Serious denial of the reality of life on street


I don't know about your town, but I know where I live. We've got hungry people, overcrowded schools and sick kids—all made worse because of lousy wages paid to stressed-out parents. The deprived do desperate deeds. Our courts, child protective services and, alas, the morgue know this too awfully well.

Reno and Sparks conduct studies while the convention authority and downtown redevelopment agencies urinate hundreds of millions of dollars down the river on corporate welfare schemes. I've got the minutes of a Reno Hilton executive meeting wherein managers were advised how to help workers reduced to part-time: tell them to apply for partial welfare. Heaven forbid decent wages and job security.

The regional transportation Citifare bus system, while laudable from a pollution standpoint, can also be viewed as another taxpayer subsidy for the bad wages which are the norm in this community. Poverty pay spawns mutations like Reno's E. Fourth Street. Its motel families are legendary. Their children play on asphalt parking lots strewn with needles. This has been going on so long that some of the motel kids now have offspring of their own. Most of the parents are low-wage workers.

The average citizen stands perfectly capable of looking at the situation and coming up with common sense solutions. One such person offered a few last week in a Reno Gazette-Journal guest editorial. Michael B. Stuart decried the weakness of local efforts to secure good-paying manufacturing jobs "that will allow the average citizens in our community to afford to buy houses, that will raise the average wage," he wrote. "Could it be that there is a sublime conspiracy to keep wages low in Reno so that supply of employees to the casinos is greater than the demand?"

Actually, there is. UNR Prof. Bourne Morris discussed it with the Kazoo-Journal not long after she moved here in the mid-1980s. Morris expressed astonishment at opposition to economic diversification from top gambling executives resistant to competition for the low-wage labor pool. As Mr. Stuart noted and as I've reported many times, local efforts to evolve beyond a one-horse company town have thus fallen flat.

Mr. Stuart, owner of JLM Industrial Supply in Sparks, bashfully concluded that "your average American production plants that offer high union-scale wages do not need a local university system. Note: I am not promoting unions in Nevada, although I do feel that this is also part of this sublime deference..."

Where have I heard such a grudging admission before? How many times have you witnessed somebody say "I'm not a feminist, but...I believe in equal pay." Or, "I'm not a civil rights radical, but...racism is rampant in this country." How about "I'm not a liberal, but...we should help hungry, homeless children."

Mr. Stuart's reluctance to endorse worker organizing merely reflects the demonization of certain words by the radical right talkradio-ites of this world. Americans are basically fair people. When they see unfairness, they act together to fight it, whether at school, at work or in politics.

They form unions, civil rights, educational and environmental organizations because the only way the weak can become strong is to work together as a team, the American way. Insecure corporate clonies find that frightening.

The gambling-industrial complex thus continues to push for a taxpayer-funded concentration camp for Sparks-Reno homeless people. They hire million-dollar union busters to concoct a climate of fear and intimidation to keep their workers low-paid and voiceless. Gambling interests are now underwriting a Nevada Republican Party initiative petition to keep union members from supporting pro-worker candidates. (See for details of what is rapidly shaping up as a central issue in next year's elections.)

In California, where a similar campaign is underway, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson has already eliminated the eight-hour workday, all part of the drive to take this country back to the plantation.

Unions, PTA's and other advocacy groups reflect a collective reaction to real problems. Cutting through corporate propaganda, a common-sense businessman like Mr. Stuart arrived at a common sense solution: get organized or get stepped on. He was just afraid to admit it.

GOOD NEWS DEPT. Thanks to this column's readers, including a few laborites, that oft-censored documentary about censorship will finally air in northern Nevada. "Fear and Favoritism in the Newsroom" will run at 9:00 p.m. on Feb. 20 on KNPB TV-5. The news from the Silver State has helped build national momentum. At last count, more than a dozen stations have now agreed to shine this bright light on the darkside of corporate media influence, up from just four last month. You can preview audio and video at

Call and mail your friends to persuade their local PBS affiliates to telecast this important work. For Las Vegas and Tucson, contact Patty Thaxton at or call (520) 299-1866. KLVX TV-10 can be reached directly at 4210 Channel 10 Drive, Las Vegas NV, (702) 799-1010.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 29-year Nevadan, and editor of U-News. Send an E-mail, especially if you want to join NAGPAC, the None of the Above for Governor Political Action Committee.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 12/14/97.

Reprints of the UNR financial scandal newsbreaks remain available for the cost of copying at
Nevada Instant Type in Sparks and both Office Depot Reno locations.