Calculating corporate rate of return on a body of women


Charity is a very disfavored activity. It must produce a quadruple return to a modern organization's bottom line. First, charity must be directly subsidized by taxpayers, preferably wage earners. Next, it must allow large taxpayers to double-dip: shoving responsibility for the social safety net toward volunteers and churches relieves pressures for taxation to help the less fortunate. Calling on a thousand pointed heads to volunteer is thus a perennially beloved tactic of politicians of all persuasions. Corporate taxation has plummeted over the past three decades, while individual levies have skyrocketed.

Third, tax-deductible charity must be useful in pre-empting criticism of the benevolent organization whenever it gets caught raping and pillaging the public. Good works must also offer a fourth payoff: PR.

No good deed goes unpublicized in our shamelessly propagandized society. Last week's seemingly innocuous Nevada Women's Fund Women of Achievement awards illustrate all of the above.

The Reno Gazette-Journal, dutifully reported that some 70 local women were justly honored. I applaud all of the honorees. The organization has apparently done a lot of commendable work over the years.

But there's more to the story. The honorees were pictured in a full page ad in the Reno paper. If the paper received money for the ad, would not that money have been better spent furthering the organization's goals? Even if the space were donated by the Gazette-Journal, it raises serious questions. Women's Fund supporters were listed at the bottom. Some have much to be ashamed of in their treatment of women. Judge for yourself:

RENO HILTON/FLAMINGO HILTON: Hilton's corporate record for abusing women is legendary. Go down to the federal courthouse and look up the long list of cases. In 1995, the Reno Hilton lost a major federal lawsuit for firing a pregnant cocktail waitress for leaving during her shift because she went into premature labor. They also cancelled her health insurance, effective the moment she left for the hospital. Hilton had to reinstate her, but only give her back pay and medical expenses. Nevada law does not allow punitive damages, so it remains open season on pregnant women. This precedent has not gone unnoticed in Gomorrah South. In the past week, I have personally interviewed several fired mothers-to-be.

In a more infamous incident, after losing the Tailhook case to former U.S. Navy Lt. Paula Coughlin, Hilton succeeded in passing the Tailhook Bill at the 1995 Nevada Legislature. As a result, future sexually molested women will find it almost impossible to sue Nevada hotels.

Just before last Christmas, the Reno Hilton notified its longtime security guards that they would be replaced by low-wage doorshakers. Then, the company got Washoe County to lower its taxes because it only made $20 million in profit. Hilton thus cut its contribution to the community just when its terminated workers and their families were applying for public assistance.

LIONEL, SAWYER AND COLLINS: Nevada's ultimate juice law firm is home to Harvey Whittemore, the heaviest of heavyweight Carson City lobbyists. Harvey was one of the principal pushers of the Tailhook Bill. He and his cohorts are behind the current legislative move to raise sales taxes statewide as a way to keep pressures off the gaming industry to pay its fair share. (Nevada casinos pay the lowest gaming taxes in the United States.) Our tax laws present a textbook case of regressive unfairness, with hidden levies lurking in everything from gasoline to Band Aids. The lower your pay, the greater your penalty in sales taxes.

Last Friday's Gazette-Journal carried a front-page article with several color photos trumpeting Mr. Whittemore's purchase of the Glenbrook Golf Course at S. Lake Tahoe in Douglas County. It failed to mention that Harvey and his law firm have been retained to chop a new county out of the Tahoe portions of Washoe, Carson and Douglas. This would prove a windfall to Tahoe casinos and other major property owners, including Mr. Whittemore.

Most of the industry's worker bees can't afford to live at the lake. They are housed and schooled down below. So the flatland residents of the three affected counties would be stuck with the associated costs, while the lakefront fat cats take their tax cuts to the bank.

AIRPORT AUTHORITY OF WASHOE COUNTY: This outfit's oppression of women is legendary, again with the court cases to prove it. One guy even allegedly ordered his female subordinates to identify potential breeding stock for himself among employment applicants.

RENO AIR: This outfit pays its people so poorly that flight attendants working full time qualify for welfare and food stamps. Workers are paid only for hours in the air. Pre-flight setup and post-flight cleanup are unpaid. No wonder Reno Air workers recently voted 95% in favor of the Teamsters Union.

UNIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM OF NEVADA: I can't say enough about these guys. They add insult to injury in the women's fund ad while honoring world-class UNR women's basketball coach Ada Gee. The university jockocracy is currently hustling the legislature for millions in the name of federally mandated gender equity in athletics. They wouldn't need to ask if they properly managed the billions that already run through their hands. (For more information, get my university files, below.) The U-Boat commanders have a pretty shabby record in the treatment of female employees. One of the best examples lies in the resignation of the late Clark Santini from the university's alumni council in protest of a blatant case of sex discrimination. (Barbwire, 11-17-96)

UNITED WAY OF NORTHERN NEVADA has long been used by major local corporations as an excuse to refuse contributions to non-United Way charities. Many major employers have for years coerced their workers into contributing to United Way, matching whatever the workers give. The bottom line: the boss gets the workers to pay half; the employer's half is fully tax deductible, and he further gets to cut his charitable expense by turning down or reducing contributions to other charities.

HOMETOWN HEALTH PLAN, THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL, UNR: These three employ the same PR tactic, forming advisory boards of heavy hitters as shields against criticism and accountability. The UNR Foundation, the Gazette-Journal's Forum for a Common Agenda and Washoe Health System's myriad of advisory boards represent a who's who of the power structure of this community. (Washoe Health System is the conglomerate parent of Washoe Med and Hometown Health.) Whenever these large outfits get caught screwing the public, their advisory board members provide substantial cover. And great PR.

R&R ADVERTISING: Major lobbyists for the Tailhook Bill and corporate home of Scott Craigie, lobbyist for Columbia/HCA, the notorious outfit trying to privatize Nevada Medicare for heavy profit. (See last week's column.) Mr. Craigie is also working hard to pass Sen. Randolph Townsend's (R-Reno) SB 243, which will cost the state workers compensation insurance system about $150 million a year. (It would allow employee leasing companies, such as the outfit which provided the Reno Hilton security replacements, to bail out of the state system and "self insure" their workers. The track record of self-insurance has been replete with fraud and lack of coverage.)

WORST, BUT NOT LEAST: In a bygone time, advertising charitable activity in order to maximize return on dollars invested was viewed as shameful. Today, it's just modern marketing targeting today's woman--exploited as usual.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 28-year Nevadan.
Barbwire by Barbano had appeared in the Sparks Tribune from 1988 until last Sunday.

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