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Culinary Union un-endorses 17 lawmakers running for re-election over room cleaning bill

It marks the most public split yet between legislative Democrats and the labor group widely considered to be one of the most politically powerful in Nevada.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Election 2024

The Culinary Workers Union 226 has un-endorsed every sitting legislator who voted in favor of a 2023 resort-backed bill removing pandemic-imposed requirements placed on the casino industry, including the daily cleaning of hotel rooms.

The Tuesday announcement means the union has decided to not endorse 18 Democratic lawmakers who are running in 2024 that the union previously endorsed in 2022, including Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) and Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas).

Aside from backing challengers against a few incumbents so far, it marks the most public split yet between legislative Democrats and the union widely considered to be one of the most politically powerful in Nevada, which has been credited for helping national and state Democrats win contentious races in past election cycles through its widespread canvassing efforts and political operation.

“During the 2023 Nevada Legislature, a number of state legislative Democrats joined all Republicans and voted to repeal daily room cleaning,” the press release stated. “SB441 was signed into law by Governor Lombardo and hurt guest room attendants and our jobs.”

The press release added that the union will “re-evaluate all endorsements ahead of the November general election.”

The union is also backing candidates running against legislative caucus-backed candidates in various competitive Democratic primaries, including Reno Councilwoman Naomi Duerr, who is facing caucus-endorsed Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Reno) in Northern Nevada’s Senate District 15. The union also un-endorsed Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D-Las Vegas), who is running for a seat on the Clark County Commission.

The bill in question, SB441, passed out of both houses of the Democrat-controlled Legislature, with support from all Republican lawmakers, 10 Democrats in the Senate and 19 Democrats in the Assembly despite fervent opposition from the Culinary Union, which said that daily room cleaning “was standard practice” in Las Vegas before the pandemic and that it’s “good policy.” 

“Protecting daily room cleaning means protecting workers, protecting Las Vegas’ image and protecting hotel customers,” Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said during the legislative session

Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo signed the bill in mid-May — though many of the union’s recent contracts with major Nevada casinos include provisions similar to language repealed by SB441. 

Tuesday’s list of endorsements and un-endorsements followed the union’s March announcement that it would support a primary candidate (nurse practitioner Geoconda Hughes, the daughter of a former union leader) against Sen. Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas) because Nguyen had helped present the bill. 

Despite Culinary backing a different candidate, other unions have supported Nguyen, including the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) and the Las Vegas branches of the Service Employees International Union, Laborers Union (which represents construction workers) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

John Vellardita, the executive director of CCEA, told The Nevada Independent in early May that Culinary’s decision to put up a primary challenger is based on his belief that the union is “a political force that’s in decline.”

“The Culinary didn't get what it wanted in this last legislative session, so they're going after the majority leader's leadership team,” he said at the time.

Representatives of the Assembly and Senate Democratic caucuses did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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