Cutting up auto parts, body parts and corporate parts


Expanded from the 3-11-2001 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

We're screwed. You and me. People who have to work for a living.

Your body is now officially disposable, worth more dead than alive. Supposedly non-profit companies are sprouting like weeds to harvest your organs. Forget the old math that the body human is worth only a couple of bucks for basic chemicals. These guys can generate over $90,000 from your average corpse.

Last Thursday, this newspaper reported that the U.S. House of Representatives "unanimously passed legislation encouraging (organ) donation, including the first federal money to encourage Americans to consider donating while still alive." Ten years ago, the Nevada Legislature considered a bill to regulate body parts harvesters. I lampooned it mercilessly. Now, nobody's laughing.

The best joke of 1991 is today's serious capitalism: if there's a market for it, it's OK. For decades, impoverished people in small countries have sold their organs on a thriving international black market. Now, the industry is too legit to quit. I'm seriously considering taking the organ donor approval off my driver's license and advertising for offers. Maybe I'll start an organ bank auction like eBay.

Nevada is the right place for it. We've gained international fame for letting workers legally rent their bodies for the pleasure of strangers. This would be a mere extension of existing public policy. Bodies are made to be brokered and broken. Half our congressional delegation thinks so.

Senator John Ensign and Rep. Jim Gibbons, both R-Nev., recently voted with congressional majorities to repeal newly implemented worker safety regulations.

The official reasons included the usual suspects: Ergonomics standards need more study, will cost business too much; let the market decide; people can always work somewhere else blah-blah-blah. No one uttered the coldly real reason: we've got the votes and there's no penalty for screwing the weak.

If repetitive stress injuries permanently disable someone, that worker can be easily replaced through sources legal or illegal, foreign or domestic. Injured workers can file insurance claims, but industry has long been hard at work on the state level to make it difficult if not impossible to get compensation. Ask anyone familiar with Nevada's chronically disastrous on-the-job insurance program.

If all else fails, let the taxpayers pick up the cost. Any motorcar is worth more after it's cut up for parts. As with auto bodies, so now with human bodies, reduced by the zen of follytix to the art of automobile maintenance. BodyBay.com is right around the corner.

CLINGING TO THE LEDGE. The Ergonomics vote signals a neo-Reagan offensive damaging to workers. Sir Ronald the Vague was the first and only ex-union boss to hold the White House. He used it to destroy everything he once espoused. Now that Dubya's handlers have seen that they can easily impose corporate will through congress, it's open season on the working stiff's physical and financial muscle. So too in these parts.

This Wednesday at 3:45 p.m., the Nevada Assembly commerce and labor committee hears AB 156 which would cut back area standard prevailing wages on public construction projects. Such federal and state laws have long been under siege. A few years back, the City of Sparks allowed the "B" Street Syufy Corporate Welfare Theatre to be built downtown at substandard wages. Many workers were cheated out of thousands in back pay which they will never see.

At 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the assembly judiciary committee hears AB 133. Among other nefarious provisions, it would make construction defects magically disappear not by repair but by lowering building code standards. The committee will also hear AB 81, a homebuyer bill of rights. Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., the state senate judiciary committee reviews a package of bills on racial profiling and juvenile justice. This comes just in time for Tuesday's 4:00 p.m. Reno City Council session about forming a local civilian police review board. Also on Tuesday, Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, takes his latest proposal to increase taxes on big casinos before the state senate taxation committee at 2:00 p.m.

SOBERING UP THE POWER DRUNK ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY. Sen. Neal will address the Nevada Utility Reform Alliance (NURAy) this Saturday, March 17 at the Progressive Leadership Alliance conference building, 1101 Riverside Drive in Reno just west of the Booth Street Bridge. The public is invited.

Neal, the state senate's senior Democrat, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 269, a proposal to re-regulate Nevada electric and natural gas utilities. Joint sponsors include Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, Assemblymen Morse Arberry, Jr., and Wendell Williams, both D-Las Vegas. Neal's bill would return the industry to full regulation under the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

"Conditions similar to California are occurring throughout the western region," Neal says.

"They will afflict Nevada as well if policy makers attempt to deregulate in the face of widespread generation shortages. The underlying flaw in deregulation is the assumption that competition will drive energy prices down. In order for that to happen, there must be an adequate supply of generation facilities with nondiscriminatory access to the transmission system for all suppliers," he notes.

Read More About It:

Sen. Neal's position on re-regulation
Free market no cure-all

Fight Back
Nevada Energy War Room

"However, these conditions do not exist and will not for some time, if ever," Neal adds.

The two-month-old Nevada Utility Reform Alliance (NURAy) is a non-profit organization created to give a voice to residential ratepayers and small business persons. NURAy's agenda for Saturday includes discussion of Sierra Pacific Power's $311 million rate increase (which comes before the PUC on March 23rd); pending legislation; introduction of interim directors and executive director; and establishment of standing committees.

They are establishing chapters statewide. For more information on the organization, contact Charles Laws, (775) 787-8935, Scott Underwood, (775) 329-4179 or Thomas Wilson, (775) 841-3220.

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY DEPT. I was probably a Montgomery Ward customer before I was born. I've still got some stretch socks my mother bought for me at Ward's when I was about 12.

Last week, I got an envelope from Montgomery Ward. I could feel a new credit card inside. I thought the going-out-of-business sale was over.

I opened it with a chuckle. In a last gasp of mismanagement, a company about to fold after more than 100 years had mistakenly sent out new cards.

I was two-thirds wrong. A buzzard apparently picked the bones of the grand old American company, which now dies with ignominious humiliation, giving its customers to one of the main reasons for its demise -- a competitor selling cheap slave-labor goods to income-squeezed American workers whose purchases will continue the export of U.S. jobs. The card was from Wal-Mart.

I'm not buying.

Be well. Raise hell.


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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan and a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413. He is editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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