Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Biden Touts Longtime Union Cred to Vegas Food Workers

Presidential candidate Joe Biden told a crowd of union members in Las Vegas on Wednesday that he is best qualified to fight for the American worker -- and will do so as president of the United States.

LAS VEGAS (CN) – Frank Dobbs stood alone outside a Las Vegas union hall Wednesday holding a sign reading “Do not ask sleepy Joe about Ukraine.”

Dobbs, a 39-year-old non-union warehouse worker from Henderson, Nevada, hoped to remind members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the host of the event, that Biden is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“This is a witch hunt going on with the president right now, trying to get him impeached, but the real scandal is Hunter Biden, and the story is Ukraine,” Dobbs said, adding he thinks the union will eventually endorse the former vice president. “This union is not going to endorse Warren or Sanders, because they’ll take their health care away.”

It’s telling that union members shouted down Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday with a chant of “Union health care! Union health care!” after the candidate pitched Medicare for all, said Dobbs. He thinks Biden will get the union’s nod because he supports a “public option” health care system that would allow everyone to keep their health care if they like it and want to pay for it.

“The Democrats will look out for the Democrats; the Democrats will not look out for Nevadans,” Dobbs said. “The Democrats promised us in 2016 that they would bring the minimum wage up to $15 an hour. They’re in charge of Nevada, and they have not done it.”

Democrats only care about the “300,000 strong,” the union members, and no one else, he said.

“Trump cares about the regular guy. That’s me, and that’s what’s motivated me to come out,” he said.

Biden told the crowd that he doesn’t just want people to make $15 an hour, he wants them to make more, and the way to make that happen is unions. When Biden started in politics, unions represented about 34% of Americans. Now just 6% of American workers belong to one, he said.

“There used to be a basic bargain. If you contributed to the organization you worked for – a hotel, casino, the electric company – whatever it was, you got to share in the benefit. If they did well, you got a part of it,” Biden said.

But that’s no longer true. Since about 1980, profits have risen much faster than wages, leaving workers in the dust, Biden said. He vowed his administration would fight that by making union membership easier.

D. Taylor, president of Unite Here, which represents more those 300,000 food and beverage workers in the U.S. and Canada, said the union has not yet decided whether to endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary.

In 2008, Unite Here was the first union to endorse then-candidate Barack Obama, Taylor said, but he is unsure what the union will do in the coming months.

“We’d like to get to a Unite Here endorsement, but I don’t know of that’s going to be possible,” Taylor said.

In 2016, Unite here did not endorse a candidate, instead allowing local unions to choose. This time the decision will be based on candidates’ history with unions, their positions on key issues and discussions among union leadership, Taylor said, noting that Biden has a long history of union support.

“Senator Biden was one of the keynote speakers at our union’s convention in 1974, so he has been a supporter of our union longer than many of you have been alive,” Taylor said.

Biden spoke for about an hour to the gathering of 350 members of Culinary Workers 226, which represents more than 60,000 food and beverage workers in and around Las Vegas, answering a handful of prepared questions. The local union is the largest immigrant group in the state, according to Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the groups secretary-treasurer.

On the stage after a brief introduction, Biden offered hugs to Sandra Diaz and Victorina Morales, formerly undocumented immigrants who worked for President Donald Trump. Both women worked for the president and his family for more than five years.

On Wednesday morning, Biden released an outline of his immigration plan, recognizing that even the Obama administration caused families pain through deportation. He noted however that his former boss backed expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and created a task force to help new immigrants settle in the U.S.

Biden said he would reverse many of Trump’s immigration policies.

“Nobody’s going to be standing outside the church to arrest somebody when they come out of mass,” Biden said, adding that no one who served in the military will be deported by his administration.

“Under my administration, they will be immediately invited back into the country,” he said.

A Biden administration would not address the border at the border.

“The better answer lies in addressing the root causes that push desperate people to flee their homes in the first place: violence and insecurity, lack of economic opportunity, and corrupt governance,” the candidate said in a statement announcing his immigration plan. “I’m going to spend a billion dollars a year to make sure there’s no reason to leave in the first place.”

To preserve jobs and reduce corporate power, Biden would add criminal penalties for corporations that don’t negotiate in good faith, and not allow companies to force abused workers to arbitration to avert lawsuits, he said.

Biden was the last in a series of three Democratic candidate town hall meetings hosted by Culinary 226. On Monday the union hosted Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Sanders on Tuesday.

Categories / Politics

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.