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California unions, tribes battle over compacts

28 November 2006

SACRAMENTO, California – As reported by the Sacramento Bee: "In the waning hours of the 2006 legislative session, lawmakers were asked to approve an extraordinary expansion of casino gambling: agreements to allow five of California's richest Indian tribes to add up to 22,500 new slot machines.

"The compacts signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised the state a cut of the action -- $13.4 billion to $22.4 billion over 25 years, depending on casino profits and the number of slots actually installed.

"But the compacts stalled. Lawmakers wilted under pressure from wealthy Southern California tribes backing the pacts and opposition from a powerful union demanding its own cut of the action through labor accords that could help unionize thousands of casino workers.

"Now two of the state's most potent political constituencies -- unions and casino-operating tribes -- are poised to take up the struggle again as a new Legislature goes to work in January.

"…The unions thought they had won a breakthrough in 2004 when Schwarzenegger signed casino compacts with five tribes -- including the United Auburn and Rumsey Indian bands near Sacramento. The accords included 'card check neutrality' -- a provision allowing unions to sign up casino workers without secret ballots or tribal government participation.

"But for five Southern California tribes operating casinos under earlier 1999 compacts, such language was viewed as a brazen attack on sovereignty.

"The labor-friendly language was left out of compacts Schwarzenegger negotiated to allow major casino expansions for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation…"

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