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Tribal Casino, Union Agree to Deal

October 28, 1999

VIEJAS INDIAN RESERVATION, Calif. (AP) _ Tribal and union leaders have signed the first collective bargaining contract covering workers at an Indian casino in California.

Tribal sovereignty exempts Indian tribes from the National Labor Relations Act, which gives U.S. workers the right to unionize. Tribal officials had resisted allowing unions to talk to casino workers, saying it would forfeit the tribes’ right to free speech.

But gambling compacts Gov. Gray Davis recently signed with 57 California tribes include a provision allowing workers to petition for a union vote.

The compacts were signed to legalize Indian gambling and allow the expansion of slot machines on tribal lands. The compacts came after U.S. attorneys threatened to enforce a federal court order to shut down tribal casinos that followed a successful court challenge to a voter-approved ballot measure that legalized gambling in the state.

The chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Anthony Pico, on Wednesday signed the collective bargaining contract with the Communications Workers of America Local 9400.

The two-year contract, which goes into effect Nov. 25, calls for a salary increase and benefits equaling a 15 percent pay hike for nearly 700 service and maintenance employees at the Viejas Casino & Turf Club, about 30 miles east of San Diego. Pay increases range from 42 cents per hour to $1.40 per hour.

Micheal Hartigan, executive vice president of the CWA local, said he believes the deal paves the way for other tribes to agree to similar contracts.

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