My friend Chuck Fisher is another in a long line of very human answers to the great question. While we mere mortals may never learn the meaning of life, we can infer why we migrated to these parts: the High Desert Outback of the American Dream needs all the help it can get.
Greatness cloaks those who stand up for their rights and those of others at great personal expense. Such a man was Charles Forrest Fisher.
In January of 1997, four months after signing the first security guard union contract in the repressive history of this state’s gambling industry, the Reno Hilton pulled a Wal-Mart and illegally fired its entire staff.
I walked picket lines with Chuck, Tom Stoneburner, Tom Stubblefield and their fellow workers during the fabled 1996 Hot August Strike at Hot August Nights. I was personally involved in notifying Teamsters Union drivers to turn their trucks around and not deliver to the Hilton. No Teamster crossed the picket lines. To their everlasting shame, The Beach Boys did, although I pushed their Los Angeles unions to convince them otherwise.
Hilton chose to drag it out with lawyers and lost in every forum for years, finally forced to pay more than $3 million in back wages and benefits. Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America still represents guards at the renamed Grand Sierra Resort.
Tom Stubblefield didn’t make it. He died young of cancer in 1999 before Hilton anted up. These heroes not only put their jobs but also their futures on the line. They were blackballed by the casino industry. Downtown Reno-Sparks casinos were eager to hire experienced staff. When informed that the applicants were ousted Hilton unionizers, all of a sudden no positions were available. St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center employed Chuck until his 2003 retirement.
Former Fresno police officer Fisher died last Wednesday at the saddest address in Sparks, Renown Skilled Nursing on Oddie Blvd. No memorial service is planned. I will post his complete obituary with the expanded web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com. Remembrances are welcome and will be permanently archived thereat.
The fighting spirit of these men survives both on the ground and in the air of the High Desert Plantation. Reno-Sparks-Washoe may rise to its greatest level next year.
A fable for our times
In 2005, Bush the Lesser had begun his second term and liberals had to content themselves with the virtual reality of “The West Wing” TV series, then in its final season.
In one of the concluding episodes, the fictional voters elected the first minority president of the United States played by veteran Latino actor Jimmy Smits. After a frustrating search for a secretary of state, he made an astounding choice: the Republican opponent he had just defeated, played by Alan Alda.
Life imitated art in 2008, as Barack Obama, the first minority president, likewise appointed his former nemesis Hilary Clinton.
Mr. Smits’ fictional character won by a razor-thin margin when tight returns from the Silver State arrived.
All 2012 projections forecast a close contest with Nevada as a key swing state and Washoe as the critical swing county.
Reno-Sparks could thus decide the presidency next November.
Could life imitate art?
It’s already happened once.
Community media victory
I serve as Reno-Sparks NAACP delegate to the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Last Thursday’s board meeting brought a long-awaited announcement.
After an eight-year struggle, PLAN has been granted a license for a full-power radio station at 89.1-fm.
The Federal Communications Commission stamped PLAN’s ticket after a religious organization lied. In a very un-Christian act, a church asserted that it had built a transmitter. Untrue. The feds took a dim view of that conduct.
I don’t even know if the congregation in question exists and will not use its name because I’ve been on the receiving end of such shenanigans. Regular readers may recall that I produced and hosted a live two-hour daily call-in talk show on area cable TV channels, simulcast over the web as KJIV. The plan was to have an off-the-shelf radio station ready to launch on non-profit 89.5-fm the moment the FCC approved.
Representing a non-existent religious school, the same Washington lobby that tried to scam 89.1 filed bogus objections. The TV-radio project expired before the right-wing appeals did. Those DC crooks file on everything, trying to turn the airwaves into a monotone Gabriel’s trumpet. The good guys finally won one.
PLAN will not launch a liberal version of moonhowling KKKOH. It will be a non-corporate, non-formulaic community project featuring the broadest diversity of programming. You can’t prove it from listening or viewing, but the license of every radio or TV station says it has been granted use of the public airwaves to serve the community. Most don’t, choosing instead to serve cookie-cutter corporate profiteering.
Chuck Fisher and the two Toms were powerful warriors on the ground and will undoubtedly be available to carry the good fight high into the air.
As always, you may support the rebirth of community television via Barbwire.TV.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan, first vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.