Dudley Do-Right, Snidely Whiplash & Canadian Mounties
Expanded from the 4-22-2001 Sparks
The kids are both alright and absolutely right. Right now in Canada, they continue worldwide protests of the corporatization of national economies and the world's ecology. From Seattle to Prague to Quebec City, the world's workers, led by the youngest among us, have refused to roll over and play dead while corporate-controlled governments run a race to the bottom.
Both Reno and Las Vegas workers have lost jobs as international treaties, negotiated behind closed doors, have undercut the rights of citizens in this increasingly unrepresentative democracy. In the richest country in the world, workers must fight every time they want the minimum wage increased.
Minimum wage workers today make less than they did in 1968 when inflation is taken into account. Someone laboring for $5.15 in 2001 earns the equivalent of $1.02 per hour in 1968 dollars when the minimum wage was $1.60.
If that $1.60 had been indexed for inflation, the minimum wage today would be $8.08 per hour.
Right here in river city, people actually work for less than minimum. I know a guy who makes $3.15 an hour as a casino bellman. "Tips" from bus tours are added to his salary, giving him $5.15 on paper before deductions. He never sees any tips, he just loads and unloads luggage. The full price of bringing a tour to a hotel is negotiated between the procurer of warm gambling victims and the casino in question. The actual "tip" figure is never revealed to the "tipped" worker.
However, under federal law, that extra two bucks can legally be allocated from some unaccountable tip pool to bring this poor lout up to the hourly minimum. Now, the good folks at the IRS want to hammer this man and his peers for even more income tax witholding on often-mythical earnings from such deals. Some casino workers ask to go home early on slow nights because every hour they stay is a net loss after the government attributes to them "tip" income which they never receive.
POWER TO THE POWERFUL. Imagine making $5.15 an hour and trying to pay skyrocketing gasoline, gas, electric and water charges. Last week, Gov. Dudley Do-Right, his former chief of staff Snidely Whiplash and the legislature's own Lord Darth Vader spoke as one. Gov. Kenny Guinn (Reno Gazette-Journal 4-19-2001), mining lobbyist and former Assemblyman Peter Ernaut, R-Reno (Carson City Nevada Appeal 4-19-2001), and casino juiceman Harvey Whittemore (Reno Gazette-Journal 4-18-2001), all expressed support for amending Assembly Bill 661 to allow casinos and mines to opt out of the power system. (Use the NevadaLabor.com search engine to find out much more about these guys.)
The guv, a former CEO of Southwest Gas, and Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who once supported utility consumers, both said that doing so would free up electricity for the little guy.
They conveniently neglected to note that the price paid by smaller users would skyrocket under such a scenario. If you lose half your income, do your house and car payments drop by half? If Sierra Pacific Power lost its big users, it would not cut rates to its remaining customers. It would still insist that the rest of us make up the difference and the company would stand on very firm legal ground when doing so. Once again, the lobbyists have announced the strategy and their elected minions have chimed in with timely agreement.
Can we get some radical mounties down here from Quebec to help us start a revolution? (For continuing updates, see the Energy Crisis War Room at NevadaLabor.com. To contact individual lawmakers, click here.)
MAYBE JUST MORALLY BANKRUPT. Gov. Dudley needs to better coordinate with utility PR departments. He pushed legislators to pass emergency rate hike legislation stating that SPP subsidiary Nevada Power is "very close to bankruptcy." The company immediately and publicly disagreed with him. Nevada Consumer Advocate Tim Hay seriously questions the company constantly crying poor boy.
FROM OUTAGES TO OUTRAGES. Last week, the Nevada State Senate passed Sen. Townsend's Senate Bill 4, which essentially deregulates the Nevada insurance industry. Only southern Nevada Democratic Sens. Carlton, Neal, Titus and Wiener voted against it, along with Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno. The bill is in serious need of assassination by the Nevada State Assembly.
Only Carlton, Neal, Titus and Wiener, joined by Las Vegas Democrat Terry Care, voted against SB 363 which would send almost $15 million to build highways in California.
GLOWING REVIEWS. State archivist Guy Louis Rocha and UNLV Prof. Bill Thompson made tortillas out of Harrah's shill Jan Laverty-Jones-Scheutz during last Thursday's "Talk of the Nation" KUNR broadcast from Lawlor Events Center. (Click on the "Back" button, below.)
However, in the National Public Radio program's second hour on land use issues, Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., got away with some howlers. Crying crocodile tears for poor foreign-owned mining companies was bad enough. But asserting that Nevadans have never benefited from nuclear power just ain't true. Some of the electricity powering the NPR broadcast arguably came from nuke power plants. Nuclear-generated electricity has been seeping into Nevada for years. We import up to half our power during each year. Some comes from nuclear plants. State officials finally grudgingly admitted it to a legislative interim committee awhile back.
WHAD'YA EXPECT? This newspaper commits its share of typographical errors and some of them are good for a laugh. Biggies like the L.A. Times are supposed to do better. A few weeks ago, on the freakin' front page, the Times ran this headline: "Electricy Rate Hike Is Needed." I thought that maybe trendsetting California shortened the spelling of "electricity." If you're chronically short of power, why not shorten the word itself?
Then I noticed it might not have been a typo at all. The "electricy rate hike" story appeared beneath a photo of the president.
Be well. Raise hell.
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Copyright © 2001, 2005 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 , editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal. org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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