Med: Renowned for ripping us off
Special Internet Edition 4-10-2008
Updated 4-11-2008, 4-13-2008, 7-9-2009
Worker intimidation is in full furious flower at Washoe Med/Renown today.
DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN Washoe Med nurses picket during a one-day strike on 6-23-2001. The issues were the same as during a 1990 organizing drive and remain today: Understaffing which erodes patient care so that the conglomerate may profit and proliferate on the backs of health care consumers and taxpayers.
Reno is undergoing a corporate version of the legendary Vietnam-era thinking that "it was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."
Bargaining in bad faith in order to bust out its nurses union, Washoe Med/Renown lawyers have reportedly put out a letter threatening to fire any worker caught picketing today at Pickett Park across from the corporate behemoth's main campus on Mill Street.
The company is apparently hanging its horned hat on the omission of a specific time for the scheduled 12:30 p.m. demonstration in one letter, although all details have been relayed in a timely manner in other communications according to union members close to the situation.
Section 8(g) of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act provides, that "[a] labor organization before engaging in any strike, picketing, or other concerted refusal to work at any health care institution shall, not less than ten days prior to such action, notify the institution in writing and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service of that intention. . . .The notice shall state the date and time that such action will commence. The notice, once given, may be extended by the written agreement of both parties."
The additional notices are not mentioned in today's Reno Gazette-Journal article. Neither is the bogus nature of the firing threat nor the reason that the Service Employees International Union has decided to demonstrate elsewhere.
The union maintains adequate notice has been given, but the level of company intimidation is already so high that the union did not want to allow management another club with which to terrorize its nurses.
U.S. workers suffer from the most repressive labor laws in the industrialized world. In order to bust unions, ceremonial beheadings of union activists are frequently conducted. Illegally fired workers can be reinstated, but the process is costly and usually takes years, sometimes a decade. Corporate executives get their egos involved and would rather pay lawyers $500 an hour than settle with their workers for a comparative pittance.
In today's RGJ, the union criticizes high Washoe Med/Renown executive salaries and bonuses coupled with increasing prices to consumers.
Neither Washoe Med/Renown nor the union go to the root of the problem: the 1985 theft of the county hospital by the current ownership.
Three Washoe County commissioners of questionable virtue were schmoozed, canoodled or bamboozled into giving the hospital away for about $3 million when it was worth up to $134.2 million in 1985 dollars. The tradeoff was supposed to be that the new entity would reduce health care costs and take the burden of indigent care off the backs of the taxpayers.
The 1995 Washoe County Grand Jury Report (available exclusively at NevadaLabor.com) details how both promises were quickly broken. Instead of reducing costs, Washoe Health System plowed the next 20 years of profits into empire building and salary padding, while goosing patients and grinding employees.
A contributing factor came when the Nevada Legislature allowed the sunsetting of health care cost controls. Given the current health care crisis which no current presidential candidate adequately addresses, it is high time for the 2009 Nevada legislative session to revisit and revive those highly effective cost controls from the 1980s.
The long-term erosion of union power is a major factor behind the fact that the average American worker hasn't had a raise since 1973.
As the late reformed union buster Martin Levitt once said, in order to break a union, you have to turn the entire company over to union-busting consultants and let them impose a scorched-earth strategy.
Levitt, co-author with Terry Conrow of Confessions of a Union Buster (Crown Books, 1993), also advised that companies could settle with their workers for a fraction of the cost that they pay the country's 10,000+ union-busting firms to destroy morale and company cohesion.
Levitt, who before his death repented the error of his ways in practicing what he termed "a gruesome profession," said he only lost five union-busting campaigns in his entire career.
The only worker organizations that beat him "refused to break solidarity," Levitt told the 1997 Nevada State AFL-CIO convention in Las Vegas.
Therein lies the lesson for Washoe Med/Renown nurses and its wealthy management on this dark day in Nevada labor history.
Be well. Raise hell.
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The Dean's List
The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.
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Copyright © 1982-2008 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org; a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO; political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP; and producer of the annual César Chávez celebration. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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