The most powerful union in Nevada, Culinary Workers Union (UNITE HERE Local 226), is locking horns with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over his Medicare for All plan. The Culinary Union wants to keep its healthcare plan and fears an absolutist approach to Medicare for All could undercut it. The union put out a flier Tuesday night, within hours of Sanders’ New Hampshire win, warning its 60,000 members that the Vermont senator’s health plan would quote “End Culinary Healthcare” and “Require ‘Medicare for All.’” (Its treatment of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s M4A proposal was gentler based on her transition plan, reading “Replace Culinary Healthcare after 3-year transition or at end of collective bargaining agreements.”) In any case, it was a clear shot across the bow at Sanders and his supporters appear to have doubled down.
On Wednesday, a top union official, Geoconda Argüello-Kline, put out a statement decrying Sanders supporters for “viciously” attacking the union. “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,” said Argüello-Kline, currently secretary-treasurer for the union. “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.”
Why does any of this matter? Sanders is expected to clean up in Nevada based on his field operation there. Latinos account for about 30% of the state’s population. Culinary identifies as the state’s “largest immigrant organization” with members from about 180 different countries, and it is an absolute electoral behemoth that every candidate would prize having on its side. Culinary Union organizing is largely credited for boosting both of Nevada’s current U.S. senators, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, to their Senate seats. Frankly, ticking off the organization—which hasn’t yet endorsed a candidate—is playing with fire and potentially disastrous heading into a contest next week in the first state with a sizable population of voters of color. It’s an opportunity for Sanders to prove his bona fides with Latino voters in particular and further consolidate the Democratic base heading into South Carolina, another state where voters of color will be decisive. Or not. Sanders clearly isn’t excited to talk about the topic.
So @chrislhayes just asked Bernie about the Culinary flyer and Bernie pivots to saying he has much more union support than Mayor Pete and has support inside Unite Here, the Culinary parent.
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) February 13, 2020
Several of the other candidates have weighed in on the dispute, Mayor Pete first, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden, and then Warren, who is perhaps most notable because she has mostly avoided taking on Sanders in any way. Below are the candidate tweets followed by the statement from the Culinary Union.
There are 14 million union workers in America who have fought hard for strong, employer-provided health benefits. Medicare for All Who Want It protects their plans and union members' freedom to choose the coverage that's best for them.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 12, 2020
No one should attack @Culinary226 and its members for fighting hard for themselves and their families. Like them, I want to see every American get high-quality and affordable health care—and I’m committed to working with them to achieve that goal. https://t.co/onVqAcZRoB
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 13, 2020
STATEMENT by Geoconda Argüello-Kline: It’s disappointing Senator Sanders’ supporters have viciously attacked the Culinary Union & working families in NV simply because we provided facts on proposals that might takeaway what we have built over 8 decades. ➡️https://t.co/zUqTizBFSF pic.twitter.com/sWnRZ0r2vR
— The Culinary Union (@Culinary226) February 12, 2020