The Nevada Flat Show
Expanded from the 5-13-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
You've seen them. Guys trying to convince you to wager on a game of three-card monte or betting that you can't guess which shell covers the pea. Such streetcorner hustlers are the direct descendants of the old-time carnival creepers who founded the Nevada gambling industry. They made their money running flat shows of games rigged so that the suck ahem, player, had absolutely no chance of winning.
Today's casinos are latter day flat shows gussied up in corporate three-piece suits. If they ran honest games, they wouldn't bar blackjack card counters who can beat the house on skill alone.
As I've noted oftimes, Nevada is one big flat show, both from the standpoint of employment and politics. The gambling industry has made this a fire-at-will state, where employees have no rights unless they work under the rare personal or union contract.
One longtime local civil rights activist shook his head after last year's elections and said "Nevada is politically retarded."
The truth hurts. As casino customers, employees and as a body politick, we are like battered spouses who keep coming back for more. We know that our abusers need us, because without us, who would they have to beat up when they want to?
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Even well-educated sheep can be dumb. I was forwarded an e-mail last week from someone working against Senate Bill 487, a developer-pushed measure to create a water czar with condemnation power. One of the lobbyists working against it advised the faithful to stop calling and e-mailing lawmakers because the sheer volume was annoying some of them.
Dumb. In politics and lobbying, you never take off the pressure, even after the game is over, because it's never over. The opponents think they've got the bill killed in the assembly. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
It passed the senate 20-1, with only union waitress Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, in opposition. All Washoe senators voted for it, a sign that Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, has matters well wired.
Big Bad Bill is using the same template with which he created the Regional Planning Governing Board as an uberagency superseding local governments. Las Vegas controls majorities in both houses. Their representatives don't have to care because no one who lives here can vote against them.
As the late, great Assemblyman Marvin Sedway, D-Las Vegas, remarked about Washoe lawmakers two decades ago, "if they want to impose a new tax on their constituents, I'm for it. If they don't, I'm against it."
The goody twoshoes types fighting Raggio's bill may wake up some morning in the next few weeks and find that they've been goldenly fleeced.
Wynn Las Vegas casino dealers vote overwhelmingly for union
MR. WYNNDERFUL PLAYS HUGGY BEAR. As Barbwire mailing list subscribers already know, casino dealers at the Wynn resort in Gomorrah South concluded voting in a union election at 3:00 a.m. today.
Steve Wynn created a firestorm among his workers when he began to skim tips in order to give supervisors a raise.
The Nevada labor commissioner, who was morphed into an anti-worker apparatchik under former Gov. Dudley Do-Right, favored Wynn on the tip skim issue. Surprise, surprise.
Assembly Bill 248, which would prohibit the practice, is currently being embalmed for burial in Sen. Randolph Townsend's, R-Reno, Commerce and Labor Committee.
Hitting each dealer for about $20,000 a year sparked a union organizing drive. Wynn has been backslapping, having face-to-face meetings and even using the piano player in the cathouse excuse: I had no idea what was going on upstairs, please forgive me. (Hell, it worked for Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales.)
Wynn has also reportedly admitted that he will not change the tip policy no matter what. But the classic union-busting technique of the boss groveling and asking forgiveness from good Christians has already turned some of the sheep around.
Casino dealers are notoriously non-cohesive as a group.
I hope they teach the arrogant lout a lesson.
THE NEVERENDING STORY. Since former bartender Darlene Jespersen filed her unjust termination lawsuit against Harrah's in 2001, I have been continually amazed at the legs of the story. Throughout this decade, I have been contacted by media around the world, from Oprah Winfrey to Japan, Argentina, Great Britain and Canada. My Oct. 8, 2000, column became her unofficial website just because of all the stories I've linked to it. It remains one of the most heavily accessed pages at NevadaLabor.com.
Jespersen, as regular Barbwirites may recall, was fired by Harrah's after 21 years as an exemplary employee. Her crime? Refusing to paint her face. She finally lost her case at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but in the process made new law which will help oppressed workers in the future.
As you may further recall, two years ago this month, Hollywood director Darryl Roberts came to Reno to interview Darlene for his documentary America the Beautiful, which explores our hangups on fame and fairfacedness.
The film asks "does America have an unhealthy obsession with beauty?" Some of those interviewed included Jessica Simpson, Wycliffe Jean and a fully dressed Paris Hilton.
Roberts also interviewed former Miss Nevada Theresa Benitez-Thompson (wife of TV-4 meteorologist Jeff Thompson) and a certain obscure Tribune columnist. Got a hunch my radio face didn't make it into the finished product.
Mr. Roberts has informed me that the now-completed film is receiving praise from film festivals and critics, including the Los Angeles Times. The fair face of my friend Darlene appears on the front page of the movie's website.
THE LATEST PUBLIC RELATIONS COUP FOR NEVADA. Last Friday, NBC's Today Show did a travelogue with Gov. Jim Gibbons on his infamous freebie cruise with a Reno fatcat campaign contributor. I was amazed at how quickly it hit the web. You may view the story for yourself at the Nevada Up North website. The story also appeared on the NBC Nightly News, MSNBC's The Countdown with Keith Olbermann and on the Reno ABC affiliate, KOLO TV-8.
Be well. Raise hell.
UNews: Clips on the current campaign to oppress dealers and a history of casino worker organizing campaigns
BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
Chilling forecasts from Alex Carey
Nevada: Right to Work for Less
Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it
Barbwire Nevada Corporate Welfare Archive
Learn about the goodies the gambling industry gets at the public trough
Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
I've been telling you so for more than 10 freakin' years
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Copyright © 1982-2007 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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