The awful truth, sick hospitals, Dear Abby and the pope


Expanded from the 4-11-99 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune

The dung beetle ethics of the Gannett newspaper chain gang have long been known to readers of this column. Despite my prime-time confrontation with Reno Gazette-Journal editor Ward Bushee last year, the evil empire still refuses to publish its conflict of interest involving Union Pacific Railroad - those wonderful folks who got your taxes raised on April Fool's Day to pay for their downtown Reno track trench.

Two UP execs sit on the Gannett board, including former Reagan transportation secretary Drew Lewis, the man who drew up the merger resulting in the track travesty. The Reno paper just doesn't think its readers need to know, Bushee told me on Reno's KNPB TV-5.

His publication's boosterism of the glitter gulch gash increased after he moved away. When the damned ditch finally fills with water and other unspeakables, Reno may finally be competitive with the Sparks Marina - but don't eat anything you catch between Harolds Club and the Eldorado.

If you caught Janine Simonoski's report in the Tribune last week, you are now aware of the censorship of both union news and advertising perpetrated by the Reno paper. The grievances of Washoe Med and St. Mary's hospital personnel are apparently not worth printing, even if the union pays for it.

In today's Tribune, you will find an ad from Operating Engineers Local 3, the same union which has represented Sparks city employees for years. The Gannett-Journal refused to run it, demanding to see a list of workers who approached the union. Care to venture a guess as to who might quickly get copies?

This constitutes classic union busting - identify, intimidate, castigate, humiliate, eliminate. Gannett brings a lot of brutal experience to hospital management's side. The Reno paper muscled out its union printers over a decade ago.

The Gannett-owned Detroit News has illegally locked out its longtime union workers for several years. When some of them came here to protest Union Pacific and Gannett activities, RGJ editors broke an appointment to meet with them. The Tribune and the Reno News & Review printed the story. (See the Barbwire of 9-14-97, "The Gannett-Journal Railroad Job"; also 1-4-98, "The Reno Gannett-Journal: Corporate Pinocchio". )

Washoe Med was benevolent before corrupt pols gave the county hospital away in 1985. By 1989, pediatric nurses were publicly complaining about staff cutbacks endangering babies. Workers started meeting with two unions.

In 1995, I printed a series delving into the Washoe County Grand Jury report on the depredations of hospital privatization, bloated salaries for top executives and the sick specter of a hospital committing health code violations.

Last week, St. Mary's published an unholy letter filled with hateful lies about the Operating Engineers in particular and unions in general. Back when saintly Sister Seraphine and her fellow angels ran the place, you didn't see that kind of corporate viciousness.

Sister Seraphine practiced what Pope John Paul II preaches: "Catholic social teaching...hold(s) that unions are...indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people...their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity and it is impossible to ignore."

His Holiness comes from Poland, birthplace of Solidarity, Lech Walesa's trade union which brought down Soviet Communism.

UNINSURED, UNEMPLOYED, UNHEALTHY. About 600 Nevadans stand to lose their jobs as Gov. Kenny ("no new taxes unless casinos want them") Guinn fast-tracks legislation to privatize (like Washoe Med) the state workers compensation system. On top of earlier cuts, health care for those injured on the job has been reduced 38 percent since 1993. Employer premium payments have plummeted 44 percent.

LAUGH IT OFF. Comic relief comes just in time tonight as Michael Moore hits U.S. TV with "The Awful Truth."

"We have spent the last year working on this series and, in a way, we can't believe we are actually going to get this stuff on the air. You don't know how many people we had to pay off to make this happen!" Mahatma Moore e-mailed last week.

The show will run on the Bravo cable channel Sundays at 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., PDT. It premiered in England and also airs in Ireland and Canada.

"Kosovo, you ain't got time to watch no TV show. TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY!" says the Emmy-winning producer of "TV Nation" and writer/director of "Roger & Me," the movie about the dark side of General Motors.

Muckraker Moore will harangue with hilarity, but the joke's on us. You have to subscribe to TCI digital cable to get it. The bandidos giveth and taketh away.

"On this week's show, we go to Ken Starr's home with our 'portable witch hunt,'" Moore says, "and we stick it to an HMO like we've all wanted to stick it to them but just haven't had the right stick to do the job."

Which brings me to the sickest schtick of the week.

ET TU, ABBY? The hallowed Abigail Van Buren last Thursday advised "Lineman's Worried Wife" not to complain about his employer forcing him to work while sick (shades of the Reno Hilton under Ferenç Szony).

"Unless (he) is being singled out and treated differently than his peers, or the company is violating an established policy, there is nothing to be done except consider finding a job with a different company or a different line of work," Abby said.

Aaargh. The endangered worker can also open the Yellow Pages to "labor organizations."

He sure won't find out who to call in the Reno Gazette-Journal, publishers of Dear Abby.

Be well. Raise hell.


Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a 30-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and head of Casinos Out of Politics (COP). In 1998 he served as gubernatorial campaign manager for State Senator Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune, since 1988.

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