Corporations congenitally compelled to crush workers strike report
News and comment from the trenches
by Andrew Barbano

RENO, NV (Friday, May 14, 2004) — Reports of gross incompetence have now been joined by proof of corporate skulduggery as the Reno-Sparks-Tahoe garbage strike enters its second week.

On Wednesday at the Fernley transfer station (on Interstate 80 east of Sparks), a Waste Management driver crossed the picket line, then got out of his truck and challenged picketers to trespass in order to get a piece of him and his baseball bat. Just how dumb do these guys think we are?

Teamsters filed a complaint with the Lyon County Sheriff's office.

The Reno transfer station on Commercial Row generated several reports of unsafe driving. One curb-crushing turn came too close for comfort in the view of a longtime NAACP civil rights leader who got out her cane to march with the strikers.

"Cesar Chavez taught me to always support unions," Mary Valencia Wilson said, "and don't forget that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was in Memphis to support striking union garbage workers when he was assassinated," she added.

No, we haven't forgotten that one.

A local Latino leader spent a couple of hours walking Commercial Row on Thursday and related stories from strikers about the company having ordered them not to speak any language but English on the job. This begs the question of in what language do you yell "fire" or "look out below" when there's no time think? If that dumpster is about to fall on José, do you really have time to research the English translation?

This is very reminiscent of a self-inflicted black eye suffered by the union-busting Eldorado Hotel-Casino a few years back. The Carano clan ordered the downtown Reno hotel's staff to speak nothing but English at all times. After the order was made public, the policy was quickly revoked.


The best strike news coverage in the past 36 hours has come from KRNV TV-4, the local NBC affiliate, which led its 11:00 p.m. Thursday, May 13, newscast by stating that workers will face two ratification votes this weekend, a very rare situation. Apparently, the new proposed health plan will be voted on separately from the company's contract proposal. That's not a good sign. [UPDATE: A choice of two health plans will be presented on May 15, but health care won't be an issue separate from the main agreement.]

This may dovetail into what some Latino workers were saying on the picket line on Thursday. Some complained of thousands of dollars of unpaid medical bills under the company's current health plan. More on this as soon as we can get details from the Teamsters. [UPDATE: Confirmed. This became a major factor driving the strike vote.]

The biggest news clunker of the past 36 hours was perpetrated by KOLO TV-8 (ABC). On its 11:00 p.m. newscast on Wednesday, May 12, TV-8 stated that no news was available about the progress of talks. All that their sterling investigative reporters had to do was go to this website or read the three e-mails which we sent to the entire news staff during the day. Perhaps that's too much work. At minimum, they could have watched Channel 4, which got it right. (Do you sense a pattern?)

The quality of local journalism has gotten softer with the wilting of garbage in the sun. The print media have not distinguished themselves. After a sterling start, the Sparks Tribune has ignored the strike in its last two editions. Isn't trash accumulating on the streets of the Rail City, too? Guess watersports at the Marina is of much greater public concern. [UPDATE: Friday made it three days in a row. Go figure.]

The Reno Gazette-Journal earns about a C+ for its Friday, May 14, edition in which appear three stories. Barely worth the ink is a softball editorial board opinion which basically advises everyone to make kissy face and settle this soon so everyone can get milk and cookies. If you don't think it could possibly be that innocuous, read it yourself.

The Kazoo-Journal also ran a Friday article on the non-progress of talks. (They should have watched Channel 4 before putting the final edition to bed.) The Reno paper's article provided a link to Waste Management's website — but not to the only labor website. This one.

As usual, workers count for less. The RGJ's WM site info even notes that recycling will not be picked up for awhile. Please read below for a more creative use for your recyclables.

At least the RGJ confirmed the story of the evacuation of Sierra Pacific Power's corporate HQ, a story we distributed two days earlier. Apparently, a rat driver didn't know that you're supposed to check for clearance in an enclosed area. Hoisting a trash compactor, he broke an overhead fire sprinkler which set off the building's alarms. SPP HQ on Neil Road houses the nerve center for the region's electrical grid. And that's not the most egregious of wholesale safety violations.

Sierra Pacific's employees have done the labor movement proud. We've gotten reports of SPP service trucks turning around at the sight of a picket line at the Lockwood Landfill. (Probably members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245.)


The RGJ also provided a bit of grindingly high irony: Veteran reporter Susan Voyles related that your tax dollars — which will be paying for Reno's $260 million+ gift to Union Pacific (better known as the downtown railroad trench) until ex-President Jenna Bush is well along on writing the memoirs of her eight years in the Oval Office — your money is being spent to hire non-union drivers to haul contaminated dirt from the trench to the Lockwood Landfill. Read it and weep Better yet, get ahold of Reno City Hall.

If not for the substantial political support which organized labor, including the Teamsters Union, gave the trench, it would not be under construction today. For their thanks, the union garbage workers get rats crossing their lines at the dump.


Another strike may happen this week as the Communications Workers continue extended talks with SBC.

Nevada organized labor got two major pieces of legislation passed for the former Southwestern Bell Corporation in the 2001 and 2003 legislative sessions. The former facilitated SBC's entry into Gomorrah South's lucrative local telephone market. The latter was a bill no one could understand and which even those pimping it — the major phone and cable bandidos — could not explain the need for.

Lack of need or inadequate knowledge has never stopped Nevada lawmakers before and this was no exception. It was left to Nevada Consumer Advocate Timothy Hay to speak the truth — the "broadband parity" bill simply allows SBC, Sprint, Cox and Charter Communications to cut up the market between them and freeze out small competitors.

For all this help, the Communications Workers are seeing their jobs sent to India. A recent test showed eight of 10 calls flushed down the Ganges to the land of Gandhi. Pray for transcendental enlightenment. Or at least a little common decency. But don't hold your breath.

The Reno News & Review's May 13 garbage strike editorial ("a union is about as close to pure democracy as it gets these days") was much stronger than the RGJ's, but the best comment can still be made by aggrieved ratepayers — like you. Some of those interviewed on Thursday's late news groused that they deserve a rebate on their bills for services not rendered.

Damn right.

Let your local officials know about it. Click here for complete Reno-Sparks-Washoe County contact information. Tell 'em the Barbwire sent you by.

I also suggest that you do your bit by taking your recycling to Waste Management corporate headquarters at 100 Vassar Street, one block east of S. Virginia in Reno. Recycling won't be picked up until the trash backlog is cleared, and that gets further away every day. So lodge a properly physical protest by running your recycling to the house that garbage built. Tell 'em the Barbwire sent you by.


Our calls for support have not gone unheeded. Assemblyman Tom Collins, D-Las Vegas, a member of the IBEW and currently a candidate for the Clark County Commission, sent this to local government leaders: "Please get those unsafe drivers off the road. Your county needs qualified workers who contribute to your community. I hope you intervene and settle this for your constituents and for the safety and well being of your neighbors." In another letter, Collins stated "Please end this horrible strike. There are too many risks to your community with unqualified strikebreakers driving your streets. Help your constituents get back to work. They contribute to your community and live in it . Assemblyman Tom Collins"

Thanks, Tom.

"Power to the people" wrote Roy Noring of Reno.

'A lot of unions have been not only marching with the strikers, but also bringing food and refreshments, the IBEW and the American Postal Workers Union among them. This came in from the APWU:

To the Brothers and Sisters of Teamsters Local 533:

I want every member of your Local to know you are making the Right Fight!

Management will take every opportunity to reduce wages and benefits to
enrich their pocketbooks whenever they can.

The workers in your profession are subjected to the Omnibus Transportation
Act which requires workers to be subjected to random drug tests whenever
they operate commercial vehicles. This alone is an invasion of privacy
but the workers of your local comply and have an excellent safety record.
The workers of Local 533 provide a service that is second to none. The
public needs this service.

In an article recently published by (The New York Times') Bob Herbert, he states: "Normally labor gets about 65 percent and corporate profits about 15 to 18 percent." Obviously, Waste Management would like to change that balance.

"The study is very clear on this point," Mr Herbert states. "The bulk of the gains did not go to the workers, but instead were used to boost profits, lower prices, or increase CEO compensation."

Simply put, sacrifice the workers benefits to enrich the corporate officers.
Sound familiar? Since 2001, which was the end of the last recession, workers
have received the lowest wage increases on record.

Local members, the service you provide is second to none. The community
can't tolerate a strike. They (the community) will rally and solidarity will

It's late but I support your efforts.

In Solidarity,

Paul Maille
Exec. Vice President
Reno Local 936 AFL-CIO

Please keep up the pressure

No matter how many hundreds of thousands of dollars Waste Management spends importing strikebreakers, it's become obvious that they can't find enough unionbusters to get the job done. Trash has been piling up all over Reno-Sparks-Tahoe.

I hope the Teamsters maintain solidarity and bring the company to a responsible conclusion.

Organized labor has given away too much to corporate America over the past 25 years.

Now's the time to strike for equity and fairness.

Keep them cards and letters coming in.

Be well. Raise hell.








Labor Links About the Editor Letters

Español PoliticsNevada Labor History

Site composed & maintained by Deciding Factors
Click here to request inclusion news bulletin list