Nevada’s Most Powerful Union Endorses…No One

The Culinary Workers Union in Nevada announced on Thursday that it was not endorsing a presidential candidate, staying arms-length from an increasingly fraught primary process just ahead of the critical state caucus. 

“We are going to endorse our goals,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union. “We are not going to endorse a candidate, a political candidate. We respect every single political candidate right now. We know they are great people. We know Vice President [Joe] Biden for many years…. We know all these candidates and we respect each one.” 

The non-endorsement is not new for the union. In 2016, the union chose not to endorse as well because, according to the New York Times, they didn’t want to “divert resources, distract members and potentially polarize the union just as they are entering critical contract negotiations” by choosing between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

The announcement on Thursday comes a day after the group clashed with Sanders and his overzealous supporters who reacted to the union’s recent criticism of Sanders’ Medicare for All plan by harassing their members. 

The union, which represents hospitality workers in Nevada, has 60,000 members and claims to be “one of the largest healthcare consumers in the state” through their Culinary Health Fund. It’s that fund that has put them at odds with Sanders and to a lesser extent Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) over their respective health care plans. 

Earlier this week, the Nevada Independent reported that the group was circulating a flyer outlining several candidates platforms. Next to Sanders’ name, the flyer said he  would “end Culinary Healthcare” by forcing them to end their negotiated benefits and to go on to plans under a Medicare For All proposal. 

Warren’s plan, the flyer said, would “replace Culinary Healthcare after 3-year transition or at end of collective bargaining agreements.” 

Sanders has argued that a Medicare For All proposal would free up the union to negotiate for benefits beyond health care. But his more diplomatic approach to dealing with the Culinary Union hasn’t been adopted by some of his supporters.  As has become their custom, Sanders backers were enraged at the characterization of their candidate’s plan and “viciously attacked” union members, according to a statement by Argüello-Kline. 

“It’s disappointing that Senator Sanders’ supporters have viciously attacked the Culinary Union and working families in Nevada simply because our union has provided facts on what certain healthcare proposals might do to take away the system of care we have built over 8 decades,” she said. “We have always stood up for what we believe in and will continue to do so. The Culinary Union has faced some of the toughest companies who wanted to break our union, and even the President of the United States Donald Trump – and won.”

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