Influential Nevada culinary union will not endorse a 2020 Democrat ahead of caucuses

Key Points
  • Nevada's influential culinary union will not endorse a candidate ahead of the state's Feb. 22 presidential caucuses. 
  • UNITE HERE Culinary Workers Local 226 has criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders for supporting "Medicare for All." 
  • It's the second straight Democratic primary where the union will not endorse a Democratic candidate. 
Union members cheer during a rally at a canvass launch with U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Jacky Rosen (D-NV) (not pictured) at the Culinary Workers Union Hall Local 226 on November 5, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images

An influential Nevada union will not endorse a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate ahead of the state's caucuses.

UNITE HERE Culinary Workers Union Local 226 will instead "endorse our goals" and "work really hard to defeat" President Donald Trump, its Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline said Thursday. The organization also did not endorse in the 2016 Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

A candidate scorecard shared by the union this week told members that Sanders would "end culinary health care" with his "Medicare for All" plan. Certain unions have argued the senator's proposal, which would cover all Americans through a government-run system, would take away benefits for which members bargained.

The same document said nearly all of the Vermont senator's rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination would "protect" the union's health care plan. The organization said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who wants to move to a single-payer system after first passing a public insurance option, would "replace" culinary health care.

Local 226 tweet

Support or opposition from the union, which represents about 60,000 people in Las Vegas and Reno, can affect tight races in Nevada. The state's Feb. 22 caucuses will help to bring clarity to a jumbled primary after former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg came out of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary with a narrow national delegate edge over Sanders.

The union considered supporting Biden, but was concerned about doing so after his fourth and fifth-place finishes, respectively, in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to Politico.

The Democratic contenders have vied for the culinary union's key endorsement in Nevada. Sanders and Biden have earned the most support from organized labor so far in the race.

Asked about Medicare for All on Thursday, Arguello-Kline said the union believes "we have the right to make choices." In a statement Thursday responding to the union's decision not to endorse a candidate, Sanders said he would "never do anything to diminish the health care that unions and workers have fought for." 

Sanders' top rivals have tried to capitalize on the union's criticism of him, particularly after Arguello-Kline said Wednesday that Sanders supporters "viciously attacked" the organization after it released its scorecard. All of Buttigieg, Biden, Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota tweeted that they stand with the union and said no one should attack the group.

Buttigieg tweet

Warren tweet

Klobuchar tweet

Biden tweet

In his statement Thursday, Sanders said "harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me, and we urge supporters of all campaigns not to engage in bullying or ugly personal attacks." 

Sanders previously tweeted his support for the culinary union amid a labor dispute affecting cafeteria workers at a Las Vegas-area hospital. He said he stands with workers "fighting for health care, a pension and fair wages."

Sanders tweet

Sanders' labor plan calls for businesses to pass any savings they get from transitioning to his Medicare for All system from union plans to workers in the form of wages and benefits.

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