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Culinary Workers Union Local 226 members holding up their I Voted Stickers

Culinary Workers did their job

Although the Presidential election was a disaster for working people, the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas turned a Red state Blue.

Brian Young's picture
Nov 09, 2016

Through a very rough Election Night, at least one positive story came from Nevada.  After fighting with Donald Trump over organizing at his Las Vegas hotel, the Culinary Workers union promised to make Trump pay.  The 57,000-person union launched a full out assault on Trump and the Republican party with the goal of making the statement that if you mess with one you mess with all and boy did they ever make a statement last night.

The Culinary Workers first came to political prominence in 2008 when their work helped deliver Nevada for Barack Obama.  The union, which is largely Latino, perfected the art of getting out the often-difficult Latino vote.  While 2008 and 2012 were business as usual for a labor union, 2016 offered a different chance for the union to stick it to a bad employer.  The union used a series of actions, like building the taco truck wall to fire up their members, as well as traditional methods like registering voters.  By the end of the registration period upwards of 60% of their members where registered to vote.  Since many of their members are not yet citizens, this was an unheard number. 

The union also went back to its roots and pounded the pavement to turn out voters. Reports say that the union knocked on upwards of 200,000 doors just in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, in the lead up to the election.  Since Nevada has early voting, the goal of these door knocks was to convert the voter to vote for Clinton and then drag them right to the poll. This effort was mostly focused on Latino voters.  While pundits kept talking about how angry Latinos where at Trump and how they were going to turn out and vote at record highs, only in Nevada did Latinos decide an election.  Through this hard work, Nevada Democrats built a 90,000-voter firewall against Donald Trump which ultimately was key to the victory.  The effort was so amazing that New York Times Economist tweeted that the “Culinary workers may have just saved democracy” after early vote numbers were announced. 

The huge turnout from the union didn’t only help Hillary Clinton.  Their turnout also elected Catherine Cortez Masto to the Senate, where she will be the first Latina, flipped a Congressional seat by electing Jacky Rosen and took back both the State Assembly and State Senate.  Rosen won a tightly contested House race to replace Republican Joe Heck who ran for Senate.  Rosen is also a former member of the Culinary Workers Union. 

Today, the political landscape in Nevada looks vastly different, thanks to the Culinary Workers.  All of this was done by a union that is forced to operate in an anti-union Right to Work (for less) state.  Through old fashioned organizing, they have organized nearly every major casino in Las Vegas and turned their union of recent immigrants, African Americans and non-college educated women into a force that just went toe to toe with the new President elect and beat him.

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