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Two non-union women fired for refusal to sign for UPS deliveries
December 7, 1997

Carpenters' Business Agent Arrested
December 5, 1997

Sparks to lose $1 million from theater construction delay
September 8, 1997

K-Mart union election deadlocked 15-15-1
August 14, 1997

Union picketing Sparks K-Mart Distribution Center
August 14, 1997

Teamsters Local 533 gets contract for RTC/Citilift workers
July 30, 1997

Labor News Roundup
September 14, 1997

UPS Nevada Strike Archive

Press Reports on the UPS Strike

Messages From Mahatama Moore

U-News for the week of September 14, 1997

This week, we inaugurate a Nevada worker news roundup. It will only be as good as the contributions it receives, so let's start with a question: Anybody know the current status of the contract negotiations between McDonnell Douglas and civilian aircraft mechanics and support workers at Naval Air Station Fallon?

The International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers Local 1118 recently won an election to represent a bargaining group currently numbering about 250. The Lahontan Valley News reports significant worker unrest and resignations. The employee unit has shrunk from 320 at the end of last year.

NAS Fallon contractors employ a substantial number of unionized personnel. Teamsters Local 533 represents more than 300 DynCorp employees at the huge base.

This Nevada Labor 'Zine needs some feedback from the Churchillians out in Swingle Bench country. Pass the word and log in.

WENDOVER: It ain't over till it's over—Operating Engineers Local 3's battle to organize workers at Peppermill casino properties continues. A recent vote among maintenance workers ended in a 13-12 union win but probably won't remain that way. The National Labor Relations Board will probably disqualify the decisive "yes" vote from a worker who had served tentative notice of quitting before the balloting began.

The NLRB may well void the entire election anyway, as it has found merit to union charges of unfair labor practices. Practically, this means a new vote in less than a year. Rather than wait two years ore more for an election to be voided and a new one ordered, most unions usually withdraw their complaints and file for a fresh vote at the legal-minimum one-year mark. Wendover is a small gambling boomtown in Elko County on the northeastern Nevada/northwestern Utah border.

LAS VEGAS: Silent movies and Cranky Frankie—Union politics will probably be a snoozer at this week's AFL-CIO state convention at the Tropicana Resort-Casino in Las Vegas. (See schedule and speakers down the page.)

Most of the resolutions scheduled for introduction will be the usual from the usual suspects. Collective bargaining for state workers leads the way, as ever, followed by mom and apple pie. No opposition to a resolution endorsing all of the above is expected.

The real deal at the convention will be electoral follytix. The annual labor confab has become the debutante ball of wealthy Las Vegas businessman Kenny Guinn. Although he has neither sought nor held public office, he has more than a million bucks in his campaign war chest.

As the old Nevada judge told me long ago, a few hundred grand can go a long way toward making just about anybody a respectable citizen. By that standard, the former S&L president, Clark County School District super and two-time-temp-UNLV president becomes a respectable individual, indeed. Guinn's so re$pectable that no one else in the GOP seems to have the chops (let alone the bucks) to challenge him in their tightly controlled primary for governor. Secretary of State Dean Heller and Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren have been conspicuous by their silence over the past several months.

Guinn sports movie star looks but is rated a crashing bore as a speaker. He would have been big in silent pictures. The convention offers him the opportunity to break out of his slump. He enoys a choice speaking slot at the AFL-CIO affair. Originally, he was scheduled to follow keynote speaker Mark Splain, regional director of the AFL-CIO, in the 9:00 a.m. hour Monday.

The positioning got a boost through faulty reportage by Las Vegas Review-Journal/Reno Gazette-Journal freelance columnist Jon Ralston. A couple of weeks ago, JR reported that Republican Guinn would be keynote speaker at the event. It was a false rumor and created no real stir anywhere—save at the office of the attorney general.

Frankie Sue Del Papa, who set her sights on the governorship at about age six in Tonopah, was aghast at Ralston's report. She is the only Democrat in the race. Although unannounced, she's got a staff and red-white-and-blue brochures.

My union guys tell me she was offered the primo morning slot now occupied by Guinn but turned it down, citing scheduling conflicts. Guinn will now follow Sens. Harry Reid and Dick Bryan, as well as the keynoter. Pretty good showcase for a freshman pol.

Del Papa has been busily trying to reconstruct burned bridges with key groups she has irritated over the years. The newsmedia chuckle about how she has been aggressively prosecuting every cow county complaint hurled over the transom to prove to a long-disappointed press corps that she really takes the state open meeting law seriously.

Del Papa has also been trying to find ways to traverse the chasm between herself and organized labor but had a disastrous meeting with northern Nevada union leaders last week.

I've known Frankie Sue for many years. She needs to be more forthcoming as both a candidate and public official, while losing the adversarial attitude she has somehow developed. People don't like voting for unfriendly politicians.

OLD HOME WEEK: The Tropicana was my first employer when I arrived in the Silver State in the late 1960s. Their broiler line was the hardest job I've ever worked in my life. Just in time for the AFL-CIO convention at the Trop, the second place I worked in Nevada, the downtown LV Four Queens, went union for the first time in a dozen years. Somebody call my astrologer.

RENO-SPARKS: The Washoe County School District has decided not to cut back its custodial staff in a penny-wise but pound-foolish attempt to economize at a time when overcrowded schools (last year's bond issue failed) are gearing up for year-round sessions. The review of cutbacks came after a consultant's report advising of the wonders of subcontracting. The custodial reprieve does not take the pressure off food service workers . Reported nowhere but here, food service staff are justifiably fearful of a move to subcontract to Marriott Corp. Stay tuned.

SPARKS: The million-dollar question—The Northern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council's campaign against the labor practices of the Syufy/Century theater chain got a major boost last week when the Daily Sparks Tribune endorsed the union position on the California company's construction delays. Labor has been beating the drum for strict enforcement of Syufy's contract with the city of Sparks (see article elsewhere in the Nevada Labor 'Zine.) The Tribune agreed. If Syufy doesn't open its new 14-plex movie palace by February 25 contract deadline, Sparks should take the $1 million performance fund now held in escrow, according to the paper.

LAS VEGAS: Shooting stars and seeing stars - The Building Trades Organizing Project has generated more than 2,000 new union members since the first of the year. Headed up by the estimable Jim Rudicil of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the two-year, $6.3 million program aims to train thousands of organizers for every community in the United States. Booming LV was chosen as the laboratory for the program, beating out Denver, Albuquerque, Orlando, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, among others.

Rudicil was the IBEW's principal circuit-riding lecturer on COMET organizing techniques. COMET is an acronym for Construction Organizing Membership Education Training. It basically teaches workers their rights under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act and how to hold employers' feet to the fire for violating same.

An informed worker is an empowered worker and COMET spreads unionism like wildfire. One carpenters union business agent told me that the campaign can spread so fast and ring in so many new members that it can overwhelm a local's administrative staff. When was the last time you heard unions complaining about too much business?

Anti-union forces have yet to develop an effective response to COMET because the strategy simply utilizes existing law. We'll get into some detail as the Nevada Labor 'Zine matures. I've described COMET in some detail in the Daily Sparks Tribune over the past several years. Many northern Nevada construction unions now employ COMET techniques. The best example of information as power is happening right now in Minden.

MINDEN: The bitter fruit of principle - As first reported here during the UPS strike, the virulently anti-union Bently-Nevada Corp. fired two longtime workers for having someone else sign for UPS parcels. (See the UPS archive.)

When Carlene O'Neil of Carson City and Jessica Gomes of Gardnerville were fired, they called the Teamsters union, which asked me if I was interested in their case. Boy, was I ever.

COMET-trained by Jim Rudicil, I recognized a blatant violation of federal law when Gomes and O'Neil described their firings to me. Since 1935, workers cannot be fired for union activity. Supporting somebody else's union by not wanting to sign for a delivery from a UPS strikebreaker constitutes protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

With a little help from their friends, O'Neil and Gomes filed charges with the feds. The National Labor Relations Board immediately dispatched an investigator to interview the two women. According to the Nevada Appeal, the NLRB may just let Bently reply to the charges in writing without their executives undergoing face-to-face interviews. This means only one thing to a non-expert like me: the case is already so strong that almost nothing Bently can say will prevent the feds proceeding to a full-blown hearing. The NLRB has already told the newsmedia that they have gathered substantial evidence in the case.

Gomes is the sole support of a disabled husband and nine-year-old twins. O'Neil had planned to retire from Bently. Both have had their Nevada unemployment claims rejected, although they plan to appeal. While any union activity between two or more people stands protected under federal law, workers have no rights under state law. Nevada statutes bar anyone fired—legally or illegally—in a union dispute from collecting state unemployment benefits. Mississippi West endures and remains.

Organized labor is still raising money to help tide over the courageous non-union workers. Labor leaders are also seeking employment for them at signatory entitities. Donations may be sent to the O'Neil-Gomes Family Fund at Operating Engineers Local 3 Federal Credit Union, 1290 Corporate Blvd., Reno NV 89502. The account number is 801-760.

RENO: Tiltin' at Hilton - The Reno Hilton goes on trial at 9:00 a.m. on September 23 at a Sparks or Reno location to be announced. (See the Labor Day '97 Barbwire column for details.) Sworn depositions were taken at the Peppermill last week. Members of United Plant Guard Workers of America Local 1010, fired en masse by northern Nevada's largest hotel casino, are guardedly optimistic about reinstatement.

The ray of hope was provided by what Hilton did not do. The company did not try to delay the trial, but agreed to the early date set by the National Labor Relations Board. Cutting losses early is the only reason anyone can figure for such conduct by a viciously anti-union employer. Clever lawyers can buy a year of delay, but that would also mean another year of back pay and, possibly, damages if workers win reinstatement to jobs taken by $7.50 per hour temps.

Perhaps Hilton's lawyers have advised the company to get the trial over with to minimize damages assessed against the world's largest gambling company.

The megabucks Hilton corporation will be easily able to afford a loss, but any relief will come too late for most of the wrongfully terminated workers. Many have lost their homes. Only four of the more than 60 guards fired have found new work at hotel-casinos, and with only smaller clubs at that. Blackballing trade unionists is illegal in America but happens all the time in Nevada. The gambling-industrial complex finally passed the infamous Blackball Bill earlier this year, exempting the industry from state lawsuits arising from the sharing of information about workers.

BUCKEYE STATE BUNGLE: All during Labor Day week, the pedestrian TV game show "Wheel of Fortune" originated from the Ohio State Fair with major sponsorship purchased by the national AFL-CIO. President John Sweeney even got to schmooze with Pat and Vanna at the end of the first program. I'm an ad man from way back and think unions should raise a much higher media profile. However, Sweeney and Co. could have done a better job of screening their fellow sponsors. Every night, I was disgusted at the spectacle of Hilton basking in the glow of organized labor's blessing. The hotel chain apparently provided some free trips as prizes, peanuts compared to the cost of such national exposure bought as commercial ad time.

Hilton enjoys harmonious union relations in every city in the country save two: Reno and Laughlin, Nevada, where it hires predatory union busters and destroys people's lives to keep unions out. The AFL-CIO in DC will be made aware of this oversight just in case they get into Jeopardy next year.

UPS CONTRACT UPDATE: Teamsters I've talked with have found two major flaws in the new national contract now being voted up or down. Neither is serious enough to vote against the deal, but both provisions bode ill for the future.

First, the final line of Article 22, section 3, reads: "If there is a reduction in volume causing layoffs, the Employer's obligations under this section shall be null and void." The section in question contains the heralded promise to create 10,000 new full-time jobs from part-time jobs. Should the company come up with creative ways to show a slump, workers will do well to keep this section in mind. Some cynics even theorized that UPS was intentionally slow to get everyone back to work on the huge backlog built up during the strike. This made the company prediction of job losses come true while possibly building the case for triggering this escape clause.

The other worry expressed by workers lies in the treatment of new part-timers. Most observers trace the seeds of the strike to the two-tiered wage system agreed to in the 1980s under former president Jackie Presser. The new contract, far from remedying the problem, creates third-class part-timers to go along with second-class part-timers.

A savvy reporter asked Teamsters President Ron Carey about it during his press conference the night the settlement was announced. Carey was visibly irritated at having to answer questions about "people not here yet."

The contract confirms that current part-timers will top out in five years at $17.50 per hour. New part-timers will earn $8.50 per hour, up 50 cents, the first raise for new-hires since 1982. BUT: those new people will top out at $10.75 to $11.75 per hour, not $17.50 by the year 2002.

The above two provisions provide a predatory UPS management with some perverse new incentives to come up with creatively skulduggerous ways to skin their workers.

Here's an example. Last week on Tom Snyder's Late Late Show on CBS, populist messiah Michael Moore discussed his new documentary, "The Big One." In the motion picture, Moore tells the story of a Payday candy bar plant which made $20,000,000 one recent year. The plant was closed and hundreds of very efficient workers lost their jobs.

The Payday plant's profits were used to pump up the corporate bottom line so that the company could be sold. Moore asked some corporate weasel what would have happened if the plant had made more than $20,000,000. Answer: they would have closed it sooner.

Ominously, the Reno Hilton also made $20,000,000 last year, then promptly won a $450,000 property tax decrease from Washoe County last January. The reason: not enough profit under the tax laws. In honor of Michael Moore, the fired Hilton security guards and a goodly number of other trade unionists (including this editor), picketed the meeting chanting (what else?) "Reno Hilton - Downsize This!"

Stay tuned for 2002.

COLD SHOULDERS: Teamsters on the subcommittee negotiating the health and safety section of the UPS contract say the company was not enthusiastic about their proposal that UPS buildings should be heated to at least 55 degrees. The company's response? Workers would warm up if they worked harder.

Editor's note: We owe this item to Labor Notes, a splendid little alternative labor monthly, labornotes@igc.apc.org. The meat-locker level 55-degree requirement didn't make it into the final contract, but provisions were added requiring UPS to review heating and ventilation needs "for purposes of safety and health." Brrrr...

BLESSED BE THE PEACEMAKERS: Betty Britt manages the offices of Teamsters Local 533 in Reno. Two days after the UPS strike settlement, she received a desperate call from a UPS customer. He had an $8,000 crankshaft stuck at a UPS terminal in Sacramento, Calif. If he did not get it quickly, he would lose a $20,000 account. He was so distraught that he said his next call would be to the FBI, the perhaps the Russian embassy to see if they could help.

"Well, sir, this is the Teamsters you're calling and we're not in the habit of doing customer service for UPS, but I'll see what I can do," said Betty.

I watched as she dropped all her other work to call two key UPS managers. One returned her call in five minutes.

"You and I have always been friends, haven't we?" she disarmingly asked, then described the customer's problem and gave the executive the crankshaft's tracking number. The UPS staffer said he would see what he could do.

The desperate engine shop got its crankshaft the very next day.

Who says trade unionism doesn't get results—with a little schmoozing and diplomacy from the likes of Betty Britt.

More soon.

Union Yes!

Be well. Raise hell. - AB

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"KEEP KICKIN' IT UP!" wrote Michael Moore in response to the July 20 installment of the Barbwire (www.nevadaweb.com/dave) which awarded the Fat 90's Downsize This! Awards. Moore's bestseller by the same name inspired three worker marches in Reno earlier this year. (Employees chanting "Downsize This!" really messes with the minds of casino management types.)

"The Big One," Moore's first feature-length documentary since the critically acclaimed "Roger & Me" (the award-winning film about the downsizing of General Motors' plant in Moore's hometown of Flint, Mich.), recently premiered in Great Britain. It will be released soon stateside. We'd be happy to promote a northern Nevada premiere, but not at one of the anti-union Syufy/Century Theatres, which enjoy a near-monopoly in the Reno-Sparks market. They even own the last remaining drive-in. Consider the passion pit off limits, kids.

There's a chance "The Big One" will erupt on TV and stay out of union-busting theater owners' hands. We'll keep you posted.

MORE MOORE: Teamsters staff the picket lines, betting the union on the come line. Northern Nevada building trades workers continue to march at the Sparks Syufy/Century theater of operations. Maintenance workers at the sprawling 33-acre K-Mart Distribution Center in Sparks will vote Thursday on representation by Operating Engineers Local 3.

K-Mart has hired major league, big bucks union busters to come in and scare the hell out the workers. In this country, the average union election is about as unfair as anything can be. One side is allowed to force all the voters to listen to every one of their campaign speeches, while the other side has to knock on doors and hope somebody's home. The union-busting expenses are all tax-deductible, which means the taxpayers, including the workers who want a union, are forced to foot part of the bill for the opposition. Call it reverse forced union dues.

Wisconsin Wal-Mart workers apparently just fell prey to the the union-busting rocky horror picture show. Last Friday, by a 54-27 vote, the United Steelworkers lost an election to represent about 95 Wal-Mart associates in Merrill, Wisc. It could have been the first Wal-Mart to go union in the U.S. (The first was in Canada, where union election playing fields are a bit more level.)

Wal-Mart is a major exporter of U.S. jobs because they sell so much third-world, low-wage manufactured merchandise. They have destroyed thousands of independent retailers in every town they've entered.

Adding insult to injury, they are currently running a smugly self-serving commercial boasting of saving a handful of jobs at a U.S. fishing equipment manufacturer. The message is "don't look at reality, believe TV and go fishing."

Why anyone would want to work for such morally obtuse moguls without a union remains a mystery. Perhaps not. Fear is a powerful motivator. So, too, with the Sparks K-Mart workers, who fear downsizing and outsourcing. Just for them, here's a word from Michael Moore's "Downsize This!"

Wall Street Journal headline: "Everyone fired—Wall Street reacts favorably. Dow pushes past 10,000.

"The tremendous surge that began this morning is believed to be in response to the news that every Fortune 500 company has fired all their domestic employees effective immediately. Nearly 10 million American workers will lose their jobs, and Wall Street reacted favorably.

"'It's a win-win situation,' said Mickey Kantor, U.S. Secretary of Commerce and the man who negotiated the original NAFTA and GATT treaties and created a boom in moving American jobs overseas.

"'Literally hundreds of American shareholders have become instant millionaires, and millions of workers will now be able to pursue other activities,'" Kantor said.

"'We've got 40 openings at our Tijuana facility right now,' beamed a jubilant GE chairman Jack Welch. 'I'd be more than happy to accept applications from any of our U.S. workers who would like to relocate there. Just give our personnel department a call - and it will definitely help if you can speak Spanish!'"

The above will be relayed to the Sparks K-Mart voters.

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