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Back to the Future: Nevada Labor Day 9-5-2016

The Storey County Miner's Union marching in the Virginia City Labor Day parade, September 7, 1908.
(Nevada Historical Society)

Area workers again march through historic Virginia City to celebrate the value of work on Labor Day

Labor Day 2015
Central Labor Council president rebuts Reno Gazette-Journal GOP-jaundiced Labor Day coverage
By Mike Pilcher / Reno Gazette-Journal Guest Editorial/ Sunday 10-4-2015

Labor Day 2016: Nevada workers' last stand
Barbwire Exclusives: Gansert will run to replace Brower in Nevada Senate
Complaint filed against welfare-bashing illegal GOP front petition

Barbwire by Barbano / Uploaded 8-30-2015/ Expanded from the Tuesday 9-1-2015 Sparks Tribune

Union sisters and brothers: Participate in Virginia City's 2015 Labor Day Parade
Contact Liz Sorensen at CWA 9413, (775) 322-9413 — ASAP.
Participants should meet at the top of the hill at the old school house, 537 South C Street no later than 11:00 a.m. Monday Sept. 7, 2015

Labor Day 2014: Red, white and screwed
Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the Sparks Tribune / 8-28-2014

Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers, American Federation of Government Employees, Communications Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Auto Workers, and International Painters and Allied Trades pose for a quick picture at the top of C Street in Virginia City just before the 2012 Labor Day parade began. (RGJ photo provided by International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.)
Parade on Monday 9-2-2013 —> A Labor Day parade will start at noon Monday in Virginia City and go down "C" Street. About 15 area unions and their members are expected to participate. For more information, contact Northern Nevada Central Labor Council President John Stevens at 775-846-5182.

State of the Unions
By Mark Robison / © 2013 Reno Gazette-Journal / Sunday 9-1-2013
Occasionally updated with related stories

Labor Advocates talk Apple, school taxes, Southeast Connector, what hurts workers here
By Mark Robison / © 2013 Reno Gazette-Journal / Sunday 9-1-2013
Editor's Note: The following was edited together from the RGJ's print edition and earlier online blog.
It provides interesting insight into changes from the reporter's draft and editors' revisions.

Paul McKenzie
is quick with his response to what's hurting Reno-Sparks workers.

Shunting Nevada work to out-of-state carpetbaggers is nothing new

Editorial: Apple deal is a reminder more transparency is needed, including projects at UNR
Apple downtown Reno/UNR center deal was never put in writing. Union warnings confirmed.
Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial/Sunday 10-20-13

Student achievement center construction project inspires questioning
By Kenny Bissett/UNR Sagebrush 10-8-2013

University just won't learn—>
The smoking gun: UN,R subcontractor hires and exploits undocumented workers
Dennis Myers/Reno News & Review/9-26-2013

Just like old times: UN,R and Hot August Nights
Barbwire by Barbano/Sparks Tribune/9-26-13

Reno Gazette-Journal front page/9-24-2013

Marginal contractors on UNR job draw Laborers' Union ire and picket line
U-News / 9-19-2013

Bullfighting in Tonopah —>
Billion-dollar tax-subsidized solar array goes to shady contractor from sunny Spain
Barbwire / Sparks Tribune 8-11-2011

Nevada workers march to UNR for Nevada jobs
U-News / 5-20-2010

"Importation of workers from out of state," he said.

McKenzie is executive director of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada/AFL-CIO.

"Our state government is giving millions and millions of dollars away in tax incentives to companies to create a few full-time jobs and then those companies are importing the construction workers to build the facilities that they're going to house those few jobs in," he said.

He sees this policy of not requiring that local workers be used on projects with tax incentives — such as Apple in Reno, Cabela's in Verdi, Scheels in Sparks and a milk factory being built now in Fallon — as contributing to Nevada's worst-in-the-nation unemployment rate. (For those keeping score, it's 9.5 percent, compared with 4.6 percent in Utah and 8.7 in California.)

"If all of the tax incentive dollars that were given away in Northern Nevada would've been spent employing Nevada workers, our economy would be rolling along in pretty good shape but because most of that money's being exported out of state, our tax incentives are going to other states to help them recover," he said.

It's not all bad news for workers.

Skip Daly — a state assemblyman and business manager of Laborers' International Union of North America Local 169 in Reno —  points to a gas tax ballot question called RTC 5 that was approved a few years ago.

"If it wasn't for that money, there wouldn't be a Southeast Connector and several other projects because the (Regional Transportation Commission) wouldn't have the money and there would be less opportunities for our people to work," Daly said.

"That was a coalition with contractors, labor, RTC, chamber of commerce, everybody was for that.

"We all partnered together to pass that and now reaping we're the benefits.


"A lot of local workers are benefiting from it and so is the local economy."

(The following paragraph did not appear in the print edition.)

These are just some of the issues discussed with Northern Nevada unions in advance of Labor Day weekend, which despite popular sentiment is not about celebrating the purchase of sale furniture, the start of the NFL season or going back to school.

(The following was added to the print edition.)

Tax incentives and the Southeast Connector are among the issues of interest to Northern Nevada unions as we celebrate Labor Day weekend. Other topics on their minds are:

   —> Assembly Bill 46, which would raise taxes for Washoe County school repair work and like give union laborers more work;

   —> The Education Initiative, or margins tax, which would create dedicated state funds for education and is the main goal over the next 14 months for Nevada's teachers unions.

Quick history

Liz Sorenson
2010 César Chávez Honoree
Silver State Service Award
Union Organizer of the Year

Liz Sorenson wants to put the labor back in Labor Day so on Monday at the annual Labor Day parade in Virginia City, she and others will hand out fliers to educate people.

"Labor Day is about the people who brought us the 40-hour week, good benefits, safety issues," said Sorenson of the Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO.

Labor Day originated out of a familiar situation. There was a big economic downturn, and companies laid off workers and cut wages.

About 4,000 Pullman Co. railroad workers got fed up and went on strike. Anger spread, leading to sabotage and riots that caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.

The federal government sent in 12,000 troops to break the strike. Thirty strikers were killed and 57 wounded.

President Grover Cleveland wanted to smooth things over after the carnage. Legislation was pushed through Congress and signed by Cleveland six days after the strike's end in 1894 to create Labor Day.

The U.S. Department of Labor says the holiday, which falls on the first Monday each September, "constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country."

Corporate favor

McKenzie said he thinks we could be nearing another point of labor unrest today.

"In Nevada, our government is more concerned with corporations than they are with workers," he said.

Asked why so many of the general contractors behind big projects bring in out-of-state workers, McKenzie said, "It's the relationship they have with the subcontractors from the state they come from."

"A perfect example is Apple and the project they have out here. They have a relationship with the general contractor they have in Washington; they have a relationship with the electrical contractor they have, he's from California; they've got a relationship with the mechanical contractor out there, he's from California. So they bring the workers from there because of that existing relationship."

Daly listed out-of-state contractors for Cabela's and Scheels.

"And they're building the Galaxy Theatres (IMAX project at Legends in Sparks) now," he said, "and they brought in an out-of-state contractor. There are some local workers on the ground, from subcontractors and various things ... but those dollars go to those contractors and they get sucked out of our state."

Todd Koch, regional director for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, said, "When we bring new businesses into our area, construction workers — the industry I work in — only have one shot at getting a benefit from those projects and that's while they're under construction.

"And when we don't protect our local construction workers and make sure that they're employed on those projects, these projects don't bring much, if any, benefit to the construction industry, whether we're talking about the construction workers or their employers, the general contractors, based in this area."

WORK IN PROGRESS — Union workers in the foundation of the Reno Aces ballpark construction, August 28, 2008. (Photo from Building & Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada/AFL-CIO.)

Southeast Connector

(The following paragraph is a meld of print and online editions, indicated by ellipses...) While a number of recent projects have not helped local union workers much, one that has is the Southeast Connector. The road project will be an U.S. 395 connecting Sparks and southeast Reno...It has generated controversy over environmental concerns and even doubts that it will be used enough to justify its cost.

McKenzie said that in addition to putting union laborers to work in such jobs as laying concrete, it will benefit all workers in Reno-Sparks.

It will take pressure off other arterial roads "so...traffic can flow smoother so you've got quicker commute times and less time sitting at stop lights polluting the air and lower fuel consumption because you can run steadily instead of having to do stop-and-go traffic," he said.

"If you take traffic off the McCarran loop and off 395 and move it to the sides, then you're going to reduce traffic congestion and that's going to benefit everybody in the community."

Washoe schools tax

Nevada is one of the top states for the percentage of workers represented by a union: 16.4 percent in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's high enough to rank 11th, higher than many states often considered to have a powerful union presence such as Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio.

"There's more of us than people think," Daly said, "the power company, water company, disposal/garbage, teachers, most of the trades in construction, those are all union workers. Plus letter carriers, AT&T, nurses — so there's a substantial number in Northern Nevada."

One issue bringing together a number of unions is (Assembly Bill) 46... [added to print edition]—> in which the state Legislature delegated to the Washoe County Commission the task of deciding whether to raise property and sales taxes for school repairs.

[The following paragraph was deleted from the print edition]
AB46...the Assembly bill widely characterized as a cowardly passing of the buck by the state legislature to the Washoe County Commission. The commission must decide whether to raise property taxes by 5 cents per $100 of value and the county sales tax by 0.25 percent. The revenue will go toward school repairs.

[The following was moved lower in the print edition.] —>
McKenzie said, "The root of AB46 is that Washoe County has never had a dedicated mechanism for funding school repairs. Every other county in the state has some form of funding capital renewal but Washoe County does not. This is an attempt to give the same tools to Washoe County that other school districts in the state have."

[The following paragraph was deleted from the print edition]
Daly said that when repairs are delayed until something fails, they cost a lot more so paying for things now will save money in the long run.

[The following online text was edited...]
The Washoe Education Association — the union representing most of the district's teachers, librarians, speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, and counselors — is working hard to get AB46 passed.

[...and appeared in the print edition as follows] —>
For the Washoe Education Association — the union representing most of the district's teachers, librarians, speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, and counselors —getting it passed is the group's main goal for the near-future.

President Dana Galvin said a sustainable source for building funds are essential because schools need help.

"For example, at one of our middle schools, they have not had air conditioning. They're on the second floor, and we're in the third week of school," she said.

"Another middle school — it's a newer one — has a leaky roof."

[Added to print edition]—> Some have questioned whether the commission should be allowed to raise taxes in this way and even whether the school district really needs the money.

But Galvin said AB 46...will help everyone in the schools...[Added to print edition]—>...because a teacher's working conditions are a student's learning conditions.

Brothers in arms...and legs (Carson City, Nev., 3-27-2013) — Andrew Barbano and Paul McKenzie at a union demonstration on the capitol lawn during the 2013 Nevada legislative session. Brother McKenzie acquiesced to Barbano's request to hunker down far below big Paul's height of 6'-12" or thereabouts, thereby distorting reality – which is standard operational procedure whenever dealing with state government. (Photo: Annie Jantzen, High Desert Gypsy Photography)

[McKenzie paragraph from above moved here in print edition.]

McKenzie said, "The root of AB46 is that Washoe County has never had a dedicated mechanism for funding school repairs. Every other county in the state has some form of funding capital renewal but Washoe County does not. This is an attempt to give the same tools to Washoe County that other school districts in the state have."

[Added to print edition]—>
Andrew Barbano, editor of, said AB46 will help union workers besides just teachers.

"It's prevailing wage work and skilled labor and thus that often means union labor," he said.

"Plus, man-hours remodeling generates more man-hours than new construction so there's a substantial amount of potential union work in maintenance, remodeling and upkeep. Some will be done by school district staff but there will be union labor involved."

Margins tax

Another schools tax issue is The Education Initiative, aka the margins tax.

This is the baby of the Nevada State Education Association, the state teachers union. It wrote the proposal to raise taxes on larger businesses to create a dedicated funding stream for education across the state.

It gathered more than 150,000 petition signatures in support. Because the Nevada Legislature didn't do anything about the proposal this past session, Nevada voters will decide its fate at the fall 2014 ballot.

No country for old men (Carson City, Nev., 3-27-2013) — Superannuated union guys in front of the Nevada legislative building at a noontime rally to preserve Nevada's prevailing wage law. Left to right are Gary Peck of the Nevada State Education Assn., Andrew Barbano—CWA 9413/AFL-CIO, Todd Koch—Painters & Allied Trades Local 567/District Council 16/AFL-CIO; Danny Thompson, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO and Anthony Rogers, International Brotherhood of Machinists & Aerospace Workers Lodge 845-Las Vegas. César Chávez/ Hall of Famer Sam Lumpe of Sheet Metal Workers Local 26, wearing a white cap, may be seen in the background behind Bro. Koch's head. (Photo: Annie Jantzen, High Desert Gypsy Photography)

Association president Ruben Murillo said, "It will improve Nevada's economy and improve the quality of life for all Nevadans.

"One of the knocks Nevada has had is that businesses won't invest in Nevada because of the quality of education. I see companies that won't come here because of it. An eBay founder bought a $17 million home in Nevada and sold it because he thought he couldn't find a good enough school for his children."

He hopes the business community will support it.

"Do we want to increase graduation rates and have higher incomes and less dependence on social services?" he said.

"I'd think businesses would want to invest in what's best for their employees."

He said that if Nevada students are better educated, this will attract a wider variety of companies that need more skilled workers and offer higher paying jobs.

"If not," he said, "you'll just get more service industry, fast-food jobs that don't pay as much."

Reno Aces Ballpark was built with 100 percent union labor under the first public project labor agreement in Northern Nevada. Union leader and state assemblyman Skip Daly says it was built on budget in the fastest time of any minor league ballpark in the country. (RGJ photo provided by AGC Nevada.)

Union decline and rising inequality in two charts
by Colin Gordon
Economic Policy Institute / 6-5-2012

Used in
journalist Mark Robison's extensive Hard Labor: Nevada unions tout role in helping workers, firms, economy (Sunday 2 Sept. 2012 Reno Gazette-Journal, page one, Reno Rebirth section of the print edition). Union men Jim Burrell, Paul McKenzie and Guy Louis Rocha did the movement proud. Not included in the RGJ online edition.

The Barbwire Labor Day column
Reno Gazette-Journal / 9-3-2012

Labor Day 2002 Nevada remains the High Desert Plantation
Barbwire by Barbano / Daily Sparks Tribune 9-1-2002

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