Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the Politics & Eggs at New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Nevada union warns members of Sanders, Warren health plans

February 07, 2020 - 2:34 pm

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada's most influential union is sending a subtle message to its members discouraging support for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over their health care stances even though the union has not yet decided if it will endorse a candidate in the Democratic presidential race.

The casino workers’ Culinary Union, a 60,000-member group made up of housekeepers, porters, bartenders and more who work in Las Vegas' famed casinos, began distributing a leaflet in employee dining rooms this week that pushes back against Medicare For All, the plan from Sanders and Warren to move to a government-run health insurance system.

The leaflet said "presidential candidates suggesting forcing millions of hard working people to give up their healthcare creates unnecessary division between workers, and will give us four more years of Trump."

Health care is one of the biggest issues for the union, whose members have fought and negotiated for robust plans.

With voting in Nevada's presidential caucuses scheduled to start in just over a week, the union's message to stand firm against the health care plans could signify that union leaders worry their members are considering voting for those who would unravel the union's crowning achievement.

The union's national affiliate, Unite Here, is staying neutral in the contest, but five of Unite Here's affiliate unions based in California announced Friday they were backing Sanders. Another affiliate, Unite Here Local 11 out of Southern California, announced in January it was backing both Sanders and Warren.

The Culinary Union's leaflet does not name Warren or Sanders or Medicare for All, but it reflects some of the arguments the candidates have made.

The leaflet says some politicians promise “you will get more money for wages from the company if you give up Culinary Health Insurance,” but that those politicians “have never sat at our bargaining table or been on a 24/7 6 years, 4 months and 10 days strike line,” a reference to action Culinary and other unions launched in 1991 against the Frontier Hotel and Casino, which became one of the longest labor strikes in U.S. history.

“We will not hand over our healthcare for promises,” the leaflet said.

A copy of leaflet, written in English and Spanish, was provided to Tthe Associated Press by the union. The Nevada Independent first reported on the leaflet Friday.

Culinary Union spokeswoman Bethany Khan said the leaflet is not a sign of whether the union will endorse and said the union is not organizing against any candidates. She said the leaflet “just presented members with facts.”

“We always lay out facts to members. That’s our responsibility," she said in a text message, adding that with all the facts, union members will make the ultimate decision when they vote.

“Everything in the leaflet is what we have told each candidate. They know what our message is," she said.

Sanders' and Warren's campaigns declined to comment.

The issue has been at the forefront of town halls that the union has held in Las Vegas with the candidates, including Warren and Sanders, and many union members and leaders made it clear they don't want to give up their health plans.

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