The Rights and Work Conditions The Indian Nation Gambling Employees Have
In addition, the Commission heard testimony from former employees of the Foxwoods Casino, including Fred Sinclair, who described his experience there:
I am part Cherokee and I support the dream of the Pequots and their success. I was at the original employer rally in 1992 and actually believed that they cared about their employees. I put my heart, soul, and thousands of uncompensated hours into Foxwoods. Even though my part may be considered small, I helped the Pequots achieve their dream, only to be severely injured, harassed, stripped of my position, my rights, my job, and my health benefits by the abusive upper management they are responsible for. 100
Tribal representatives have disputed employee claims of poor working conditions. According to Richard G. Hill, Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association:
The record clearly shows Indian Nations provide good jobs, often with wages in excess of the federal minimum wage, health care, retirement, burial insurance, and other fringe benefits. Indian Nation gaming jobs are generally better than other jobs available in the community. We agree that unemployment insurance and workman’s compensation should be available under a Tribal system or the Tribe should participate in a state or federal plan. We reject the notion that Indian Nation non-Indian employees have no rights. Indians and non-Indians are permitted access to grievance procedures at every Indian gaming facility. This objection infers Indian Nations cannot run fair grievance systems and is code for the implication that Indians are not able to govern themselves. This is an extremely prejudicial claim. No Indian Nation testified against Unionization. In fact, Indian people generally perceive Union members as working people like themselves. 101
Although some tribes do not favor unionization, other tribes have taken an alternative approach by entering into labor agreements covering tribal gambling employees. Testifying before the Subcommittee in Seattle, Apesanahkwat, Chairman of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, described one such voluntary agreement between his tribal government and a group of unions, covering the tribe’s proposed off-reservation casino in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This groundbreaking agreement affirms the tribe’s sovereignty and guarantees the rights of tribal gambling employees to organize themselves, join unions, and bargain collectively. Among other things, it provides for employer neutrality on the issue of unionization; union access to employee dining and break rooms; and binding arbitration to settle disputes. The tribe also agrees to participate in the state’s unemployment and workers’ compensation programs. For their part, the unions agree not to engage in strikes, slowdowns, picketing, sit-ins, boycotts, hand-billing, or other economic activity against the tribe’s casino. 102
99 Edith Prague, Testimony Before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Boston, Massachusetts (March 16, 1998) (Connecticut State Senator). 100 Fred Sinclair, Testimony Before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Boston, Massachusetts (March 17, 1998) (Former employee at Foxwoods Casino). 101 Richard G. Hill, Testimony Before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Virginia Beach, Virginia (February 9, 1999) (Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association). 102 Apesanahkwat, Testimony Before the Indian Gambling Subcommittee of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Seattle Washington (January 7, 1999) (Chairman, Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin).