Will the exercised clout of the Culinary Union be Nevada’s biggest political story? By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports January 8, 2020 at 6:30 pm You don’t have to search far to find what Culinary Union Local 226 is up to today in Nevada. The organized labor behemoth with its 60,000 members in the Silver State for months has been courted at every turn by Democratic Party presidential hopefuls. It continues to ratchet-up organizing pressure on locals gaming powerhouse Station Casinos, itself no bit political player. D Taylor, International President of Culinary’s parent organization UNITE HERE, was among the scheduled panelists featured this week at CES 2020 at the second annual Labor Innovation & Technology Summit. The event is a partnership between the AFL-CIO and SAG-AFTRA and featured AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Liz Shuler and SAG President Gabrielle Carteris. The role of workers at a time of unprecedented technological advancement is a critical issue and a discussion that deserves a wide audience at CES and beyond. The Democratic Party announced Tuesday it’s increasing the number of early-voting locations on the Strip in the run up to the Feb. 22 presidential caucus. The sites will enable Local 226 members and other workers an opportunity to participate in the process without losing much time on the job. The Nevada Democrats’ First in the West caucus is substantially a Culinary production. Geocanda Arguello-Kline, left, and D Taylor, center, at a Culinary town hall for Joe Biden in December/Photo by Howard Stutz That only makes sense. With Nevada’s union population at 14 percent, highest of any early nominating state, an energized Culinary is essential to a Democratic Party victory in November no matter who ends up winning the nomination. As goes Local 226, so goes Nevada for the Democrats. Courtship of the union seems never-ending. Last month, presidential frontrunners Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden conducted lively Local 226 town halls. The candidates pumped up their organized labor bona fides and touted their visions to improve the lot of the great American workforce. Criticizing the incumbent was the easy part; explaining government healthcare mandates to a room full of union members who have fought for years to win and keep their own excellent health insurance was more difficult. Former Vice President Biden promised to improve Obamacare’s many imperfections and eliminate the “Cadillac tax’ on superior group coverage plans. After campaigning as a Medicare-for-all true-believer, Sen. Warren’s new and improved plan calls for a phased-in approach, an enlightened idea brought on in no small part by skepticism from economists and organized labor. Sanders stuck to his principles and his Medicare-for-all mantra, and he paid the price for it in the crowded union hall. A dedicated supporter of unions his entire career, Sanders was jeered by people who have paid dearly for their quality health insurance. Taylor himself stepped in to chastise the vocal critics. The fact three white candidates were working a room filled largely with Latino service workers wasn’t lost on observers. Politico’s Dan Siders reported that “the disconnect between a white top tier and the Democratic Party’s diverse electorate was nowhere more apparent than at (the Culinary Workers Union), where a trio of white candidates … courted one of the most powerful, majority-Latino organizations in the country.” There’s a lot of that going around. As they rush to increase their ground games and expanded their offices in the state before the February caucus, other presidential hopefuls are also vying for attention from Local 226. One who deserves the union’s respect is underdog presidential hopeful Tom Steyer, who has spent millions of dollars supporting progressive Democratic Party causes and candidates in recent years. In 2017, at the height of President Trump’s anti-immigration hysteria, Steyer came to Local 226 to announce a seven-figure investment in a national legal services network through his NextGen political advocacy group. This week, Culinary is scheduled to play host to another tier of presidential suitors with town halls featuring Steyer, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Everyone appears to understand the importance of Local 226 to the economy and the state’s political landscape. Its presence may easily prove the story of the year here should the Democrats dominate in November. Even when Culinary suffers an apparent setback it manages to benefit from a political do-over. In December, Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline lost before the Clark County Commission in an attempt to replace Laborers Local 872 Business Manager Tommy White on the Las Vegas Stadium Authority Board of Directors, the public face of the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium that will be the home of the NFL’s relocated Raiders starting this fall, Whatever hurt feelings or embarrassment she may have suffered were quickly assuaged. Just this week, Governot Steve Sisolak wasted little time in announcing his decision to appoint Arguello-Kline to the board. Given the importance of Culinary Local 226 to the Democrats in 2020, I suspect he considered it the least he could do. John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.