Casinos: Deregulate electricity but not employees


Utility deregulation becomes quite simple when viewed as class warfare. Big corporations are stacking the deck to stick residential and small business ratepayers with the lion's share of the cost.

During the first phony energy crisis in the 1970s, creative accountants came up with a catchy concept named "cost-based rates." The price of utility service should reflect the cost of providing that service to each class of consumer. Who could disagree? It should come as no surprise that big users obtained volume discounts.

On paper, it's easy to prove that it costs more per kilowatt hour to drop an electric line to your house than it does to deliver to a major mine or hotel. But that's a clever fiction. An electric system is created to serve an entire community. The cost of a kilowatt hour is the cost of a kilowatt hour, which is the proper consumer perspective.

The gambling and mining industries now want even bigger discounts than they have long enjoyed. When you have that kind of clout, the Nevada Legislature passes thick deregulation bills late in the session without review. Now, there's hell to pay.

Only a courageous few, like Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, have had the courage to buck the tide and call the phony charade for what it is. A new consumer group is forming to fight for the little guy. The next meeting of the Nevada Utility Reform Alliance will be held at the Washoe County Library's main branch at Liberty and Center in downtown Reno on Saturday, Feb 24, at 1:00 p.m. For more information, contact Tom Wilson at (775) 841-3220.

REAPPORTIONMENT PRATTLE. The legit news media have propagated a falsehood. The Nevada Constitution requires that reapportionment happen during the session immediately after the decennial U.S. Census. That means at the regular session ending in June. Any talk of postponing reapportionment till a special session later in the year is either a smokescreen to put people to sleep, laziness or ignorance.

ANOTHER GREAT NOR'WESTER GONE. Big Doug Brown was one of those guys you figure would easily live forever. When the Brown Bear wasn't prowling the highways as a CalTrans engineer, he made his home in northwest Reno for the past 44 years or so. If you threw a Super Bowl Party and Doug wasn't there, you were not hosting the A-list event.

Many of the great gray eminences I looked up to as mentors and neighbors have faded. Reno Police Lt. Jim Hartshorne. Operating engineer and deputy state labor commissioner Gail Bishop. Tribune columnist, Common Cause chair and advocate for senior citizens and utility ratepayers Orland T. Outland. For a magical little while, these wise men of northwest Reno worked together to make the Sagebrush Plantation a better place. A memorial service for Doug Brown will be held at 2:00p.m. this Tuesday, Feb. 13, at the First Congregational Church, 627 Sunnyside Drive in Reno. Doug had the good sense to marry an absolutely magnificent anomaly.

Fire-haired Pat Brown remains one of the few casino dealers I've ever known to become actively involved in politics. You have not seen passionate advocacy till you've witnessed Pat Brown launching all missiles at some unfortunate opponent. If the times are changing, it's because the likes of Doug and Pat Brown paved the way.

CASINO CRASHINGS: After decades of shilly-shallying, Las Vegas casino dealers are organizing in a big way. The Transportation Workers Union has scheduled the most ambitious election agenda I've ever seen, a dozen votes over 10 weeks. So far, the union has won two and lost three. Federal charges of illegal activity by hotel management have been filed which may cause a re-run of some of the losses.

Management, as usual, is spending millions to hire $250 per hour union busters to create a climate of fear and intimidation. One result has been a reported hemorrhage of experienced dealers to California tribal casinos, some of which have voluntarily recognized my union, the Communications Workers of America, as representative of their workers.

A decade ago, an Internal Revenue Service drive to tax Nevada tokes spawned the creation of dealer organizations statewide. The recent IRS decision to re-visit the issue and up the ante will fuel new unionization efforts.

HOOKERS AND HARRAH'S. Long before any other paper in these parts, this column told you about Harrah's new national policy mandating makeup and personal appearance standards for public contact employees.

Read More About It:

Hookers vs. Harrah's

Protests set over Harrah's rules

The good soldier vs. St. Jan of Jones

When the neo-cookie cutters got to Reno, they fired longtime bartender Darlene Jespersen for refusing to wear makeup after many years of exemplary service and commendations without it. Jespersen's story made national news.

Starting this Friday and continuing through the weekend, the feisty Alliance for Workers Rights will handbill Harrah's-Reno.

"How bad is the casino industry when the job requirements of a prostitute are more humane and less degrading than those for cocktail servers and bartenders," said cocktail server Kricket Martinez. She chairs the organization's "Kiss My Foot" campaign, which has received worldwide attention and resulted in some Nevada casinos revising their debilitating high heel policies.

Alliance handbills will compare Harrah's Personal Best stringencies with those of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Dayton, Nev. Demonstrators form at 10:30 a.m. at Second and Virginia.

Be well. Raise hell.

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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 . He manages Sen. Neal's website.

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