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Culinary Workers Union Officer Discusses Decision Not To Endorse 2020 Candidate


The Nevada caucus is up next on Saturday. It is the first state in the West to cast its vote in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination and also the first diverse state to be heard. Among the most sought after endorsements there is the Culinary Workers Union, whose membership is 54% Latino. But they have decided not to endorse any of the candidates at this time. Geoconda Arguello-Kline is secretary treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union. And she joins me now from Las Vegas. Thank you so much.

GEOCONDA ARGUELLO-KLINE: Thank you for inviting us, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So early voting has already started in Nevada. Why not endorse a candidate now?

ARGUELLO-KLINE: We've been doing a lot of work with members. We did a poll. We did a survey. And we are learning a lot of, what is the issues they really care about? We invite seven different presidential candidates to talk about their plan to what is happening with the healthcare, what's going to happen with the immigration, the economics. Our union really believe in the democratic process. We want them learning how they have done in the issues, what they are - the most important for us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. So you're letting your members decide for now, and you're not endorsing any candidate. Clearly, this is a blow, though, to the hopes of Joe Biden in particular. The union has called him a friend to the union, one with a long-standing relationship. Did you hold off on an endorsement because he seems to have been doing badly in Iowa and New Hampshire?

ARGUELLO-KLINE: What we did is really focusing our goals - having good economics, middle-class wages, a leader who's going to do an immigration reform. And we want to protect our health care. What we want is the members (ph) really make a decision.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. But you did weigh in on Bernie Sanders and his plan for "Medicare for All" - as you mentioned, health care. You said it undercuts your own private health insurance, which is one of the big perks of being in the union. Why did you feel it necessary to publicly go against Bernie Sanders' plan?

ARGUELLO-KLINE: That's not go against anything. What we're saying is what he's saying. And we're saying what we believe. You know, we believe in people - have to have choices. You know, you can have a private insurance, and you can have your government insurance, too.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Polls show Bernie Sanders is the overwhelming favorite among Latinos in Nevada. Many in particular like his health care plan. And health care is a top concern of Latinos. Why fly in the face of that, especially considering your membership, which is a majority Latino?

ARGUELLO-KLINE: What we're doing right now, you know, is putting the facts. We don't say don't do this or do that. What we're saying is this is the facts. You're going to make a decision.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've got a lot of attacks from Bernie's supporters because of the flyer you sent out. Can you tell us what happened? Is it true you got death threats?

ARGUELLO-KLINE: We have - they've been saying we're not going to be able to - any living anymore, practically physically attacking us. You know, it's very concerning, especially when I see so many people. The two women who have been working really hard - Bethany Khan - she's a communication director and myself. We have the president over here. He's not been saying one word. They're no being - receive one phone call or one (unintelligible) nothing. We are two women of color who are being under attack only because we put the facts (unintelligible).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Culinary Workers Union was pivotal in 2018 in getting out the vote. And Nevada is now trending blue. Do you think you will rally behind whomever the eventual nominee is, even if it is Bernie Sanders?

ARGUELLO-KLINE: You know, we're working really hard. Our mission is to defeat Trump. That's our mission.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And if the nominee is Bernie Sanders, would you support him? Would you endorse him?

ARGUELLO-KLINE: We will, you know, defeat Trump.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You will endorse whoever the Democratic nominee is?

ARGUELLO-KLINE: We will defeat Trump.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Geoconda Arguello-Kline with the Culinary Workers Union. Thank you very much.

ARGUELLO-KLINE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.