labor leader dead of heart attack
By Peter Schelden
Popular labor leader
and activist Tom "Stoney" Stoneburner died Monday at 12:34
p.m. of a massive heart attack at Washoe Medical Center. He was 60 years
Stoneburner is survived by his wife, Kathy.
Stoneburner led several labor disputes in northern Nevada since 1994.
In that year Stoneburner, a Reno Circus Circus Hotel-Casino security
guard, formed Nevada's first casino security personnel union within
The labor leader then became president of the United Plant Guard Workers
of America Local 1010. As president, Stoneburner led the workers to
strike against the Reno Hilton for contracts more favorable to workers.
The union, now renamed the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of
America, still represents the Reno Hilton guards.
Stoneburner is remembered as an impassioned fighter for workers' rights.
At the time of his death, Stoneburner had been advocating for unpaid
construction workers. During a recent interview with the Sparks Tribune,
Stoneburner said he was "furious" with the lack of worker
protection in northern Nevada.
"We need to face up to the fact that employees in this city need
some protection," he said. "Employees have become disposable."
Fellow labor activist Andrew Barbano said Stoneburner "worked tirelessly"
for Nevada laborers, and said the activist was possibly too personally
invested in the labor struggle.
"He was personally and emotionally invested in winning justice
for the homeless construction workers who remain owed about $96,000
in back wages," Barbano said. "Perhaps this fight was one
too many for someone who had worked around the clock for so many years."
Stoneburner was concerned about the threat of globalization. He saw
multinational agreements between countries and corporations as potential
threats to workers rights.
Stoneburner made a proposal to the Nevada State Legislature in 2002
calling for corporations and their executives to be held criminally
responsible for worker deaths. Under the proposal, the corporate leaders
would be held for such crimes as negligent homicide, manslaughter and
Stoneburner founded the Alliance for Workers' Rights, an organization
that gives legal advice to workers.
quote from Frederick Douglas was included on the back of each of his
business cards: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are (the
ones) who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without
thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of
its many waters ... Power concedes nothing without a demand...The limits
of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Fight continues in Stoneburner's memory
By Angela Potter
was one of us. I will never forget him. I never will, never."
Stoneburner, widow of deceased labor activist Tom Stoneburner, is determined
to continue her husband's fight for workers' rights.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Kathy Stoneburner appeared somber
but determined as she said she would keep her husband's nonprofit organization,
the Alliance for Workers' Rights, open.
"We don't know who is going to be the director of the Alliance,"
she said. "Well decide that soon."
Kathy will also continue her husband's fight to recover wages for approximately
thirty construction workers who were brought to Reno to help build housing
and then did not receive paychecks for two months.
"I just wanted to let the gentlemen at the construction site know
that I am not giving up," she said. "We will continue this
fight until you get your wages. We're going to continue the fight for
Kathy said she also has plans to introduce a bill to the state legislature
to prevent this situation from happening again, either through an emergency
bill this session or through a bill she writes for the next session.
She is also looking into getting grant money to create a thrift store
where, after wages and expenses, the money would stay in the community.
Tom Stoneburner died Monday at 12:34 p.m. of a heart attack at Washoe
Medical Center. Francisco Echeverria, who worked on the construction
site, said he will never forget Stoneburner's commitment to their cause.
"We're all really sorry," he said. "We really feel this
loss. He was one of us. I will never forget him. I never will, never."
Tuesday's press conference was held at the Salvation Army, where some
of the men are still going for room and board. One anonymous donor gave
$2,000 to help the workers get back on their feet.
The group has grown smaller, as many of the workers were forced to return
to their families and find work elsewhere. But Echeverria said he would
not leave until the workers received their wages.
"We don't want to leave it like this," he said. "If we
leave, it could happen again."
Of the six workers at the event, Echeverria was the only one who had
found work. Kathy said she considered them part of the community.
"We can't let these contractors and subcontractors come into our
community and rob our workers," she said. "Once you're here,
you belong to this community. I don't care how long you're here."
An appeal has been filed with Nevada Labor Commissioner. Charlie Nahorniak
with the Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee said it could
take up to two years for the issue to be resolved, but urged the workers
and the community to continue fighting.
"We've lost a key figure in the whole thing," he said, "but
we want to let the community know we're not giving up."
There will be a memorial for Stoneburner at 6 p.m. Monday followed by
a potluck supper at First United Methodist Church at First and West
streets in Reno.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be sent to the
Salvation Army or the Alliance for Workers Rights at 1 Booth Street
in Reno, 89509, telephone 333-0201.
Back to Tom Stoneburner Memorial Page