A Nevada Culinary Union Tried to Lay a Trap for Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren Played Along

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A Nevada Culinary Union Tried to Lay a Trap for Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren Played Along

Update, 2/4, 9:30 a.m.: A spokesperson for the Center for American Progress contacted Paste with the information that culinary union secretary-treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline has never been a member of the Advisory Board at the Center for American Progress. That runs contrary to a claim in her Culinary Union bio, a preserved version of which can be seen here. CAP’s advisory board, as listed online, does not feature Argüello-Kline. The spokesperson clarified that she was on an advisory commitee for a jobs proposal.

Culinary Union 226 is a political powerhouse representing tens of thousands of hospitality workers in Nevada, and on Tuesday the Nevada Indepenent discovered they were posting flyers attacking the Medicare For All healthcare plan proposed by Bernie Sanders:

The new flyer, a copy of which was obtained by The Nevada Independent, compares the positions on health care, “good jobs” and immigration of six Demoratic presidential hopefuls who have come to the union’s headquarters over the last two months to court its members. But the primary difference outlined in the document, which is being distributed in both English and Spanish, is in the candidates’ positions on health care, taking particular aim at the Vermont senator over his Medicare-for-all policy, which would establish a single-payer, government run health insurance system.

The flyer says Sanders, if elected president, would “end Culinary Healthcare,” “require ‘Medicare For All,’” and “lower drug prices.”

Interestingly, they described Warren’s plan as “replacing” their healthcare, rather than bringing it to an “end,” and they sent this information out to members via text and email Tuesday night.

On its face, this is shocking—by all indications, the Culinary Union has indeed negotiated a solid healthcare plan for its members, but in our current for-profit, employer-tied model, it goes without saying that even good plans can go by the wayside in the case of layoffs or other life changes. That wouldn’t be true in a Medicare for All system, and it’s a disingenuous Republican talking point to say M4A would “end” other healthcare plans (or “kick you off your plan,” to use the language that many opponents prefer) without mentioning that it replaces that insurance with a comprehensive government plan that would save money due to the eradication of premiums, deductibles, copays, and etc. Nobody would lose his or her insurance under the Sanders transition to M4A, despite the implication of the culinary union’s flyer. Also, and more importantly for a union, a universal healthcare system would vastly increase the power of unions by removing the need to negotiate healthcare, and removing it from management’s list of bargaining chips. If healthcare was handled by the government, the union would be free to organize for higher wages and better working conditions. This is a big reason why unions are so much stronger in Europe, where government-run healthcare is the norm. Sanders has specifically mandated in his plan that if M4A passed, businesses would have to direct their extra profits to unions and employees.

But for anyone who has watched the attack patterns of anti-Sanders groups for the last five years, what came next was no surprise: The culinary union began to complain about the mean Sanders supporters attacking them online:

“Our union believes that everyone has the right to good health care and that health care should be a right, not a privilege,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the group’s secretary-treasurer, adding that the union had already negotiated its own health care plan for “what working people need.”

“It’s 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 health care proposals might do to take away the system of care we have built over eight decades,” she said, noting that Sanders had participated in Culinary town halls and toured the union’s facilities.

That was the obvious last step in the same old game plan, which can be outlined as follows:

1. Launch a disingenuous attack on Sanders or one of his plans.

2. Wait for his massive support base on the Internet to complain.

3. Moan about the “vicious attacks,” push the narrative that he has a supporter problem.

In this case, hilariously, the ultimate aim seems to be painting Sanders as the anti-union candidate ahead of the Nevada caucuses.

But if the pattern was predictable, the origin was not…why was this particular union going after Bernie Sanders, of all candidates? There has long been a stark divide between the leadership of unions, which tend to flock to establishment candidates, and the rank-and-file who disdain that leadership because of its support for political leaders who don’t actually help workers, but this was still a puzzle. Until, that is, more information came about out the most outspoken member of the union’s leadership, Geoconda Argüello-Kline.

Sanders supporters may not know the name of Argüello-Kline offhand, but they absolutely know the name of Neera Tanden and the Center for American Progress, a “liberal” think tank closely associated with the Clintons and a longtime opponent of progressive politics, where Argüello-Kline is a board member. (Update, Friday 2/14: See the note at the top of this post. Argüello-Kline is not a board member at CAP, contrary to claims in her bio, and a CPAC representative said she has never been a board member…her role was less prominent. None of which changes the fact that ThinkProgress, owned at the time by CAP, ran a story featuring Argüello-Kline attacking Sanders on behalf of the Culinary Union before the 2016 caucuses, which Tanden then boasted about in an email to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.) Tanden and the CAP are perhaps Sanders’s most public enemies, and Argüello-Kline attacking him on behalf of the culinary union makes a lot more sense when you know that association. Amazingly, she tried the same attack strategy in 2016 before those caucuses!

With that puzzle solved, we turn to Elizabeth Warren, who has shown in the last month that whatever bond existed between her and Bernie Sanders has eroded, and left her squarely opposed to the other progressive in the race and his allies. She made it clear without mentioning his name in her post-New Hampshire speech, and then, in the midst of the culinary union controversy, she tweeted this:

It’s a shame, because for a long time it seemed like there was real solidarity between Sanders and Warren, and clearly that’s over. It would have felt unthinkable for Warren to pile on in a cynical attack like this only six weeks ago, but here we are—the new battle lines are drawn, and she clearly now sees Sanders and his supporters as enemies. Maybe this latest twist shouldn’t be a surprise—she crossed the culinary union’s picket lines last year—but it’s discouraging nonetheless.

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