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Democratic candidates march with Culinary members at union protest

Updated February 19, 2020 - 9:17 pm

Culinary Local 226 members protested Wednesday morning to demand labor contracts with several Station Casinos properties.

Union members, looking to secure their first labor contract with a group of properties including the Palms, marched in front of the resort on Flamingo Road. They were joined by members of other unions, including the Teamsters and SEIU.

“Palms casino, look around! Vegas is a union town!” they chanted as they walked the picket line on Flamingo Road.

A Station Casinos spokesman declined to comment on the protest. The company sent a news release Wednesday about its recently improved benefits package, including free health care for employees. The free health care plan has been available since January to employees making less than $20 per hour or $41,600 in salary.

The demonstration attracted a few Democratic presidential contenders. The candidates are seeking support from Culinary members in the wake of the labor group’s announcement that it would not endorse a candidate during the primary process.

Earlier this month, Nevada’s largest and most politically powerful union circulated a flyer criticizing “Medicare for All” because it would put an end to the bargaining group’s negotiated health plan. The flyer did not mention Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Medicare for All by name, but implied their plans would be bad for Culinary workers.

A subsequent flyer did call out Sanders and Warren for their positions on health care.

Sanders did not attend Wednesday’s demonstration, but Warren did. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden, businessman Tom Steyer and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg also showed support by walking in the picket line.

“This is about doing what’s right,” Steyer said. He added that it is important for working people to be able to organize.

The standoff between the Culinary and the Palms is not new.

Last year, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision saying the Palms acted unlawfully by refusing to recognize and bargain with the Culinary and Bartenders unions. The resort repeatedly appealed the results of an employee election in April 2018 that favored union representation.

Station Casinos has not finalized a labor contract at any of its properties.

Protesters marched in a blocked-off traffic lane on Flamingo Road. Music blasted through a network of speakers, and chants filled the air. Some demonstrators danced in the roadway.

“It’s about time,” Biden told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after he arrived. “It’s about time. These guys are engaged in unfair practices here.”

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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