Beware the answer to the unasked question
Updated 3-9-2008

Beautiful Nevada has always struck me as a precocious teenager of changling face and fickle mood. At the turn of a card, she can become frighteningly ugly while still flashing that hypnotic smile.

She was battle born a sexy Scorpio and lives by the sting to this very day. A gritty survival made this abused child greedy. Pleasure provides her only motivation.

She makes her living selling the illusion of gratification, exploiting others while mostly pleasing herself.

She has not progressed far from the tent-infested mining camps of her birth. Indeed, she remains pockmarked everywhere by modern boomtowns filled with prospectors extracting gold from mining pits or casino pits.

To adolescent Nevada, the game's the thing and we prefer to play 24 hours a day. To let the good times roll, the perpetual party must be controlled, the plantation order maintained.

If customers are mere raw materials, then fieldhands are disposable. Which brings me to the Paycheck Protection Act (or Workers' Rights Initiative, depending on the labeling whims of the week).

Why would we not rise as one with unbridled joy that someone from on high wants to lay a little cash on the great unwashed?

Well, for one thing, we know from hard experience that when cheered on to rise as one, it's usually so someone behind us can steal our chairs. When offered money for nothing and the kicks for free, we have learned to inspect for the joker in the deck.

The Paycheck Protection initiative petition now proselytized by the Republican Party promises to save aggrieved Nevada workers from having their hard-earned union dues spent on — gasp — politics.

Didn't you know that our streets are daily filled with people marching and chanting for such needed legislation? Haven't you seen them all?

Neither have I.

Answering questions no one cares enough to ask is a rude practice usually limited to car salesmen and hate-radio hosts. But don't we need protection from profligate union bosses who might spend, say, two dollars a month on follytix?

Not really. No Nevada employee has to pay union dues in the first place. Here in the workers paradise, you can labor in a union shop and receive free union representation and all the pay and benefits won by it. Under our Right to Work Law, you can take the ride without buying a ticket, courtesy of dues-paying union members.

That unfair subsidy was imposed on them by a 1952 business-funded ballot question which won by 1,034 votes. Union victims of that cruel act have long needed paycheck protection from it. For 46 years, their dues have provided welfare to non-union freeloaders.

"Right to Work" is perhaps the cleverest advertising slogan ever devised, largely because it sold something which has never existed. If you have a right to work, then why can you be fired at will under Nevada law?

The net effect of such statutes over the past 50 years has been to shrink Big Labor from 35 percent to 15 percent of the national workforce. In Nevada, just over 20 percent of jobs are unionized, primarily reflecting Las Vegas growth.

The Nevada GOP has purchased saturation-bombing radio schedules all over the state promoting this unpublished petition still being drafted by lawyers. All to rescue nameless persons who have not asked for salvation.

What gives?

Power. Control. Adolescent Nevada boomtown mining camp card game greed. Maximizing profits becomes easier if you control the government. While Little Labor is weaker than at any time since WWII, the movement still managed to put $35 million into play in the '96 elections.

That's a lot of money on a crapshoot which resulted in winning neither chamber of congress. Could the reason lie in the fact that business interests spent somewhere between 11 and 19 times more, depending on whose research you read?

The results of 1996 nonetheless showed that the old fighter still has legs. So the minions of big business are moving to break them.

When you join the National Geographic Society or American Association of Retired Persons, you get a magazine subscription, some issue advocacy and a few perks. Applying the principles of the GOP anti-union drive to these organizations, every subscriber should get to make editorial and management decisions. No more pictures of naked hippopotami. Put pants on them.

Modern Maturity would never print another edition under such anarchy. And that's the point of it all — silencing worker advocates by bleeding them of their resources. Burden them with new mountains of expensive paperwork, the costly staff to compile it, lawyers and accountants to review and consult on it.

That's not nearly all. It would further require an expensive and expansive new taxpayer-funded state bureaucracy, complete with attorneys and auditors, to conduct oversight and compliance.

While I'm all for creating new jobs, the money for these will come from only one place: worker and taxpayer paychecks, which I thought everyone was in favor of protecting.

If you don't like an article in Newsweek, can you get part of your subscription price back? Union members can do just that. Under federal law, those who choose to pay dues can already withold them from politics. Voluntary support is allocated by majority vote.

Unions are already the most heavily regulated private organizations in this country which imposes the most repressive labor laws in the industrialized world. Attempts to impose additional micromanagement by government serve only to further weaken worker power to fight shrinking paychecks and dwindling opportunities.

Taking the only organized voice of workers out of the political game produces legislatures committed to maintaining this plantation in the style to which its owners have become accustomed.

Never sign nothing was a rule old gamblers lived by. It remains a good one today as adolescent Nevada fights growing up.

Be well. Raise hell.


Copyright © 1998, 2008 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 29-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 1/11/98.


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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.

      RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006

Annual César Chávez Celebration


Copyright © 1982-2008 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, editor of and; a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO, and the Reno-Sparks NAACP. 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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