Striking blows for justice
Expanded from the 9-16-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Updated 9-20-2007

"How will labor come back? In a strike. That's not romanticism, that's a fact. It'll start with one plant. One plant. And they strike. And there'll be guys across the street at a second plant, and they see it, and they think 'Hmm, maybe we can do that.' And they win. Then somebody in Idaho does it, the same thing, independently. And then all of a sudden you're seeing some John L. Lewis again, a leader, but he gets thrown up, he's just riding the thing...That's not romanticism, that's a fact."

So said Ed Sadlowski of the United Steelworkers of America, as quoted in Chicago labor lawyer Thomas Geohegan's 1992 book Which side are you on? Trying to be for labor when it's flat on its back.

After all these years, labor leaders may finally be wising up to the wisdom of that advice.

Strikes work.

Yes, they are risky and require sacrifice of time and treasure. But only riots in the streets or Janet Jackson's jumpin' jack flash have similar power to capture public attention.

Perhaps the most successful strike in history occurred in 19th Century South America. Chile and Argentina were poised to again go to war over where to draw national boundaries in the frozen upper reaches of the Andes.

That's when mom took over. The wives of national leaders recruited their friends to support a strike of all women before their foolish boys went to war "over the rocks." (Got a hunch some of them may have read Lysistrata, the ancient play by Aristophanes wherein the women of Greece conspire to withold sex from their husbands unless they end their endless war. It worked.)

The ladies of South America were effective in bringing their macho studs to the bargaining table where they drew the line logically across the crest of the mountain range where they remain today.

As my old history professor, Dr. Jose C. Canales, once chuckled, "the Chileans joked that God must have been an Argentine" to have placed so much land on the east face.

Negotiators decided to build the famed Christ of the Andes statue to commemorate the settlement, which almost caused war to break out again – over which way the sculpture should face.

"Fortunately, the Chileans had a sense of humor," Prof. Canales recalled.

"They said let the statue face Argentina. They need watching."

And so do we.

Our land is rife with strike talk today. In the October issue of the venerable Harper's magazine, writer Garret Keizer makes a rambling, poorly written but nonetheless compelling call for a national strike on the next election day, Nov. 6.

Shut down the country to protest the depredations of Dubya and his dastardly dunces?

Where do I report for duty?

In Gomorrah South, the Culinary Union still has 10,000 members working without a contract and remains poised to shut down the Las Vegas Strip.

The same union negotiated with union-busting Grand Sierra Resort execs in Reno last week as strike talk buzzed through the town. (More than one person has opined that if the union has an $80 million strike fund, they should just buy the place. I agree.)

Speaking of union busters, the National Labor Relations Board will conduct an election at Renown/Washoe Medical Center on Sept. 25-27. The Service Employees International Union has been fighting the robber baron management which has refused to recognize SEIU as successor to Operating Engineers Local 3.

The local medical establishment is aghast.

"They make so much money that after they pay huge executive salaries and bonuses, they spend the rest on remodeling, then they turn around and screw the nurses," said one quite concerned local doctor.

"The doctors are the same at every hospital. We have patients at all of them and work hard to provide good medical care. But without adequate nursing staff, the system breaks down," the good doctor said.

"I love working with my patients, but dealing with insurance companies telling me how to practice really hurts. Many of my colleagues are retiring in their 50's, when they are at the peak of their abilities. Some are retiring much younger because they are sick of the system," she added.

Nurses likewise are quitting in droves.

Because Renown/Washoe Med understaffs and overworks its nurses, they often have to hire extravagantly expensive "traveling nurses" from job brokers, the doctor growled.

She noted that Renown/Washoe Med management simply has the wrong mindset to run a hospital.

"The bean counters are in charge," she said, adding that "they just don't look at things from a patient care standpoint. They forget community responsibility and that this is not like any other profit-making business." (The IRS has been increasing its criticism of supposedly non-profit tax-exempt organizations behaving like for-profit companies. Renown/Washoe provides a perfect example.)

I said the place needs to be run by a doctor. She agreed.

The corporate attitude of Washoe Med management is like that of the Grand Sierra – maximize profits by cutting costs, which means shortchanging your workers and, ultimately, your customers. Grand Sierra management is so inept that they've imported poorly made Chinese furniture with edges so sharp that some guests have been severely sliced.

That's cost-cutting to a fault.

Ironically, one of the big sticking points is health care costs.

When a corrupt Washoe County Commission deeded over our county hospital to the current pirates in 1985, the new entity was supposed to reduce health care costs and cover all future indigent care. Both commitments were broken and taxpayers still pick up the tab.

I doubt that anyone will organize a national election day strike, but if the United Auto Workers Union finally finds its cojones and walks out on General Motors, Nov. 6 is as good a day as any.

And if pickets go up at the Grand Sierra or Renown/Washoe Med, just tell me when my shift on the line starts.

My picket sign is always ready.

Are you ready to rock 'n' roll?

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns...

NEW! Health Care War Room
Online Exclusive: Washoe County Grand Jury Report detailing the scandals and skullduggery which resulted in the theft of Reno's public hospital
AFL-CIO leader asks affiliates to pressure management

...and more ammo

(1) Like Washoe Med, Carson-Tahoe Hospital commits suicide and the taxpayers will pay — He who ignores the doofusses is bound to become one, Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 8-5-2001; Carson City Nevada Appeal, 8-8-2001.

(2) Washoe Med antes into the game to put Medicare into a death spiral; Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 6-12-2005.

(3) Washoe Med: Get Rich Quick at No Money Down; Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 5 November 1995 et seq.

(4) Party like it's 1929Union-busting Reno hospital offers excuses for rape and pillage
BARBWIRE 8-12-2007

(4) Washoe Med renown for toxic sludge, BARBWIRE 8-5-2007

NEW 1995 BARBWIRE ARCHIVE — Analysis of the Grand Jury Report


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The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.

      RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006



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. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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