Labor Day Y2K: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Expanded from the 9-3-00 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

STORY OF THE YEAR: SPARKS CITY FATHERS CRIMINALIZE HARD WORK. The grand prize for most memorable workplace moment since Labor Day '99 is a real barrel scraper, and we achieved that new low right here in River City.

Some types of work have long been crimes in some places. Prostitution remains illegal in Nevada's large counties outside the unofficial operations maintained for high rollers at influential hotel-casinos.

Honest sex workers elsewhere in this country and abroad have formed unions to protect their rights. Here, we await coinage of an adequate phrase to replace "double standard."

The disfavored always get screwed here on the Sagebrush Plantation. Epidemic proliferation of low-wage gambling industry employment drags down our standard of living. Meanwhile, governments raise our taxes to take up the slack.

Not long ago, Sparks could boast of being a well-managed town. Now, the Rail City is looking at deficit spending and borrowing from the state.

For two decades, Sparks city government operated scandal-free after the 1975 ousting of the Joe Conforte Council. Over the past few years have come revelations of longstanding, endemic discrimination against the non-white.

Sparks P.D., once noted only for being workmanlike and inconspicuous, gained fame for ignoring rape victims and busting peacefully picketing trade unionists.

The City of Sparks has now chosen to make criminals of men of various colors who show up in the morning along Galletti Way seeking no more than a day's pay for a hard day's work. For its actions to protect the citizenry from the harm of people working for money, the city government and its police force rate as Nevada labor story of the year.

WORKING CRIMINALS, PART DEUX. U.S. incarceration of more people per capita than Red China may comfort some, but tough talk and expensive prisons look foolish when compared to the obvious: the violent crime rate and the unemployment rate have fallen almost in unison. Give people jobs with a future and they're less likely to commit crimes. Brilliant insight.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR. Just at deadline came a phone call from Gene McConville, recently retired international president of the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America. He asked me to announce that the battle of the little union that could is finally over. Local 1010 has defeated Hilton, the biggest, fattest, meanest, maddest gambling company in the world.

Late last week, the Reno Hilton's security staff overwhelmingly ratified a new six-year contract. Regular readers will recall that in January of 1997, Hilton illegally fired its guards for unionizing. Hilton got its corporate ass kicked at every step of the judicial process and now owes its workers somewhere between $3 million and $4 million.

Nevada SPFPA members in the heat in front of the Reno Hilton during the 1996 Hot August Strike during the Hot August Nights rock'n'rods nostalgiafest, the region's largest special event. Left to right are Jack Stratton, Jay Vanderpool, Al Corral, and Chuck Fisher. Search the word "Hilton" on this website for the complete history.

Among other items in a very advantageous contract: an annual four percent cost of living raise. This is a rarity given that companies today are loathe to grant even two percent, while inflation has been running between two and three.

Some of Hilton's subcontracted replacements have been hired by the hotel and are covered by the union contract. They are eligible to become members.

Meanwhile, Hilton seems to be stonewalling Culinary Union negotiations at both its Reno properties.

COLD STEEL. Down in Laughlin, where the Flamingo Hilton guards are likewise SPFPA-unionized, the United Steelworkers are finally negotiating a contract for hotel-casino workers after years of fighting the Hilton's scorched earth policies.

DEALING THEMSELVES IN. Major labor organizations are talking with longtime Las Vegas casino dealers' leader Tony Badillo of the National Federation of Gaming Employees (the new handle for the long-established Nevada Casino Dealers Association). This will come as heartening news for my readers in London and Buenos Aires who are organizing dealers in those exotic locales.

The 55,000-member Culinary Union has said it is not interested in representing casino dealers.

STRIKING WHILE THE IRON IS HOT. When they saw the company negotiating toward impasse, the Reno Hilton security guards walked out during Hot August Nights '96. They won the Hot August Strike because their timing was perfect.

So it is for casino dealers right now, according to reformed union-buster turned author Martin J. Levitt.

"This is a group that controls the well-being of the business," Levitt said, "they're not going to be fooled around with."

WASHOE MEDICAL CENTER nurses should heed Levitt's advice. The frontliners at northern Nevada's largest hospital remain overworked, stonewalled and starved to death since voting to unionize last year.

Management is conducting superficial negotiations while undercutting union solidarity. Patient care, their reason for organizing, continues to suffer. Unfavorable nurse-to-patient ratios constantly grind them down.

THERE OUGHTTA BE A LAW. Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, is considering introducing legislation to force hospitals to use safer needles. Without a union, health care workers are at the mercy of management when it comes to protecting them from potentially lethal accidental needle sticks.

The nurses must strike.


Look what a mere strike threat just won for Firestone workers.

LEGAL DECISION OF THE YEAR: A court ruling that temporary workers can join unions at companies where their temp services place them.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR: "We think that salaries should not be based on inflation, but the performance of the workers and the results of the company," Jose Luis Rodriguez told the New York Times. He is the general secretary of the union representing workers at Volkswagen Mexico.

They won a raise of double the cost of living after a two-week strike at the only plant in the world making the hot-selling VW Beetle. The final package represented a 21 percent hike. Strategic, well-managed strikes work.

STRIKE THIS TUESDAY: Vote against the three dissembling, duplicitous dastards seeking re-election to the Reno City Council. Tom Herndon, Pierre Hascheff and Dave Aiazzi simply should not hold public office.

The citizen dissidents need poll workers to gather petition signatures to place recall of Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin on the November ballot. Their deadline is this Thursday. Call (775) 322-7100 right now.

You may sign the petition from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Piece of the Pie Pizza They are located at the north (Plumb Lane) entrance to Park Lane Mall.

You may drop by Reno City Council Candidate Mike Robinson's office at 475 Hill Street in downtown Reno between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

You may also sign during regular business hours at The Gun Trader, 467 E. Plumb Lane, and College Cyclery, 622 S. Virginia St., both in Reno.

Be well. Raise hell.

NevadaLabor.com | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 31-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past four years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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