State shouldn’t mess with state’s 6th largest employer

13 October 2011

Minnesota’s Indian tribes, viewed collectively, are the 6th largest employer in Minnesota, based on a list of the top 50 state employers published last week by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal.

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said that’s a good reason for the state to avoid any actions that might put tribal jobs at risk. He was referring to recent proposals that would expand gambling to racetracks or other metro area locations, forcing substantial job cuts at tribal casinos as well as reductions in tribal government programs and services.

MIGA tribes directly employ 20,550 workers. That makes the tribes #6 among the state’s ten largest employers. The “big ten” are:

#1: State of Minnesota, 40,208
#2: U.S. Federal Government, 34,000
#3: Mayo Foundation, 32,893
#4: Target Corp, 30,500
#5: Allina Health System, 23,302
#6: Wal-Mart Stores, 20,434
#7: Fairview Health Services, 20,434
#8: Wells Fargo Bank, 20,000
#9: University of MN, 19,157
#10: MN State Colleges and Universities, 18,516

Four of the top ten are taxpayer-supported or government institutions. Although Indian gaming is operated by tribal governments, it is not funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

Nearly three-fourths of the MIGA jobs–more than 16,000–are in rural Minnesota, which makes the jobs and benefits even more indispensable to the state’s economy. MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said, “The numbers are very clear–MIGA jobs are a huge factor in Minnesota’s economy, especially in rural areas. The state should be looking for ways to preserve and protect those jobs, not put them at risk with bad policy decisions.”

McCarthy noted that tribal jobs have been created and sustained at no cost to taxpayers. “No other job creation program in the history of the state has been as successful as Indian gaming,” he said.

In addition, McCarthy said, despite reduced revenues due to the economic slowdown, tribes have made every effort to avoid lay-offs, making cuts in other budget areas in order to preserve the jobs and benefits that their employees depend on.

“Indian tribes are not like private businesses,” he said. “They can’t just pack up and move when things get tough. That’s why they work so hard to be good neighbors and responsible employers. They’re here for the long haul, so they’re very committed to their local communities.”

For these reasons, McCarthy concluded, state policy makers should avoid any actions that might compromise the ability of tribes to preserve existing jobs, especially in rural areas.

“If these lawmakers really care about jobs, they won’t do anything that would force the state’s 6th largest employer to eliminate good jobs with full benefits,” he said. “No matter what gambling expansion scenario you look at, the bottom line is the same: tribal jobs in rural Minnesota will disappear, and they’ll never be replaced. That doesn’t help the State of Minnesota one bit.”