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International Operating Engineer - Spring 2018

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The quarterly magazine of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Politics & Legislation

Politics & Legislation Legislation Would Eliminate Workers’ Rights on Tribal Lands In April, the United States Senate voted on legislation that would strip hundreds of thousands of American workers of their fundamental rights in the workplace, if they worked for tribalowned businesses on Native American lands. In his letter to senators, General President Callahan called the legislation, “the biggest rollback of labor law since the passage of the Taft- Hartley Act in 1947.” The legislation is focused on the tribal gaming industry – a billion enterprise in the United States – but would also extend to every other operation of the tribe. Operating Engineers are employed at some of these facilities at locations all over the United States, from Connecticut to California. The legislation had already passed in the House of Representatives, but stalled in the Senate when it failed to obtain a required supermajority of 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Eight Senate Democrats supported the bill and voted to eliminate workers’ rights. They are both New Mexico Senators, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, Montana Senator Jon Tester, North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, both Virginia Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Senate Independent, who aligns with the Democrats, Angus King of Maine. Twenty-three Democrats voted to strip workers’ rights in the House of Representatives. Only fifteen Republicans voted with the IUOE. They are some of our closest Republican allies. The IUOE secured the support of one Senate Republican, Rob Portman of Ohio. His vote ensures that it is impossible to secure the 60 votes necessary to overcome the opposition. The bill died and is unlikely to come up again this session of Congress, though efforts have been made to include it in other must-pass legislation. The bill, S.140 (as amended in the House), changes current law by exempting the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) from tribal enterprises on tribal lands. Native American tribes own ski resorts, mines, commercial farms, golf courses, sawmills, construction firms, restaurants, entertainment facilities, and other businesses. None of them would have to comply with national labor law, if they are operated by the tribe and not a management company. If a management company operates the facility, the workers retain their private-sector labor rights. Hundreds of members of IUOE Local 953 are employed at a coal mine that is owned by the Navajo Nation in Farmington, New Mexico. The mine is currently operated by another company, not a Navajo tribal enterprise, which means that it would not be exempted from labor law. The tribal business must also be operated by the tribe, not a management company. There is, however, currently no definition of “tribal enterprise” anywhere else in law, and if this legislation passed, “creative” definitions of tribal enterprises would no doubt be tested in the courts. This bill is a poorly disguised attack on workers’ rights. Passage of this bill would strip employees of tribal enterprises of their right to form unions and bargain collectively. Close to 700,000 people work at Indian gaming facilities. Over 600,000 of them are not Native American. Hundreds of Operating Engineers work in Native American gaming operations. Local 30 represents hundreds of workers at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut and recently added 45 workers in an organizing drive. Locals 39 and 501 also represent hundreds of members at tribal gaming operations. The tribes maintain that they want to be treated like a state government. They argue that exempting them from private-sector labor law is a matter of sovereignty. But states don’t operate a billion dollar gaming industry with 700,000 workers. Testimony from the Native American Rights Fund laid bare the real reason for the legislation: The tribes want it because it will keep unions off the reservations. Another tribal witness said that they want to deny workers the right to strike. Make no mistake, this legislation is a business proposition for the Tribes. They are wielding their political power in an attempt to squash the fundamental rights of their employees. According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, Indian gaming generated billion in revenue in fiscal year 2013 and operated 449 gaming facilities. Indian gaming enterprises also collectively paid 250 lobbyists over million to lobby Congress in 2014 and they contributed over million in the 2014 election cycle to federal candidates and committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. [left] Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) voted to support the rights of Operating Engineers and other workers who are employed by tribal-owned businesses on Native American lands. Operating Engineers Beat Back Another Attack on Davis-Bacon ANTI-UNION ZEALOT, Congressman Steve King (R-IA), for the fourth time this Congress, introduced legislation which targeted the Davis-Bacon Act. King introduced an amendment to H.R. 4, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which would have ensured that “no funds made available by the FAA Reauthorization Act could be used to enforce prevailing wage requirements required under the Davis-Bacon Act.” Like Rep. King’s previous attacks, this legislation was also defeated on the House floor. With the support of 57 Republicans the amendment was defeated by a vote of 172-243 on April 26th. We were happy to welcome the following first-time Republican supporters of the Davis-Bacon Act – Rep. Don Bacon (NE), Rep. Mike Bishop (MI), Rep. Billy Long (MO), and Chris Stewart (UT). Congressman Steve King believes that construction workers make too much money and the Davis-Bacon Act increases overall construction costs. However, the Davis-Bacon Act is just a common-sense policy which requires that contractors on a project with federal support – whether through federal loans, grants, or other types of financing – pay construction craftworkers a minimum wage that is established by the U.S. Department of Labor through a local survey of wages and benefits. The law simply prevents the federal government – a large, influential construction owner – from using precious tax dollars to undercut wage standards of local workers. It helps ensure quality construction, and it prevents large out-of-state contractors from undercutting local businesses. It ensures that bottom-feeding contractors can’t win a public construction project by lowering workers’ wages in a never-ending race to the bottom. They must compete on a level playing field with IUOE union contractors. Furthermore, the Davis-Bacon Act has no effect on total costs of construction. Opponents of the law invent imaginary savings to justify their anti-worker positions. Numerous studies have revealed that productivity makes up for any additional labor costs, essentially eliminating any cost-savings if the law was repealed. As long as Rep. Steve King remains in Congress, the Operating Engineers should expect more of his anti-union attacks, but King should expect the Operating Engineers to continue to defeat his anti-union agenda with the help of our members and supporters in Congress. ENGINEERS ACTION & RESPONSE NETWORK REGISTER TODAY! WWW.IUOE.ORG 12 INTERNATIONAL OPERATING ENGINEER SPRING 2018 13

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