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Legislation Exempting Tribes From The National Labor Relations Act Passes The House

The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (TLSA) passed the House of Representatives in the afternoon on January 10, 2018, with a 239-173 vote. The TLSA, if it becomes law, will exclude "any Indian tribe, or any enterprise or institution owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on its Indian land" from the definition of "Employer" under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). As a result, the TLSA would give Indian Tribes a similar sovereignty that is currently afforded to state and local governments under the NLRA.

After initial concerns that the proposed law may never escape the introductory stages of the legislative process, the House's passing of the TLSA may give Indian Tribes hope that they will soon be exempt from the NLRA. However, the TLSA still has a long way to go. Now, the bill will move to the Senate, which will eventually put it up for a vote, and if passed, send it along to the White House for the President to sign, before it can become law.

According to commentators, the TLSA may have difficulty passing the Senate. This comes as no surprise, considering similar bills that came before the TLSA, going back as early as 2004, all of which died somewhere along the legislative process. Absent court or legislative action, the NLRA currently still applies to Indian Tribes. Therefore, tribal employers should consult with their legal counsel to determine their positions on unionization, to train supervisors to ensure compliance with the law, and to develop legal strategy for responding to union organization.

© 2020 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 12


About this Author

Luis E. Avila, Labor Employment Attorney, Varnum Law, Immigration Issues Lawyer, Grand Rapids

Luis focuses his practice on labor, employment and immigration issues. Luis has a wide range of experience in traditional labor matters, including grievances, arbitrations, collective bargaining negotiations, union drives, and matters in front of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC). Luis has counseled employers on a number of workplace matters, including effective employee handbooks and policies, disciplinary and dispute resolution procedures, discrimination, disability accommodation, wage-hour matters, family medical leave, and...

Stephanie R. Setterington, labor and employment attorney, Varnum

Stephanie advises employers on a wide variety of labor and employment matters, with an emphasis on employment litigation defense, and the identification and development of best practices in the area of human resources. She has worked extensively as labor and employment counsel for publicly-traded and privately-held companies that vary from single-site businesses to multi-state or global entities. She works with each client to ensure compliance with labor and employment-related legal requirements, develop effective human resource operations, and achieve the successful resolution of employment-related disputes.

Stephanie defends employers in state and federal courts, and before state and administrative agencies. She also assists unionized employers with contract and grievance administration issues. Her experience includes defending clients in grievance arbitrations, as well as in National Labor Relations Board proceedings at the trial and appellate levels.