If you’ve seen these protesters on Sahara just west of Durango, or at Charleston and Rampart, you’ve probably wondered who they are and why they’re unhappy with Target and Valley Health Systems. A couple of weeks ago I stopped to ask them just those questions
Carpenters Local 1977 is standing out in the heat every day to tell people that non-union labor used in construction and nursing drives down wages, among other things. They are simply practicing the time-honored tradition of standing with their union brothers – a tradition practiced less and less as unions loose influence. Membership in unions across the country is decreasing, and our once union-strong city (the Culinary and Teamsters built this town – literally, in some cases) now turns a blind eye to protests and strikes. Anyone remember the Frontier?
Judging from local news reports about the quality of both nursing and construction in Las Vegas, Carpenters Local 1977 has a point. On September 13 and 14, the RJ reported that the nursing union gave several local hospital failing grades for poor patient-nurse ratios. Anyone who’s been in a Las Vegas hospital can attest to the poor quality of care offered. In my experience, you’re lucky to find an RN or anyone who speaks English. On the construction side, the proliferation of construction defect lawsuits speaks for itself. And as for wages, anyone trying to make a living as a roofer or framer knows that most wages have dropped to an unlivable level.
Tona Hughes, a volunteer for the Carpenters Local, told me they’d been protesting for eight months. Valley Health Systems has yet to sit down and hear their concerns. Besides getting the cold shoulder from VHS, Tona says motorists can be hostile, throwing things and shouting profanities at them. Their sign has been vandalized and stolen, and all of the volunteers worry about vandalism to their vehicles.
Local media have ignored the protesters. Las Vegas Weekly is the only publication I found that ran anything on these people who have braved summer heat, ignorant motorists, and unresponsive corporations to exercise their freedom of speech.
The next time you’re driving on Sahara or Charleston, show Tona and the other volunteers that some people still respect workers’ rights and freedom of speech. An encouraging honk would be a good start, but if you can't bring yourself to do that, then at least don't act like a jerk.