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Labor Day 2015
NN Central Labor Council president rebuts Reno Gazette-Journal GOP-jaundiced Labor Day coverage
By Mike Pilcher / Reno Gazette-Journal Guest Editorial/ Sunday 10-4-2015 Labor Day Archives

Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers, American Federation of Government Employees, Communications Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Auto Workers, and International Painters and Allied Trades pose for a quick picture at the top of C Street in Virginia City just before the 2012 Labor Day parade began. (RGJ photo provided by International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is the original version which was cut to 500 words to comply with Reno Gazette-Journal editorial policies.

In her annual Labor Day Op-Ed (RGJ 9-6-2015) attacking organized workers, political consultant Randi Thompson again misled readers in numerous ways.

Labor leaders do not “block” bills from passing, lawmakers do. Representatives of business and industry, along with Nevada labor leaders, testified in opposition to legislative bills during the 78th Session (2015) which would have had profoundly negative impacts not only upon workers, but also upon Nevada’s economic recovery from the worst recession in 70 years.
During that time, Nevada working families suffered tremendously.

Although subsequently amended, Senate Bill 119 was one of many examples of how disappointing and unbelievable the 78th Session was. Shortly after the majority party voted to take away prevailing wages from Nevada construction workers building new schools, the same sponsor of that bill (Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno), introduced SB227. That bill proposed scholarships for children of Nevada working families because a new study found that Nevadans rank 50th in the nation with respect to ability to afford college.

Labor representatives are active and retired professional tradesmen and women who are elected in democratic fashion, following the same parliamentary rules of order used throughout the business world. Using derogatory terms like “bosses” or “thugs” to describe labor leaders is a smear tactic intentionally promoted by corporate, billionaire-sponsored think tanks. Such inflammatory rhetoric is both divisive and counterproductive, and results in tasteless comments, such as the New Jersey governor sadly professing his desire to punch teachers in the face.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board were established in 1913 in 1935, respectively. DOL policies and tenets are not recent “reinforcements” for fair labor practices, nor are they “carrying on traditions of labor provocation and harassing small businesses like Uber…” as Thompson opines. Uber is NOT a small business; it’s a multi-billion dollar global corporation on the verge of an initial public stock offering and Wall Street trading.

The DOL recently released an advisory memo giving direction to employers due to the tremendous increase in misclassification of employees as independent contractors by some unscrupulous operators. They use the category to absolve themselves of responsibly providing employee benefits and thus further undermining an already uneven playing field with respect to competition, all the while (not surprisingly) enjoying phenomenal profit margins. This is certainly not fair to the vast majority of honest businesses.

Ms. Thompson’s views on Las Vegas casinos and workers’ unionizing efforts are very unbalanced. Additional, comprehensive information regarding Station Casinos vs. its employees (such as a judge finding that Station had broken federal labor laws scores of times) can be found on websites such as, the Nevada State AFL-CIO and Culinary Local 226.

For Ms. Thompson to associate the tragic loss of life during the Illinois protests and strikes of 1886 and 1894 to the struggles of Nevada workers today is appalling. Furthermore, failing to provide more of the history behind the national observation of Labor Day is insensitive.
Twenty three states had already adopted labor holidays celebrating American workers before the terrible events in Illinois during the late 1800’s.

Illinois refused to follow federal labor laws, forcing workers to illegally sign waivers. The rail-car builders in Pullman’s mandatory work camps became indentured servants, one of the very practices our forefathers fought the Revolutionary War against in order to establish freedom for all men and women.

Labor Day is about honoring historical struggles, sacrifices and accomplishments while recognizing the continuous spirit, productivity and value of American workers. It is not about childishly speculating who has the day off. Union and non-union laborers work in transportation, service, utilities, safety, etc., on Labor Day to keep commerce flowing, just as Randi does.

Commerce and labor are the two arms of Industry and their relationship is both inseparable and symbiotic. The health of one absolutely depends upon the health of the other. All business owners know that their best customers are well-paid workers with money to spend and the time to do so. American laborers are the consumer catalysts who fuel economic success.

It is time to stop the finger pointing. The right for corporations and businesses to have representation by joining dues-collecting entities without threat or fear of reprisal should be the same for workers. Imagine what commerce and labor could accomplish together via a cooperative effort with the goal of prosperity for all.
Mike Pilcher is the elected president of the Northern Nevada Central Labor Council/AFL-CIO. He is a longtime Reno firefighter and member of International Association of Firefighters Local 731/AFL-CIO.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Business lobbyist and twice-defeated Republican legislative candidate Randi Thompson's column has run every-other-Sunday for most of the past decade. Despite repeated requests over the past half-century, the Reno paper has repeatedly refused to print a regular column from the workers' point of view. In August of 2015, beat reporters and decision makers were approached with story suggestions about northern Nevada workers in this rapidly expanding market. The paper's representatives demonstrated no interest.

Back to Labor Day Archives


Union decline and rising inequality in two charts
by Colin Gordon
Economic Policy Institute / 6-5-2012

Used in
journalist Mark Robison's extensive Hard Labor: Nevada unions tout role in helping workers, firms, economy (Sunday 2 Sept. 2012 Reno Gazette-Journal, page one, Reno Rebirth section of the print edition). Union men Jim Burrell, Paul McKenzie and Guy Louis Rocha did the movement proud. Not included in the RGJ online edition.

The Barbwire Labor Day column
Reno Gazette-Journal / 9-3-2012

Labor Day 2002 Nevada remains the High Desert Plantation
Barbwire by Barbano / Daily Sparks Tribune 9-1-2002

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