HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveVolume 19Issue 12National Labor Relations Board Issues Decision in Soaring Eagle Appeal

On Tuesday, April 16, 2013, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) affirmed an administrative law judge’s decision that requires the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort (“Soaring Eagle”) to allow its workers to discuss or promote unionization under certain circumstances. The ruling follows the administrative law judge’s decision issued on March 26, 2012.

The dispute arose out of the dismissal of a housekeeping staff member employed at Soaring Eagle for repeatedly promoting unionization efforts between September 2009 and November 2010 in violation of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s (“Tribe”) non-solicitation policy. In April of 2011, the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America filed an initial complaint with the NLRB alleging that the dismissal and the Tribe’s non-solicitation policy violated sections of the National Labor Relations Act (“Act”). The Tribe argued that the Act did not apply to the Tribe, in part because of the Tribe’s sovereign immunity and government status.

In the March, 2012 ruling, Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas stated that the National Act applied to the Tribe’s activities at the casino and that the non-solicitation policy violated certain sections of the federal law. The decision stated, in part, that “applying the Act to the Tribe’s casino operations would not interfere with its rights of self-governance or intramural matters” and that portions of the non-solicitation policy were “unlawfully overbroad.”

In the Tribe’s Brief in Support appealing this decision, the Tribe argued again that the Act did not apply to the Tribe because of the Tribe’s protected treaty rights, existing NLRB precedent, and because the Tribe is a government and not an “employer” under the Act. Furthermore, the Tribe stated that “the Saginaw Tribe has established through expert testimony in these proceedings the undisputed existence of treaty rights that cannot be abrogated by the Board’s application of the [Act]…the Saginaw Tribe respectfully requests that the Board refrain from asserting jurisdiction over the Saginaw Tribe and that these proceedings be dismissed.”

The brief Decision and Order issued by the NLRB last week adopted the initial Administrative Law Judge’s rulings with slight modifications regarding remedial tax and social security payment considerations. According to the NLRB, the final decision may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6thCircuit.


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