His nickname suits his easygoing manner so well that it may come as a surprise to some who know him that Skip Daly has an actual first name (Richard). The Sparks resident is business manager/secretary-treasurer of Laborers Local 169 and one of the most visible non-elected leaders of the Rail City. He has long served on a variety of city boards and commissions, including the Sparks Charter Committee. Sparks Tribune columnist Andrew Barbano has written, “‘Mayor’ Daly has become a regular at Sparks City Council meetings as a voice of workers, unionized or not. Daly is a throwback to the days when Sparks was a union town, and the rights of employees were always taken into consideration by public bodies. Those days are gone but may come again thanks to the likes of Skip Daly.” We caught up with him at a labor march.
Were you born here?
I was born and raised in Northern Nevada, yes—born in Reno.
What got you into unionism?
Well, you know, when I turned 18, I went to work in construction, and it was for a union company, and that was that. Been union for 27 years now.
OK, that was why you got into it. Why did you stay? Was it a matter of conviction?
Well, not at first. Obviously, some people have history in their family of being in the union. I didn’t have any of that. In fact, the first time my boss told me, “Well, you need to go down and join the union,” I said, “What is that?” And they couldn’t really explain it to me very well, and sometimes I still have difficulty explaining it to people. But it’s a group of people doing, in a group, together, what can’t be accomplished as an individual. And that’s the power and the strength of the union and why we depend on the membership for rallies and stuff like this [march].
Over the period of your lifetime, we’ve seen the union movement decline a lot. How do you react to that?
Not in Northern Nevada, not on my watch. We’ve grown, our local’s grown. It’s bigger than it’s ever been. … In Northern Nevada here, we’re doing just fine.
Nationally, there’s no doubt about that and, you know, I can’t really speak to that. I got to take care of my little corner of the world. We’re cognizant of it. We’re aware of it, and we know that we can’t survive isolated by ourselves. But what we can do in Northern Nevada we do as part of the greater labor movement all across the country.
I see your kids are here. How do they feel about unions?
Oh, you know, they tease me a lot. … And they pretend like I have to drag them down to this stuff. But I think by and large they’re supportive of it all, and as they get older and start seeing more stuff and listen to the politics and all this stuff that we get involved in, I think they understand it more and more. And that’s so that a union family comes in, it helps the next generation of people understand what the labor movement’s all about because people forget their history.