Pioneering Nevada labor leader
Tom Stoneburner dies
UPDATED 3-9-2008

A military policeman in Afghanistan remembers Stoney
BARBWIRE Daily Sparks Tribune 1-28-2007


NEW Your memories of Stoney + photos
More will be posted as they arrive. Keep hope alive.

NEWWidow vows to keep workers’ group in business
Reno Gazette-Journal 3-18-2005

Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial: Stoneburner was an effective advocate
"Few people in the community have had such a recognized impact on the workplace in Northern Nevada."

Dear Friends of Stoney:

I've gathered additional information from Tom Stoneburner's friends and family for you. Please contact me with any questions. Fresh news links appear, below.

Stoney died of ruptured aorta, the same malady that felled actor John Ritter. He was helicoptered from Palomino Valley to Washoe Medical Center in Reno where he was pronounced dead at 12:34 p.m. PST on Monday, Feb. 21, 2005.

Tom Alvin Stoneburner was born May 27, 1944, at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, California. He was named after Tom W. Johnston, his maternal grandfather, a linotype operator at the San Diego Union-Tribune who was elected president of San Diego Typographical Union 221 (A.F.L.). Tom Stoneburner was a 1961 graduate of Herbert Hoover High School and attended San Diego City College.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Harry Alvin Stoneburner and Virginia Johnston Stoneburner. His father was a career sgt. major in the United States Marine Corps. Tom Stoneburner was a veteran of four years in the corps and later served as a deputy sheriff in Mono County, Calif., where his father had moved after retirement. Harry Stoneburner was elected county treasurer in 1970.

Tom Stoneburner was a 36-year Nevadan, coming here on St. Patrick's Day in 1969.

He is survived by his wife of 18 years, Kathy, of Palomino Valley north of Sparks, Nevada; stepmother Dee Stoneburner of Carson City, Nev.; a sister, Virginia Kay Keich (Richard) of Burlington, New Jersey; aunts Helen Franklin of San Diego and Marylin Sievert of El Cajon, Calif.; daughter, Cindie Addis, of Fallon, Nev.; sons Christopher of Sparks, Nev., and Stephen of Denver, Colo., and three grandchildren.

Kathy Stoneburner has said that Stoney loved the work of the Alliance for Workers' Rights more than anything else he had ever done in his life. The organization will continue its work. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Alliance at One Booth Street, Reno, NV 89509; (775) 333-0201.

At the state capital in Carson City on Feb. 22, the Nevada State Assembly adjourned in Stoneburner's honor.

Álvaro Degives Mas has posted a Spanish translation of this morning's obituary at

Tom Stoneburner's television program, "Alliance for Workers' Rights," will continue to run in its longtime slot at 8:00 p.m. Sundays. Sierra Nevada Community Access Television is scheduling additional cablecasts in his honor on Sparks-Reno Charter Cable Channel 16.

I will be uploading memorials, photos and additional information as items arrive at



(775) 786-1455
Fax 747-0979

ps: Anyone wanting to contribute a favorite photo, please upload 72 dpi jpegs. Thanks.

In the news

Union activist Stoneburner remembered
Those "Stoney" helped vow to continue

By Scott Sonner, Associated Press,
appeared in Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Daily Sparks Tribune

Reno Gazette-Journal 3-5-05: Stranded workers get their pay
Stoneburner wins his last fight from beyond

Reno Gazette-Journal: Leaders mourn death of man called the ‘voice of the working poor’

Associated Press: Veteran northern Nevada union organizer Tom Stoneburner dead at 60

Sparks TribuneSparks labor leader dead of heart attack
Fight continues in Stoneburner's memory

AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal — Stoneburner remembered for work in Harrah's bartender makeup case and campaign to modify cocktail server high heel requirements

Reno News & Review 2-24-05A Little Giant Falls

Columnist Deidre Pike 3-3-05 : A Rock in the Right Place
"He never called without a remarkable reason."

Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial: Stoneburner was an effective advocate


Se honra memoria de defensor de los derechos de los trabajadores

Adiós, querido compañero Stoney

Murió líder de los trabajadores de Nevada Tom Stoneburner

Trabajadores hispanos reciben pago atrasado

Grupos piden se agilice pago a 24 trabajadores de la construcción



Family opens Sunday Stoneburner funeral to public




Human Majesty and Misery

The Last Picture Show


SPARKS (2-26-2005) — The family of Tom Stoneburner has opened what had been a private Sunday funeral for the Nevada labor leader. Seating is limited at Walton's Funeral Home, 1745 Sullivan Lane north of Oddie Blvd. in Sparks. Viewing will be from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27, with the service from 11:00 to 1:00 p.m.

   "So many people wanted to attend who could not make it on Monday that we have decided to announce the Sunday location," stated Kathy Stoneburner, his wife.

  "Stoney held meetings at all hours of the day and night in order to accommodate shift workers, so we feel this is what he would have wanted," she said.

  "Casual dress will be appropriate," she added.

  The Monday evening memorial service at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Reno will proceed as planned. Attendees will gather at 5:30 p.m. with eulogies at 6:00 p.m. The family has asked that guests bring food for a reception which will follow immediately in the church fellowship hall at W. First and West streets. Stoney spoke at the church on several occasions.

  Scheduled speakers Monday include Culinary Local 226 business representative Nico de la Puente; longtime Stoneburner organizing associate Mike Cook; Maria Flores, who served as Tom Stoneburner's translator when he worked to help her family and others displaced by the Sundowner Hotel closing; Stoneburner's daughter Cindie Addis of Fallon; and Bob Fulkerson, Executive Director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

  Anyone in attendance will be allowed to speak.

  Stoneburner, 60, a Circus Circus security guard, former union president and founder of the Alliance for Workers Rights, died of a ruptured aorta at Washoe Medical Center on Feb. 21.

  In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be sent to further the work of the Alliance at Number One Booth Street, Reno, NV 89509.
Those who want to send memorial letters and remembrances may upload them to They will be permanently posted at this website.



Security guard showed the way to organize and benefit workers despite prejudicial local, state and federal roadblocks



Harrah's-Reno, 2-16-2001 —
Left to right, Alliance for Workers Rights Executive Director Tom Stoneburner, bartender Darlene Jespersen and cocktail server Kricket Martinez demonstrate against debilitating high heels and other worker-brutalizing policies, such as those which cost Jespersen her Harrah's job. She attended the June 15 cocktail server protest in front of the Venetian Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and filed major civil rights litigation against Harrah's on July 6, 2001.
Read more about it.


Sparks, Nev., 2-21-2005 (Updated 2-27-2005)Longtime Nevada labor leader Tom Stoneburner died of a massive heart attack at his home in Palomino Valley north of Sparks. He was 60 years of age. His colleagues at Circus-Circus Hotel-Casino in Reno are devastated, as are his many friends and associates in the Nevada labor movement. We have lost a great champion. Stoney worked his heart out for Nevada workers and the proof lies below. All of Nevada labor mourns. Our hearts weep for his wife, Kathy, and his family. Watch this site for new information as it becomes available and say a prayer to your conception of the Almighty to grant Stoney godspeed on his journey home.

FIRST IN HISTORY. He organized and won back-to-back union elections for security guards at two major Reno hotel casinos. The 1994 election at Circus Circus was the first time in Nevada history that any group of casino security personnel had voted in favor of group representation by forming a union. The Circus Circus win generated other organizing drives, most notably at the Reno Hilton in 1995. The hotel management refused to bargain in good faith toward a contract, so Stoneburner, by then president of United Plant Guard Workers of America Local 1010, took the workers out on strike.

His timing was perfect. The 1996 Hot August Strike at Hot August Nights, northern Nevada's biggest special event, resulted in a contract with the region's largest resort property. The union, now renamed the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA), still represents the Reno Hilton guards. See

Circus Circus never came to a contract and implemented a series of delaying actions until the pond could be stocked with anti-union new hires and a decertification election held. SPFPA Local 824 won an election to represent security staff at the Flamingo Hilton in Laughlin, Nev., several years after the Reno Hilton contract. They secured their first contract in 2001 and now represent almost the entire security staff at the southern Nevada resort on the Colorado River. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I apologize for the first news bulletin about Stoney's passing which failed to take account of the Laughlin local.]

Stoneburner's experience with the difficult and near-impossible roadblocks thrown up by federal and state law against union organizing led him toward helping those who were not only without a union, but would probably never enjoy the benefits of one. In doing so, he paved the way for the guerrilla union campaigns of the future.

He formed the Alliance for Workers Rights in 1997 to champion those without a voice. While still maintaining his full-time job at Circus Circus, Stoneburner worked tirelessly for the least among us. He championed the cause of workers killed and injured in Nevada industrial plant explosions.

At one point, Stoneburner even helped raise and arrange for shipment of felled workers bodies back to Mexico. Perhaps his many years of tireless activity in his "off-hours" proved too much, ending his time early. Maybe Tom Stoneburner died for the sins of those who abuse so many for the sake of 30 pieces of Silver State silver.

Stony was a man ahead of his time

Culinary and Bartenders unions push to eliminate costly work cards, a throwback to the days of the mob
Las Vegas Sun 2-15-2008

Against heavy odds, he chose to fight, and often win, the great issues of his time. Expensive and repressive "permission to work cards" or "police cards" are now much more uniform. Until about two years ago, someone working two jobs in adjacent cities would have to pay for two work cards and background checks. Tom Stoneburner was in the forefront of changing archaic local laws and moving toward a uniform statewide standard.

Stoneburner fought the Sparks City Council in a continuing series of skirmishes when the city criminalized looking for work. Day laborers seeking employment in front of the state casual labor office on Galletti Way in the Rail City were continually rousted by Sparks police. Many could not avail themselves of the services of the state office because it provided no Spanish-speaking workers to assist them. The state finally hired some bilingual staff and the city and the Alliance for Workers' Rights have had a truce for the past two years.

In January, 2001, Stoneburner signed a groundbreaking agreement with the Nevada Department of Agriculture to provide Spanish translators to assist during state inspections. The contract, signed January 9, 2001, was "expected to increase fair treatment and safety for immigrant workers at greenhouses, nurseries and landscape service companies." (Daily Sparks Tribune 1-14-2001) Stoneburner's triumphant press release read "Immigrant Farm Workers Break Sound Barrier."

Stoneburner advocated the creation of a state ombudsman for farm workers who have few rights under the law. (Reno Gazette-Journal guest editorial 2-3-2001) Somewhere, Cesar Chavez was smiling.

Stoneburner formed a network to assist fired Sundowner Hotel workers who were left without health insurance, jeopardizing the lives of some who could no longer afford vital medication.

WORKING FOR WORKING WOMEN. Stoneburner garnered worldwide attention for oppressed Nevada workers by supporting Harrah's bartender Darlene Jespersen, who was fired by Harrah's-Reno for the sin of refusing to wear makeup after 20 years of exemplary service without it. Stoneburner organized "Boss, Kiss My Foot" picketing demonstrations in both Reno and Las Vegas to sensitize the casino industry to the permanent maiming of their cocktail servers caused by mandatory spike heels. Several major gambling corporations eventually changed to a more foot friendly policy.

The Alliance's accomplishments and initiatives in various states of progress over the past seven years are truly almost too numerous to mention. Here are a few:

  • Tip Tax Reform
  • Unemployment Appeals Reform
  • The Kiss My Foot campaign
  • Work Card Reform
  • The Farmworkers Project
  • The Day Laborer Project
  • Industrial Plant Safety

Stoneburner hosted a public access television show entitled "Alliance for Workers Rights" which still airs on Washoe, Carson and Douglas channels. He taped his last two programs on Feb. 11.

Both of the programs centered around his last crusade to help recently stiffed and stranded construction workers. He was visibly upset and shaken at what he termed outright thievery by employers who refused to pay their employees. He was personally and emotionally invested in winning justice for the homeless construction workers who remain owed about $96,000 in back wages.

Perhaps this fight was one too many for someone who had worked around the clock for so many years.

Nevada workers have lost a great and innovative champion. Nevada unions have much to learn from Stoneburner's tactics of essentially bringing workers together in a concerted manner – the very definition of unions under federal law – while bypassing the expensive, time-consuming, often perverted and usually unsuccessful election process.

Stoneburner showed how community organizing, public pressure and media savvy could often be more effective than garden variety techniques.

A laundry list of labor luminaries recently published a long editorial advising organized labor to make some radical changes in its methods of operation.

They both reinforce and expand upon reforms being considered at the highest levels of the union movement. Well and good, but let them all look at the accomplishments of Tom Stoneburner first. Does any Nevada union currently produce its own regular television program?


On August 13, 2002, the Nevada State Legislature's Legislative Commission Subcommittee on Industrial Explosions considered two of Stoneburner's proposals. One stands out: "Amend NRS (Nevada Revised Statutes) criminal statutes that apply to cases of negligent homicide, manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter to include prosecution of corporations, executives and managers of corporations, who knowingly or negligently cause or allow conditions to exist that result in the death or serious injury of workers. Empanel a task force to recommend to the Legislature and Governor laws designed to help protect Nevada's workers through prosecution of persons who violate workplace safety standards."

The legislature is now in session. Does any lawmaker have a spare bill draft available for the Tom Stoneburner Worker Safety Act of 2005? Let us know and we'll be there to support it.

More details will be published here as they become available. Memorial statements and remembrances will be most welcome and published.

My Sunday column in the Sparks Tribune will be a more personal set of stories about my friend Stoney.

Adios, compadre.

Be well. Raise hell.

Your friend forever,

Andrew Barbano


Adiós, querido compañero Stoney pages detailing Tom Stoneburner's lifetime of tireless hard work on behalf of the powerless


A news compendium of more of Tom Stoneburner's labors for justice



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