labor leader lead the effort to approve compacts without basic worker rights.  Apparently, the Indians are such a powerful lobby in Sacramento these days; he was scared they might spend your gambling money against his self-serving effort to expand term limits.

We get to vote on this selfishly written ballot measure in February too.  Personally, I can't wait to vote no.

His fright is understandable, since the beginning of this year; four individual tribes have been throwing their weight around Sacramento.  Totaling more than $17 million in cold cash; Democrats, Republicans, advocacy groups and others are all feeding at the Indian tribe ready-teller.

Nunez has styled himself as a progressive leader, he did help deliver global warming policies which have made him an international star worthy of the fine living reported in his campaign disclosure forms.  Meanwhile, the typical low-paid worker at the Morongo resort will never live his lifestyle or have protection form workplace injuries or sexual harassment.

If you repudiate this brand of politics, "VOTE NO" on the gaming compact referendum.  Protect workers in California and elsewhere. 

Don't allow Nunez to continue to claim to be a progressive leader when he leads anti-worker crusades.  Stand up to the Indians money.  It'll take a lot of standing, because they've got a lot of money.  Below you will find what just four tribes have spent between January 1st and the end of September to stop basic worker rights:

Morongo Band of Mission Indians ($5, 172,286)

Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation ($657,770)

Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians ($5,880,200)

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians ($5,447,863)

All you have to do is "VOTE NO," four times.


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