On Monday, Sam Shad will host Nevada State Education Association President Lynn Warne at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4. (Charter cable victims can see a rerun at 9:30 p.m. on channel 3. Online viewing and the statewide rebroadcast schedule can be accessed at NevadaNewsmakers.com)
Last week, the teachers’ union flipped a 180 on the rest of organized labor and backed out of a long-anticipated statewide initiative for a broad-based business tax.
The Nevada State AFL-CIO has been trying for a year to build consensus on a petition that all the major players could support.
Apparently, mining was the first to give labor the finger, followed by the casinos. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce was never a possibility, although their chief lobbyist, attorney Sam McMullen, was the principal architect of a major tax hike in 2003.
As I’ve noted before, Mr. McMullen stifled Gov. Dudley Do-Right’s gambling-developed Gross Receipts Tax, which would basically have given casinos a freebie. Taking into account all the corporate welfare the industry receives and factoring in the deductibility of state taxes on federal returns, the net new liability for the entire statewide gambling industry would have been around $6 million a year.
The late MGM-Mirage boss Terrence Lanni cancelled his outfit’s membership in the Nevada Resort Association after the 2003 taxes passed, grousing about $30 million a year in new liabilities.
Only Barbwire readers have been informed of Lanni’s potential personal gripe. The new law changed the definition of certain types of casino executive compensation, opening up more personal income to federal taxation. The gambling moguls got hit in their own wallets. Call it Sen. Joe Neal’s revenge.
These guys are awesomely powerful. For a number of years, the Alan Bible Research Center at the University of Nevada, Reno produced a biennial poll that consistently showed two of every three Nevadans in favor of raising taxes on the biggest, richest casinos. So the gamblers forced lawmakers to eliminate the survey’s funding. I therefore don’t believe recently publicized business polls that such support has eroded.
When Sen. Neal, D-N. Las Vegas, circulated an initiative to raise the gross gaming tax in 2000, the green felt boys pulled out their old playbook. They told employees that if the tax passed, everybody would be fired because the gambling industry would have to shut down. They pushed their suppliers to likewise instill fear into their workers.
I worked gathering signatures at the Nevada State Fair. Many casino staffers approached our booth wanting to sign, but backed away when informed that their names would become public record. They had been threatened with termination. That’s blatantly illegal, but Nevada casinos operate largely above the law.
Putting employees in fear is an old trick and it works like a charm. In 1978, when future Sen. Randolph Townsend was still a Democrat, Reno-Sparks area casinos did the bidding of Sierra Pacific Power, telling their workers that if consumer advocate Townsend won, they would lose their jobs. This guy Townsend would put Sierra Pacific out of business. Without electricity, hotels and casinos would have to close. Preposterous? Ridiculous? Yes. But many worker bees believed it. Townsend was defeated.
The late author Martin Levitt (“Confessions of a Union Buster”) said that he lost anti-union campaigns only when union members refused to break solidarity.
The house of labor now appears divided. After signing off on petition language upon which their attorney consulted for months, the teachers’ union reversed itself overnight, thus removing a principal financial backer. They have acted in a self-destructive manner many times before. The newly manufactured dispute apparently involves earmarks.
I advised Sen. Neal to draft earmarks into his 2000 petition so that Nevada might avoid California Lottery syndrome. The Golden State’s lottery was pimped as funding for education. Speaker Willie Brown and lawmakers indeed spent the lottery proceeds on schools, but subtracted a like amount from education budgets, making the lottery a zero-sum game and a cruel fraud.
But the rules have changed. Nevada petition laws now mandate that initiatives limit themselves to one subject. A tax hike combined with instructions on how to allocate the revenue can easily be struck down by the courts.
All this illuminates the Nevada Legislature as dysfunctional, allowed only to sprinkle crumbs on a starving body politic. Two initiatives destroyed state government. Las Vegas Republican operative Sig Rogich pushed term limits and future Gov. Jim the Dim Gibbons successfully convinced voters to mandate minority rule. It now takes a two-thirds supermajority to pass any tax or fee.
The gamblers and miners thus laugh all the way to the bank while driving past the public school graveyard.
I hope Mr. Shad and Ms. Warne wear black on Monday.
If you have kids, move somewhere else.
The new owners of St. Mary’s Hospital have announced that they are firing everybody. Former employees will have to reapply, a classic wage-cutting, union-busting technique by a shady corporation. Google “Prime Healthcare Services” and see for yourself. Two critically needed clinics for low-income people are not part of the sale and stand at risk of closure.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org, and member of Sparks-based Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO, which represents some St. Mary’s workers. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail email@example.com.