Culinary might want to dial it back a notch

The union’s sniping at Sanders is a diversion Nevada doesn’t need.

February 12, 2020 5:14 pm

(Photo: Culinary Workers Union Local 226 FB)

If nothing else, Sheldon Adelson must be laughing. And Donald Trump too, probably.

The Culinary union, which has been sniping at Bernie Sanders for weeks, issued a statement Wednesday saying “It is 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.”

What attacks from Sanders supporters? When asked for examples, or links to them, a Culinary spokesperson texted Wednesday afternoon, “Search Culinary Union on twitter. Same sentiment on phone calls, VMs, texts, tweets, DMs – since last night until the present.”

People are mean on Twitter.

No, it’s true! (Twitter is a disgusting wasteland of misery and despair. But I digress).

And there is a contingent of Sanders supporters who can be unnervingly passionate about their guy. The Culinary has all but singled out Sanders through handouts and flyers and remarks to the press, as the candidate most likely to give Culinary a big fat sad, so it is not at all hard to believe the more zealous of the Sandernistas would fire back, and not in a nice way.

But if Culinary was so affronted by “vicious attacks” from Sanders supporters that the union felt compelled to issue a statement, you’d think the union might also be so bold as to offer some concrete, specific examples of said attacks.

In case you missed it (part I), throughout the 2020 cycle, the Culinary has assumed the mantle of more or less the boss of the Nevada caucus. All the Democratic candidates — or all who could wrangle an invitation — have jumped at the prospect to address union members gathered in Culinary “town hall” style meetings.

National media have occupied themselves with the other early states, but when the national political press does write about Nevada, it’s usually something about the “hugely influential” Culinary union’s “vast political clout.” The Culinary union is the one thing about Nevada that the national political press knows.

In case you missed it (part II), the crux of the Culinary-Sanders kerfuffle is, of course, health care. The Culinary has perhaps the finest private-sector health care program in the solar system, and warns that if Bernie Sanders becomes president, he will “end Culinary healthcare.”

If only t’were true.

Because if it was, that would mean your U.S. President Bernard Sanders would have persuaded Congress to approve, authorize and implement a single-payer Medicare for All health care system to replace the economic tragedy and travesty that is the American medical-industrial complex.

Quick. Everyone who thinks Sanders would be able to get Congress to approve such a plan, in one term, or even two, raise your hand.

Seeing no hands…

Look, no organization has done more for the prosperity and economic security of working people in Southern Nevada over the last several decades than the Culinary. Their health benefits, along with decent wages and other benefits, are not the result of the goodness of resort industry hearts. They are the result of the union digging in and not backing down, of making threats, and following through with them if necessary.

The Culinary’s achievements are all the more remarkable because they have occurred, the union has grown, and its membership has prospered, during a period of U.S. history when corporations and their apologists in media and politics have successfully whittled organized labor down to a mere negligible presence in the private sector economy.

More than a third of private-sector workers belonged to a union in the 1950s — a period, by the way, of tremendous economic growth, spurred in no small part by union workers making wages that allowed them to buy the homes and cars and refrigerators that they were building.

Today, barely 6 percent of private-sector employees are in a union.

Unions are under relentless fire. Of course they want to protect what they’ve earned.

There is no shortage of hand-wringing analysis of organized labor’s response to the attacks that have diminished it so: Unions spent too much time and money on politics instead of contracts. Or unions spent too much time on their contracts, and not enough keeping and building broader public awareness and sympathy on issues and injustices that hurt all workers, especially those who aren’t in unions. Labor has been too accommodating of management. Labor has been too hostile to management. Etc.

Here in Nevada, labor, especially the Culinary, has a lot to crow about. Although Nevada’s progressive infrastructure has grown impressively in just the last decade, the Culinary is still the progressive organization enjoying the most access to and clout with politicians. It would be an exaggeration to suggest that the Culinary is the only progressive organization in the state that can truly muscle politicians around. But it’s not much of an exaggeration.

Which is why this … spectacle, however amusing to Adelson and Trump and Nevada Republicans, is so annoying.

Neither Sanders nor anyone else is going to get single-payer health care any time soon. But the state’s most “hugely influential” progressive organization, one with “vast political clout” should be doing what it can to move the nation toward that system — a system that would immeasurably benefit countless Nevadans, including many friends and relatives of Culinary members who are not covered by the Culinary’s plan.

But no. Instead of lifting all boats, the Culinary is focused on its own, big-footing it all over the Nevada caucus, and distracting and dividing Democrats with diversions. While Donald Trump is president.

Nice work, everyone.

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.