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Shut up and work
by Andrew Barbano
Dec 13, 2008 | 529 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Some small minds have a psychotic need to look down on selected others, a few convenient doormats to make them feel important.

When such attitudes come to the workplace, everyone suffers.

I got a call last week from somebody wanting to know if a worker has any protection from being fired for speaking Spanish on the job.

No. Nevada is a fire-at-will state. Absent a personal or union contract, a worker may be axed for no reason at all. “Human resources” (a detestable term that turns people into commodities) consultants advise managers to give no reasons lest employees use the information to take action.

A few years ago, Reno’s Eldorado Hotel-Casino tried to implement an English-only rule. Harsh publicity and embarrassing news coverage got them to back down. The policy would even have penalized anyone who responded in anything but English to a guest who had spoken to that worker in another language. I’ve always wondered if they planned to enforce the program during their annual Italian festival.

It seems that one local boss has now issued English-only orders and that a worker is in danger of being fired because of it. His sin was to speak to a co-worker who understands no English. I would like to see how this person’s supervisor supervises in such a situation.

I talked with someone who thinks that the endangered bilingualist should file an action with the U.S. Department of Labor and possibly the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has always been a paper tiger in Nevada.

Stay tuned.

Nugget changelings

A few weeks back, I reported the concerns of some employees at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. A new policy was in the offing, turning change and cocktail service into the same task. A caller to my show reported last week that about 10 Nugget workers have now lost their jobs over the issue.

So did they quit or get fired? Someone terminated can more easily collect unemployment benefits than a person who quits for refusing to do two jobs for the price of one.

A properly predatory “human resources” manager can push people to resign so that the company’s unemployment insurance premiums are not affected by new claims.

Law of the jungle usually hires lots of new people at this time of year at its huge Fernley distribution center. I got a call from a regular who’s out in the cold this season.

“The orders are just not there,” he told me a few days ago.

Hail Mary

On behalf of my union, Sparks-based Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 9413, I wrote and distributed a story about a major organizing victory a couple of weeks ago. A group of 540 employees at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center voted by a margin of four to one to bargain as a group.

The election covered staff from certified nursing assistants to linen workers. The Associated Press picked up the story, as did other media with one notable exception: the Reno Gazette-Journal, which has yet to print word one.

I broke the story the same day they fired 61 employees and the paper might have been in a bit of disarray.

The RGJ newsroom has long been understaffed, a situation which has now gone from critical to ridiculous. The term “beat reporter” now refers to someone very beat at the end of the day from having to do the work formerly done by three or four journalists. Nugget cocktail changelings can understand.

I have sympathy for RGJ human resource execs who had to do the firings. Some had to take major pay cuts, well into five figures in one case, just to keep their jobs.

Marge Hanks, 1925-2008

Margaret Ann Hanks passed away last Monday in Lake Havasu, Ariz. Long-time Sparks residents remember Marge and her husband, John, as operators of the popular Pauline’s Sportswear in the Greenbrae Shopping Center in the 1970s and ‘80s. As a long-time employee of Ma Bell, Marge was a 28-year member of CWA and served as a union president in Idaho.

John and I won a lot of awards producing TV spots for Pauline’s and other businesses. My late wife, Betty, was manager of the Hanks’ Carson City store when I met her. Marge was a great lady and a good friend. Thoughts and condolences may be submitted to the family at

Crunch time

Charter Communications is proceeding with its plan to assassinate community television in northwestern Nevada this week, perhaps as early as Monday. Public, educational and governmental TV are scheduled to move to the lightly surfed, lower-audience, higher-priced digital tier.

About one in five ratepayers will lose community service in Sparks, Reno, Carson, Washoe and Douglas. They will suffer the added indignity of continuing to pay for the stations through the franchise tax on every cable bill. Charter admits that profit is the motive and plans to use the bandwidth for premium channels.

The long-term effect will be to undercut public support for community TV. Stations have been dropping like flies all over the nation.

As I noted last week, only U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the clout to ask the Federal Communications Commission to intervene and stop it.

Reid, D-Nev., fought and defeated nationwide telecommunications deregulation in 2005.

His local staff recommends sending him letters and postcards via U.S. Mail. Ask Sen. Reid to fight for the consumer position.

Mail to:

Sen. Harry Reid

400 S. Virginia St, Suite 902

Reno, NV 89501

Time is tight. I also recommend e-mailing his key staffers, Mary Conelly in Reno ( and Brittany Blanchard in DC (brittany_blanchard@reid.

Please act quickly and also consider joining our consumer organization, ReSurge.TV, as we gear up for the next round of this fight.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 40-year Nevadan and editor of He hosts live news and talk (682-4144) Monday through Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. on Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 (as long as it lasts) and 216, streaming at Barbwire.TV. E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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