LAS VEGAS Nevada, which will hold the first-in-the-west caucuses on Saturday, is a template for how progressives would like to see the Democratic White House contenders engage with the unions from now through the general election.
As the political world has descended on the Silver State, the presidential hopefuls have been marching on picket lines, releasing plans to bolster union membership and holding town hall events with local members.
That dynamic was on full display in Las Vegas on Wednesday, as the Democratic candidates joined hundreds of Culinary Workers Union members to march outside the Palms Casino Resort to demand that management meet with workers who are attempting to unionize there.
Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren declines to disavow super PAC that supports herSan Diego Union-Tribune endorses Buttigieg’Where’s your spoon?’ What we didn’t learn in the latest debateMORE (D-Mass.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWarren declines to disavow super PAC that supports herSan Diego Union-Tribune endorses Buttigieg’Where’s your spoon?’ What we didn’t learn in the latest debateMORE (D-Mass.), as well as former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegChasten Buttigieg: ‘I’ve been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life’San Diego Union-Tribune endorses Buttigieg’Where’s your spoon?’ What we didn’t learn in the latest debateMORE, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden’Where’s your spoon?’ What we didn’t learn in the latest debateSanders nabs endorsement from Congressional Hispanic Caucus memberPoll: Sanders holds 7-point lead in crucial California primaryMORE and businessman Tom SteyerTom Fahr SteyerKlobuchar rolls out ads in Super Tuesday statesPoll: Democrats trail Trump in Wisconsin, lead in Michigan and PennsylvaniaBloomberg, Sanders, Biden beat Trump in head-to-heads in North Carolina: pollMORE, linked arms with union members and marched down Flamingo Ave.
Members wore red Culinary 226 shirts and chanted We are the union, the mighty union through bullhorns. Others carried no contract, no peace, signs outside the hotel, which is owned by the billionaire brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who have given millions of dollars to outside groups supporting President TrumpDonald John TrumpChasten Buttigieg: ‘I’ve been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life’Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump’s ‘opportunity zone’ programWe must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuriesMORE.
The Culinary Union, which boasts 60,000 members, is the strongest political force in Nevada politics: the 800 pound gorilla in the state, as one progressive strategist called it.
Democrats are hoping to ride a reenergized labor movement back to the White House after some union households failed to turn out for former presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton’Where’s your spoon?’ What we didn’t learn in the latest debateThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Roger Stone gets over three years in prison; Brutal night for BloombergPoll: Democrats trail Trump in Wisconsin, lead in Michigan and PennsylvaniaMORE in the key Midwestern battleground states that cost her the election.
2016 union turnout in Nevada, however, was strong, helping Clinton to a narrow victory in the state, electing Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoKennedy, Markey spar over experience in first Senate primary debateDSCC endorses McGrath in race against McConnellDemocrats press Trump official for answers on ObamaCare replacement planMORE (D-Nev.) and delivering three of the states four House seats to Democrats.
Were overwhelmingly more engaged and highly activated and our goal is to mobilize ahead of the election as were doing now to defeat Donald Trump, said Culinary Union spokeswoman Bethany Khan, just moments before Warren arrived at the Palms with a box of doughnuts to join the marching culinary members.
During the 2016 primary, Clinton won early endorsements from some of the nations largest unions, including the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which together account for about 3 million people nationwide.
But a lot of the grassroots energy in the labor movement gravitated toward Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNevada Democratic debate draws record-breaking 19.7 million viewers’Where’s your spoon?’ What we didn’t learn in the latest debate Ocasio-Cortez defends Warren against ‘misogynist trope’MORE (I-Vt.).
An internal poll by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) conducted after the 2016 election found that Clinton underperformed Obamas 2012 share of the union vote by 10 points. The same poll showed that Trump outperformed his partys 2012 nominee, Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocratic Senate campaign arm raised more than .5 million in JanuaryOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to TrumpTrump looms as flashpoint in Alabama Senate battleMORE, by 3 points.
Clintons decline among labor members was most pronounced in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the one-time Democratic blue wall that broke for Trump.
During the general election, Clinton did not once visit Wisconsin, and she did not campaign at union halls in Michigan or Pennsylvania.
Clinton took them for granted and the bottom fell out, said one labor strategist. This time our path back to the White House has to go through those unions and through those states.
Liberals also point to Clintons flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. And they acknowledge that Trumps populist economic message and focus on middle class workers in the heartland may have drawn some union support his way, even though labor has traditionally been a reliable Democratic constituency.
There was no evidence in 2016 that rank-and-file union members flocked to Trump in large numbers.
The president has clashed with labor leaders, but claims that grassroots members will break from their leaders to back him in November.
“Ill never get the support of Dues Crazy union leadership, those people who rip-off their membership with ridiculously high dues, medical and other expenses while being paid a fortune,” Trump tweeted last year. “But the members love Trump. They look at our record economy, tax & reg cuts, military etc. WIN!”
The Trump campaign did not respond to questions from The Hill about whether they have a strategy for union outreach in 2020.
Sanders, who has a substantial lead in recent Nevada polling ahead of Saturdays caucuses, has been endorsed by more unions than any other candidates. Groups behind the Vermont senator include the Postal Workers Union and the National Nurses Union.
Democrats say theyre confident that their 2020 nominee, whoever it is, will not take union households for granted this time around, although there is some skepticism around former New York Mayor Mike Bloombergs commitment to labor.
Labor is all in against Donald Trump, who has been arguably the most detrimental president to labor in modern history, said Andrew Feldman, a progressive strategist with ties to the movement. Theres just too much at stake and now we have candidates speaking directly to the Working Class in a way that weve never seen before, and thats energizing. Its resonating throughout labor households across the country.
Liberals in Nevada said theres a new energy around labor that is being led by young people, women and people of color, who are increasingly the face of the activist base for the Democratic Party.
Its incredibly diverse both culinary and the teachers are majority women, and thats helped Nevada lead in electing women, said Annette Magnus, the executive director for Battle Born Progress, a liberal group in Nevada. If you want a true barometer of the direction the country is going and what it will look like, look no further than Nevada.
Both of Nevadas senators and two of the states four House members are women. The state legislature is the first and only in the country to have a majority of women, and women justices make up a majority of the state Supreme Court.
Still, there are some geographic and ideological divisions, underscored by the Culinary Workers Union’s warning to members that Sanderss Medicare for all plan would strip them of their health care.
But strategists say the unions decision not endorse in the primary and instead to reiterate its commitment to defeating Trump is evidence that labor will turn out for Democrats in November, no matter who wins the nomination.
The Hill asked Khan, the Culinary spokeswoman, if she thinks the energy from Nevadas labor movement will percolate across the country and into the states where Democrats will need union households to get over the top.
I hope so, she said. Im confident. I think workers are standing up, workers in all industries have been unionizing, from reporters to factory workers. Its inspiring.