Reports surfaced Thursday alleging that campaign employees of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had posed as hotel workers on the Las Vegas Strip in order to preach to members of the Culinary Union — one of the biggest and most politically influential unions in the key early caucus state.
The Culinary Union confirmed the reports, telling ThinkProgress in a statement that the campaign’s actions left them “disappointed and offended.”
“It’s completely inappropriate for any campaign to attempt to mislead Culinary Union members, especially at their place of work,” said the union’s Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline. “We strongly condemn anyone falsifying their affiliation with the Culinary Union in order to gain access to properties and we will cooperate with casinos and hotels so that this matter is fully resolved.”
Sanders campaign workers visited four unionized hotels, The Rio, Paris, The Mirage and Planet Hollywood, and by wearing the union’s iconic yellow button, accessed employee dining rooms to speak with and give Sanders literature to workers.
The Sanders campaign did not respond to inquires from ThinkProgress about the incident.
In 2008, the Culinary Union endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, though Clinton went on to win the popular vote in the state.
This year, the union says it will not make an endorsement in the primaries. Instead, they will focus on making sure as many of their 57,000 members as possible are registered to vote and trained the caucus process. Many members are naturalized U.S. citizens who will be voting for the first time this year.
In this election cycle, both Sanders and Clinton have sought endorsements from unions on the national and local level. Some, including National Nurses United, American Postal Workers Union, and Iowa’s Steelworkers Union came out for Sanders, while the massive Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and American Federation of Teachers were among several endorsing Clinton so far.
Until now, Nevada’s Culinary Union has maintained a good relationship with all three Democratic candidates, who have all traveled to the state to speak, and in some cases march, with hotel workers.
Instead of choosing and stumping for one candidate, the union says it is putting its energy into fighting organizing battles at several Vegas establishments, including at the hotel run by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.