Battlefield dispatches from the Sagebrush Plantation


Expanded from the 2-20-2000
Daily Sparks Tribune

UPDATED 4-20-2006
and 1-27-2008 and 2-3-2015

Deja vu all over again — More than 600 union protestors march through downtown Reno on 2-18-2000.

The gambling-industrial complex is spitting mad at its peons for daring to challenge the benevolence of the patroons. Here are frontline reports from the fight for justice.

MARCH IN FEBRUARY. Last Friday in downtown Reno, 599 committed workers and one obscure newspaper columnist protested the cruel and unusual punishments imposed upon those unfortunate enough to work every day in Reno casinos.

Circus Circus, the Reno Hilton and the Reno Flamingo Hilton are stonewalling culinary union contract negotiations. Hilton is unionized everywhere else in the country but has busted unions and illegally fired people in Reno for the past eight years. Circus Circus crushed its security guards union without ever bargaining in good faith on a contract.

It was ironic that our trek took us past the Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission which feeds a lot of full time casino workers every day. Many of them simply don't make enough money to both pay rent and eat.

Demonstrators included some of the Reno Hilton's illegally fired union security guards. They have beaten the world's largest casino company in every round up to the DC Court of Appeals. Hilton today enters its second week of ignoring a federal order to put the people back to work.

If Hilton does not move quickly to come to a contract in Reno, it will face union pressure on its Las Vegas properties. [1]

Photo © 2000 Debra Reid, Sparks Tribune

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ONE OUT OF TWO AIN'T BAD. A photo of the union march was posted yesterday on the Reno Gazette-Journal's website next to a big ad for the Reno Hilton. The Kazoo-Journal is a Gannett paper, which has illegally locked out its union workers at the Detroit News for the past three years.

The publisher of the Reno Gannett affiliate, Sue Clark-Johnson, sits on Harrah's board of directors, for which she has been roundly castigated by readers and journalism pros nationwide.

For the past six years or so, the paper has at least added a disclaimer to gambling industry editorials noting that its industry-conflicted boss did not participate in forming the opinion at hand. On Feb. 13, editors even noted Clark-Johnson's position as chair of the "One Region/OneVision" community group in an editorial praising that organization.

However, they made an exception on Feb. 9 when the paper blasted Sen. Joe Neal's, D-North Las Vegas, initiative petition to raise the gross gaming tax on the state's largest, most obscenely profitable casinos.

Only two conclusions can be drawn: they either forgot or Ms. Clark-Johnson did indeed participate in writing the Feb. 9 pro-industry propaganda and they're too ashamed to admit it.

This conduct is nothing new. To this day, the RGJ has refused to tell its readers that two Union Pacific executives sit on the Gannett board. One of them, former Reagan transportation secretary Drew Lewis, was the architect of the downtown Reno railroad trench fiasco. Tax money for that impending disaster has already been coming out of your pocket for more than a year.

I have confirmed that this has not been an oversight. I questioned former editor Ward Bushee on the issue during a February 27, 1998, KNPB TV-5 (PBS) program on journalism ethics.

He maintained that RGJ readers did not need to know.

THE GAMING PARTY. Supporters of former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones are calling members of the Nevada Democratic State Central Committee asserting that Jones deserves election (on Feb. 26 in Tonopah) as Democratic National Committeewoman for the following reasons.

Flamingo March 1995 --
Northern Nevada union members and their families march with hotel and restaurant workers in front of the Reno Flamingo Hilton in April of 1995. In 1994, Carpenters Hotel-Casino Workers Local 777 won the first contested "wall to wall" election for a large group of Reno hotel workers since the old Riverside Hotel in 1974. The Flamingo stonewalled negotiations with the Carpenters, but in 1999 agreed to recognize Culinary Local 86 to represent most of its non-gambling employees.

   1. The Guilt Trip: She saved Sen. Harry Reid's, D-Nev., rump by getting into the '98 gubernatorial race and motivating women to vote.


Reid and former Rep. John Ensign, R-Las Vegas, were so good at covering their mutual anti-abortion position that most Nevada women thought both were pro-choice! Reid made a big deal of his longtime support of women's issues and the much-heralded estrogen ticket, but Lt. Gov. candidate Rose McKinney-James and state controller hopeful Mary Sanada were left twisting in the wind after posing for brochure photos.

John Ensign, a member of the woman-subjugating Promise Keepers organization [2], beat Reid by one percentage point among females. Reid only won the election by 401 votes.

Ensign's likely 2000 Democratic senatorial opponent, Ed Bernstein, recently told the Reno News & Review that Ensign carried females because women were uninformed and because Ensign appeared cuter. I agree. Please re-read this column of 8 Nov. 1998 entitled "Co-dependency, primary colors and Vegas hair."

   2. Guilt by Association. Because Jones opponent Nancy Harkess works for the U.S. Dept. of Energy, she must be pimping nuclear waste. Harkess was working for Nevada Democrats long before Jan Jones ever came to Nevada.

   3. The party needs Jones because she can raise so much money from the likes of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S. Dakota, and the DC Demos. (I thought that's why we have Harry Reid as U.S. Senate minority leader.)

   4. Clark County Demo Chair Charlie Waterman is supporting Harkess as just another eccentric Charlie power play. Actually, the former Mineral County D.A. is bringing new people into the party not beholden to organized gambling.

Jones is now VP of Communications for Harrah's and has been designated as point spokesperson against Sen. Neal's initiative.

Last week came the shocking news that before taking the job with Harrah's, Jones made a $250 contribution to Ensign. Now the Republican frontrunner can say that not only has Reid endorsed him while damning Bernstein with faint praise (see last week's column), but the former mayor and 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee is also supporting his campaign.

In fighting Neal, Jones has echoed another Gaming Party heavyweight, Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, D-Yerington, a casino owner. Both have said Neal's petition poses a greater threat to Nevada's overlords than California tribal operations.

Jones herself just announced a $100 million Harrah's joint venture with a California tribe. She said tribal casinos present no threat to Las Vegas, an incredible statement to longtime Jones watchers. [3]

The Gazette-Journal reported last week that tribal competition may take 13 to 24 percent of northern Nevada casino action.

Actually, opinion has varied across the spectrum. [4]

Tribal gambling is expanding now. Neal's five percent increase would only impact big casinos in Reno-Sparks, Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe and can't go into effect until 2003 if the voters approve it. Somebody flunked arithmetic, speaking of which...

EDUCATE THIS. A major corporation in these parts recently tested about 45 people for some high paying, high-tech jobs. All but three flunked the written exam. The remaining trio then failed the drug test.

Be well. Raise hell.


1 For the Reno Gazette-Journal story on the demonstration, go to Union marches on downtown Reno. [EDITOR'S NOTE: As with most RGJ links, this story is now dead.] I personally carried the "Jobs with Justice" sign noted. I was informed it also made KRNV TV-4 (NBC) News. My all-purpose union picket placard is adorned with the book cover from Michael Moore's bestseller "Downsize This!" You can find my memo notifying Mike and his response under "letters" at

2 See the Barbwire of August 29, 1999.

3 "Casinos flip-flop on Indian gambling" by Jeff German, Senior Investigative Reporter, Las Vegas Sun, 1-23-2000.

4 Click here for the broad spectrum of expert opinion. Front Page | U-News Archives

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Copyright © 2000, 2006, 2008, 2015 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413, editor of U-News and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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