God calls a genuine Nevada heroine home

Expanded from the 10-20-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Sometimes God does the writing.

I was all set to fire off the predictable political potshots at the usual suspects until the late news Friday night. KTVN TV-2 ran a list of victims names, noting that Jessica A. Gomes, 45, was one of three killed in a horrendous crash on US395 between Carson City and Gardnerville. Some guy in a truck crossed into opposing traffic, launched himself and hit two other vehicles. Alcohol is suspected, according to press reports. The truck first hit a vehicle driven by Michelle Campbell, 39, then the one driven by Jess.


Jessica Ann Hale Gomes

My friend Jess is dead. A genuine heroine of the Nevada Labor Hall of Fame. That rare person of Gibraltaresque integrity who is willing to put personal and family security at risk by standing up for a principal.

God called my friend Jess home last Friday. The world is poorer for her passing.
During the UPS national strike of 1997, I was working for the picketing Teamsters, as I still do.

A union executive called to ask if I was interested in a story from Gardnerville, where Bently Nevada had just fired two women for refusing to sign for UPS packages. Boy, was I interested.

Jessica Gomes, then 40, and Carlene O'Neil, then 56, were both U.S. Marine Corps veterans working in Bently's office. Neither was a union member.

"We were raised that you don't cross picket lines," Gomes told me.

Jessica's Story

Fired for refusal to sign for UPS packages during 1997 strike

After a long legal struggle,
won reinstatement and a modest cash settlement

A profile in courage

Carson City newspaper — Family mourns loss of "incredible heart"

"Signing for a package would have been like doing that. You're taking bread and butter out of people's mouths if you do it," she said.

"I really loved my job," O'Neil told me. "It's tough when you're 56 and have to put down on an application that you were terminated from your last job."

Life thereafter became really, really hard. Carlene was out of work for five months until she was hired as a casino change runner. Jess had already been working in a casino to supplement her income. Unable to make enough at Bently to support her children and disabled husband, she took a second job running keno.

"It's tough to go from $9 an hour to $5, especially when I had to work two jobs before anyway," she said. Bently even fought the womens' claims for unemployment insurance.

Teamsters Local 533 CEO Lou Martino ordered union lawyers Mike Langton and Larry Yenko to defend Gomes and O'Neil to the ends of the earth. They won their unemployment appeals and then began a long process of correcting their illegal firings.

The case made it all the way to the Washington, DC, Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, one rung below the Supremes. The odds of winning at that level were less than three in 100. The court ruled that Jess and Carlene had been illegally fired. Langton and Yenko negotiated a cash settlement with Bently.

Organized labor throughout Nevada contributed money to help the ladies survive until they could reorganize their lives. I will let you know the family's wishes about helping them now and about funeral arrangements.

We are all richer that Jessica Gomes passed this way.

TWO-TIMING RENO CITY HALL. Anyone interested in helping put a leash on Charter Cable, please show up both Monday and Tuesday at Reno City Hall. At 7:00 p.m. tomorrow in the Reno Council Chambers, the city's franchise renewal consultant and city staff are hosting a second and probably final public meeting.

IF YOU CAN'T ATTEND, PLEASE SEND YOUR COMMENTS TO Trudy Cross, the city's project manager.

E-mail is cool, as is fax to her attention at (775) 334-2097, or U.S. Postal Service to Cable TV Public Meeting
City of Reno
P.O. Box 1900
Reno, NV 89501

Here's part of a memo from Trudy Cross, a city CPA: "Our consultant (Robert Sepe) suggested that you may want to see if you can garner some additional representation at this meeting from the public access side, producers, educators, etc. Quite frankly, there is nothing the City can do about specific programming that Charter offers on which tier, or pricing other than the basic tier. We've heard plenty of complaints about these issues," she stated.

"What we really need from this meeting is to hear from the segments which the City can use in negotiations to demonstrate that there is a 'public need' for what we are asking for. Can you help us out here?

"In past discussions, the consultant mentioned that at the previous meeting, the small business side didn't seem to be represented — those who might need access to Charter's pipeline to improve their operations. This could be very important for this region as we attempt to diversify the economy from casinos to technology-oriented companies.

"(Mr. Sepe) thought from your comments at the last meeting that you seemed to be plugged in to the public access side. Are there any groups (maybe in addition to churches?) or producers who are experiencing difficulty getting public access to the point the City would need another PEG (public-educational-governmental) access channel?

"He mentioned that 'futuristic' or 'visionary' type folks who are knowledgeable about the potential of cable/broadband in this area for the next five to 10 years would be very useful to this process. Bob added that entrepreneurial or (business) start-up types would have an interest in expanded broadband capabilities.

"Those with a bent toward public education might wish to see more quality cultural programming and programming in a variety of languages. Bob asked especially about the 'home school' population in this area.

"I'm not sure if there is a large group here, but they should have every opportunity to express what they would like to see in this area for the benefit of their children.

"Finally, have you heard from any citizens who have had problems with Charter's customer service responsiveness other than rates or programming? For instance, people who might have had their sprinklers torn up during an installation, not received a notice that Charter would be working in their yard (e.g., door hanger notification), or given the past bad experience in Reno with the cable installer who turned out to be a murderer, are there any citizens who have had security concerns with cable employees sent to their homes?

"We are planning to run news and radio ads as before, and advertise on our web site. The meeting will also be televised on SNCAT and we may be offering a call-in segment as well."

The meeting will go live on Sierra Nevada Community Access Television cable channel 13 and will be rebroadcast this Thursday and Friday at 8:00 p.m., also on SNCAT TV-13.

The Reno City Council will vote on an ordinance establishing a cable advisory board sometime on its Tuesday agenda. It then may name the members of the panel. I understand there have a been a lot of applications.

Watch for updates.

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Copyright © 2002, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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