June 28, 2017
The Honorable Virginia Foxx The Honorable Robert Scott
Chairwoman Ranking Member
Committee on Education and the Workforce Committee on Education and the Workforce
U.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairwoman Foxx and Ranking Member Scott:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly supports H.R. 986, the “Tribal Labor
Sovereignty Act of 2017” (TLSA), which is being marked up by your committee tomorrow.
H.R. 986 would respect and promote tribal sovereignty by affirming the rights of tribal
governmental employers to determine their own labor practices on their own lands. Sponsored
by Rep. Todd Rokita, TLSA passed the House in the 114th Congress with bipartisan support.
In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was enacted to ensure fair labor
practices, but excluded federal, state, and local governmental employers from its reach. Though
the NLRA did not expressly mention Indian tribes let alone treat Indian tribes as governmental
employers, the NLRB respected the sovereign status of tribal governmental employers for close
to seventy years before abruptly abandoning its own precedent and reversing course with the San
Manuel Indian Bingo case in 2004.
Since that decision, the NLRB has been aggressively asserting jurisdiction over tribal
labor practices when the Board determines tribal government employers are acting in a
“commercial” rather than a “governmental” capacity – an analysis it does not apply to federal,
state, or local government employers.
TLSA would build upon a demonstrably successful principle: where tribal sovereignty is
vigorously exercised, economic success follows. H.R. 986 would prevent an unnecessary and
unwarranted overreach by the NLRB into the sovereign jurisdiction of tribal governments. By
amending the NLRA to specifically exempt tribal governments, H.R. 986 would provide
certainty and clarity to ensure that tribal governmental statutes concerning labor relations would
remain intact. The Chamber believes that this approach would best meet the needs of the tribes
and the American business community more generally.
The Chamber strongly supports H.R. 986 and requests that the Committee favorably
report the bill so the House can take it up for consideration expeditiously.
Neil L. Bradley
cc: Members of the Committee on Education and the Workforce