“They looked us in the face and lied.” Those are the words of Diane Enos, President of the Salt River-Pima-Maricopa Indian Community when she testified, under oath, on July 23, 2014 before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Her words are blunt and unequivocal. It is an expression of utter frustration and betrayal perpetrated by Tohono O’odham (TO) on virtually every Tribe in the state. What other lies may be on the horizon?

Here is one. What about the 6,000 construction jobs promised by the TO in its effort to sell the casino to an unsuspecting public? Large casino construction projects across the country generally average about 2,000 jobs. In California the Graton Rancheria Tribe constructed an $800 million entertainment and gaming destination. It resulted in 750 construction jobs. Mike Sunnucks in a July 28, 2014 story for the Phoenix Business Journal quotes Libby Francisco, COO of of the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise as saying, “…the first construction phase will employ 3,500 workers…” If my math is correct, that is a little over half of the construction jobs promised by the TO. So much for their promise of 6,000 construction jobs. Might this be lie #2?

The Tohono O’odham do not have approval to place gaming on their newly designated reservation but that has not deterred them from hiring construction companies. Sunnucks says, “The Tohono O’odham Nation has picked Hunt Construction Group and Penta Building Group…” as their contractors. These companies will, in turn, hire sub-contractors for electrical, plumbing, concrete work, etc. These subs will put out a call to hire for this project. Men and women will come from all over the country and be hired. It will not matter where the workers come from as long as they can do the work at the hourly wage that Hunt and Penta’s sub-contractors will offer.

My family members are or were union members. Some are still actively employed and others are retired. All their work lives at one time or another, for short periods of time and sometimes for a year or better, they have worked out-of-state on large, mega construction projects. They go where the work is and the competition for these jobs is fierce.

Arizona’s unions have been most vocal in their support of the proposed TO casino as visions of local, union construction jobs dance in their heads. If these unions have a behind-closed-doors, back-slapping “understanding” with the TO about using local, union labor exclusively they better get it in writing and insist on a waiver of the Nation’s claim to sovereign immunity. Without a waiver they cannot sue for breach of contract. The TO will not be directly hiring any of the construction workers. The sub-contractors hired by Hunt Construction and Penta Building Group will do the hiring and they will decide based upon what works to maximize their bottom line. Might this be lie #3?

There is more to come, such as the wages paid for permanent jobs, but I’ll save that for another blog. You may consider the Tohono O’odham’s word as suspect and many do. It certainly should be on the minds of the Glendale city council for just like the Tribes throughout the state they may learn, painfully, that any promises, understandings, compacts or contracts are not worth the paper they are written on without a waiver of sovereign immunity. The TO could promise anyone anything and not deliver on their promise – just as they did to their sister Tribes – and then use their shield of immunity.  Remember President Enos’ words, “They looked us in the face and lied.” Who wants to take that chance?

© Joyce Clark, 2014


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