With the Nevada Democratic Caucuses just a few days away, there’s no better time for the disputes between casino operators and labor unions to take center stage. Perhaps capitalizing on the added attention they’d receive with Presidential hopefuls in the neighborhood, the Culinary Workers Union took to the streets on February 19.
Culinary Local 226 took center stage outside the Palms in Las Vegas, joined by Teamsters and the SEIU, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Their chant, an essential part of any good protest, was catchy and rhymed, meeting most of the criteria you would expect. “Palms casino, look around! Vegas is a union town!” they roared on Flamingo road.
Station Casinos, the operator of the Palms, is the target of their ire. The company responded by noting it’s free health care for employees making less than $20 per hour, and pointing to its improved benefits package.
The National Labor Relations Board has previous ruled that the Palms are unlawfully refusing to recognize the Culinary and Bartenders union. Station Casinos has not finalized a labor contract at any of its properties, leaving the powerful workers unions still quite unhappy.
As the Culinary Union makes up an important voting block in Nevada, a few presidential hopefuls stopped by. Senator Elizabeth Warren was there, as well as Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden, businessman Tom Steyer, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“This is about doing what’s right,” Steyer said. Biden added, “It’s about time. It’s about time. These guys are engaged in unfair practices here.”
The current leader in Nevada polls, Senator Bernie Sanders, was absent from the picket line. The Culinary Union has criticized “Medicare for All,” one of his key policies, as it would put an end to their negotiated health care plan.
Sanders absence didn’t go unnoticed. Buttigieg accused the senator of being “the one who is at war with the Culinary Union right here in Las Vegas,” at the February 19 presidential hopefuls debate. The barb was over Sanders’ supporters alleged attack on the Culinary Union’s leadership over their pamphlet on Medicare for All.
Sanders has condemned any attacks on Culinary. “Harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me, and we urge supporters of all campaigns not to engage in bullying or ugly personal attacks,” he stated.
The end result is a bit of a wash. In a highly publicized decision, the Culinary Union has refused to endorse any of the candidates, instead emphasizing that it only endorses its own goals.