Messages from Peter and Paul on the longest day


from the 6-20-99 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune

Regular readers know that I'm now the governor of Nevada. Ma Bell said so.

A few weeks back (Barbwire, May 2, 1999), a lady from a southern state dialed information for the number of the governor's office. The phone company gave her mine.

Ma Bell recently struck again. I'm now the paper.

A man from Oregon named Peter called me to subscribe.

"Which paper?" said I. Peter did not know. He had asked information for the number of "the paper" and they gave him Gov. Barbano.

Not even Jesse Ventura controls both state government and major media.

Word is spreading. I just got a paper-mail letter from Great Britain.

"I am a croupier and union rep for the British Transport and General Workers' Union in a London casino," wrote a gentleman named Paul.

"We are currently in the midst of an organizing campaign among casino workers," he wrote.

The Londoner found my name in the Las Vegas Sun and wants help because "gaming workers have been traditionally difficult to unionize." (Sound familiar?)

The Englander, too, somehow located the new seat of power in Nevada and never once mentioned Steve Wynn.

Which brings me to a gentleman from Sparks named Thomas.

"Thank you for the great quote you attribute to W. Somerset Maugham in your piece printed in the May 30 Tribune, to wit: "If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.'

"I trust that you accept Maugham's truism regarding the preservation of freedom," Thomas writes, "yet I understand you to be a strong supporter of forced union membership. Can you see the hypocrisy? It seems to me that a supporter of true freedom will support anyone's right to freely join or not join a union," Thomas asserts.

Actually, Thomas, I'm every bit as fair as you. When it comes to respect for people's labor, I'm absolutely compulsive. That's how I was raised.

I think people should be free to join unions if they want. I likewise don't believe that union members should be forced to pay for representational services for non-members. But under the 1947 federal Taft-Hartley Act, states can pass laws which compel unions to provide services to free-riders who also get the same pay and benefits negotiated by unions for their workers.

The act was passed over Pres. Truman's veto by the Newt Gingrich congress of its day and has had the desired effect. Union ranks have been thinned by more than half. Generous campaign contributions have been returned millions of times over. Encouraged by a corporate-controlled government, the U.S. now routinely exports good-paying manufacturing jobs to fourth-world countries.

We taxpayers are now building a superhighway from Mexico to Canada to better facilitate the import of cheap products.

The road had to be jogged through Mississippi at a humongous extra cost, but that's the price of the support of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Crooks from foreign lands marvel that influence here can be bought so cheaply. Until recently in Indonesia, if you didn't make now-defrocked Pres. Suharto a partner and hire his relatives, you didn't do business.

Our production of jobs for foreign lands echoes the fact that the American worker's voice has largely been silenced. About 30 years ago, unions represented about one in three workers, an all-time high. Now, only about one of every six belongs to a union.

We will close the century with a greater disparity between rich and poor than when we began. For a brief, shining moment, we labored under laws which spread the wealth and gave us the strongest economy the world has ever seen. We peaked in 1968.

Now, we have just a short time left to either stop the reverse Robin Hood act or the shooting will escalate from Chiapas, Mexico, to the likes of Oklahoma City.

A few years ago, a wiser man than me said "free societies and free trade unions go together. Societies that lack the kind of organizing that will really get up on its hind legs and fight about freedom is missing something. In a healthy workplace, it is very important that there be some checks and balances," the wise man said.

Some flaming commie? Nope. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, a four-time cabinet member under GOP presidents Nixon and Reagan. In the workplace, restraints on power are needed, Shultz told The New York Times, and "as a society, we have a great stake in freedom and a lot of that is anchored somehow, historically," in the labor movement.

I thus won't patronize Hilton till they rehire their illegally fired security guards.

I picketed the Victorian Square Syufy Theater in 1997 and marched with postal workers last June 9.

I'll join construction workers outside Baldini's Casino in Sparks on Friday afternoons. I support Washoe Med and St. Mary's nurses banding together to fight for enough staff to properly care for their patients.

Fairness and freedom will compel me to stand with Citifare bus drivers should they strike this week.

The regional transportation walkout can happen as early as midnight Monday, the Summer Solstice - fittingly, the longest day of the year.

Do yourself a favor, Thomas. Take a bus out to the Reno Rodeo this afternoon and ask 20 people exactly this: if you had a choice between a union job and a non-union job, which would you take?

I already know what almost all of them will tell you.

Be well. Raise hell.


Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a 30-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and head of Casinos Out of Politics (COP). In 1998 he served as gubernatorial campaign manager for State Senator Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas.
Since 1988 Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune, where an earlier version of this column appeared on 6/20/99.

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