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Thursday, 18 December, 2014

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Tribal leaders panel at the National Council for Tribal Employment Right conference in Las Vegas. (Submited photo)


LAS VEGAS, Nevada — A historic signing of a Memorandum of Understanding occurred December 11 between the Council for Tribal Employment Rights (CTER) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
The signing occurred at the annual National Council for Tribal Employment Rights conference.
The MOU promotes cooperation and a beneficial working relationship between OFCCP and CTER to conduct outreach, education and compliance assistance that promotes the hiring, retention and advancement of Native Americans to protect their employment rights.
OFCCP is a civil rights agency within the U.S. Department of Labor. The agency enforces three laws that establish authority Executive Order 11246 as amended; Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974. The laws prohibit employment discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors, as well as by federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors holding contracts that meet or exceed certain thresholds. The laws require all federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified minorities, women, individuals with disabilities and protected veterans.
OFCCP has crated the Indian and Native American Employment Rights Program (INAERP) that advance awareness of employment rights issues for Indian and Native American wage earners and job seekers who are employed by or seek employment with companies doing business with the federal government. The MOU says INAERP will develop meaningful partnerships with CTER and its designees including the Tribal Employment Rights Offices (TEROs).
A tribal leaders panel discussion featured Conrad Stewart, Crow Tribe, Fred Fox of the Three Affiliated Tribes, and Brian Porter of the Swinomish Tribe. Porter and other leaders stressed the importance of how Indian gaming operations on reservations are key in providing contracting and employment opportunity back to tribal people and TERO fees for training.
In addition, natural resource development was addressed. Stewart stressed that tribes need to be smart and understand the federal government is getting out of the Indian business and cutting funding daily to tribes so opportunities need to be created.
Kristen Burge, Crow Tribe attorney, did a presentation on the Office of Management and Budget circular reinforcing that is does not change or trump TERO Indian preference ordinances and regulation requirements in Indian Country. If people say different the national TERO attorney can address the issue.
Shoshone-Bannock TERO staff members Wesley Edmo and Chris Hugues did conference presentations. Edmo presented on the importance of enforcement of worker protection on reservations and building legal safeguards to protect tribal sovereignty. They also showed participants how they’re enforcing chapter 7 of the Tribes Worker Protection Ordinance, “The Tribal Occupational and Safety Administration” or TOSHA.  “We are the only tribe with a functional TOSHA with regulations and a citation process as well as a fine schedule,” Edmo said. They received good support from other tribes and a couple has requested assistance in developing their TOSHA programs.
Hugues talked about the trainings he, along with Rick Edmo are teaching every week to the tribal workforce and contractors who lack safety training. All contractors and tribal job seekers who are working on projects on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation are required by the TERO Commission and department to have a minimum of 10 certification hours before working on the rez. It is to minimize risk but also to have employees know what their rights are and employers be aware of their legal requirements in providing a safe workplace.
Contractors must complete Job Hazard Analysis JHA questionnaires through the TOSHA staff, provide proof and present a Safety Plan specific to how they will address job hazards and minimize risk to workers. They must also have a plan as to how they will be implementing these safety plans on the job on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.