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Culinary Union declines to endorse any Democratic presidential candidate

Updated February 13, 2020 - 4:02 pm

Culinary Union Local 226, Nevada’s most politically powerful union, announced Thursday it would not endorse a candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

“We will not endorse any political candidate, but we are going to work really hard to defeat President Trump,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union.

Argüello-Kline said the union will instead work to support its principles: one job should be enough for working families to survive, immigration reform and protection of the union’s cherished health care program.

The decision comes after a lengthy interview process, conducted through public town halls and private conversations, with each of the top Democratic candidates.

The union voiced its displeasure with Sen. Bernie Sanders over his signature Medicare for All proposal through two flyers circulated publicly over the last week. Culinary members have given up wage increases and other concessions in exchange for some of the best health care in Nevada.

On Wednesday, Argüello-Kline accused Sanders’ supporters of “viciously attacking” culinary members over a flyer the union sent out criticizing Medicare for All.

She said during the Thursday news conference that the union respected Sanders and would not discuss the nature of these attacks.

Sanders’ campaign put out a lengthy statement praising the union’s efforts on behalf of its workers and condemning any harassment or bullying by any campaign in this race.

“Our campaign is building a multi-generational, multi-racial movement of love, compassion, and justice,” the statement said. “We can certainly disagree on issues, but we must do it in a respectful manner.”

The union has maintained that it supports efforts to provide good health care to all Americans, but not at the expense of the union members’ benefits.

During her speech, Argüello-Kline mentioned only former Vice President Joe Biden by name as a longtime friend of the union. Biden, who has campaigned in Nevada for years and has led most 2020 polls in the state, was seen as a likely favorite to win the endorsement.

“The Culinary Union and Joe Biden agree that people should be able to choose the health care they want and keep the insurance they’ve fought for,” Biden campaign Nevada spokesman Vedant Patel said. “We are going to compete for every vote that we can in Nevada, including from Culinary members, who have seen Vice President Biden’s full-throated commitment to unions firsthand.”

It’s unclear exactly how the union came to its endorsement decision.

Argüello-Kline said surveys and “scorecards” were sent out to members to gauge what issues influenced them, but she declined to answer multiple questions from reporters on whether the union’s 60,000 members actually voted not to endorse.

The union asked each of the candidates to join its members on a picket line at the Palms on Wednesday.

Contact Rory Appleton at RAppleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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