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Tribe will contest validity of bartenders' union vote

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Mashantucket - The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe asserted Tuesday that it intends to contest a union election in which bartenders and other beverage workers at its Foxwoods Resort Casino voted to affiliate with the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Saturday's election was overseen by the National Labor Relations Board's Hartford office, whose jurisdiction the tribe disputes.

"The tribe continues to maintain that federal labor law does not apply," the tribe, a sovereign nation, said in a statement. " Representatives of the tribe made it clear to the UFCW prior to the election that tribal labor law does not authorize Foxwoods to recognize the results of an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board."

The tribe also said reports that Foxwoods and the UFCW would negotiate a contract under tribal law in the wake of the election "are untrue."

Brian Petronella, president of Local 371 of the UFCW, said he expected the NLRB to set aside the tribe's objections.

"When we first filed our petition, the NLRB's regional director decided in favor of the union and when Foxwoods appealed the decision to the NLRB in Washington, the board upheld the decision to allow an election," he said. "I anticipate any further appeals to be thrown out, whether by the NLRB or the federal courts."

The tribe could have until Monday to file its objections, according to John Cotter, deputy director of the NLRB's Hartford office, who said the NLRB could certify the election's outcome as early as Tuesday. The tribe could also wait for the certification to occur and then challenge it, he said.

If, after certification, the tribe refused to negotiate a contract with the union, the union would be expected to file a complaint against Foxwoods with the NLRB. Eventually, the NLRB in Washington could order Foxwoods to bargain with the union, which could prompt Foxwoods to file an appeal in federal court.

The same process began to play out nearly three years ago after table-games dealers at Foxwoods voted to affiliate with the United Auto Workers. Eventually, the parties agreed to negotiate a contract under tribal rather than federal law, rendering Foxwoods' legal appeal moot.

"I'm hoping they adhere to the decision of the workers," Petronella said. "They negotiated under tribal law with the UAW so I don't understand why we can't sit down and negotiate under tribal law. I've said all along that we're willing to do that."

In Saturday's election, workers voted in favor of union affiliation, 190-145.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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