Nevada union might not endorse, but it isn't staying quiet

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, voters head to the polls at the Enterprise Library in Las Vegas. Nevada's Democratic Party has announced new paper-based balloting for its early vote starting Saturday as it scrambles to reconfigure plans and avoid tech problems and reporting delays that mired Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses. The party dumped its original plan to have people cast early caucus votes with an app downloaded on iPads. (AP Photo/Joe Buglewicz) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Nevada's most politically powerful union, the casino workers' Culinary Union, is so far staying quiet on whether it will endorse a candidate as the Democratic presidential race swings west, but Joe Biden isn't counting on the labor group's help.

The former vice president's campaign told top donors in a Wednesday call that Biden doesn't expect the Culinary Union to back a candidate but said he has good relationships with union leaders and expects strong support from union members in Nevada, according to a participant on the call who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to talk about internal campaign discussions.

Bethany Khan, a spokeswoman for the union, said Wednesday that the union is still figuring out whether it will make an endorsement before the Feb. 22 caucuses.

Doubts about whether the heavily Latino, majority female union would back a candidate emerged January, when Culinary's parent organization, Unite Here, announced it would not endorse in the primary.

Culinary has typically followed Unite Here's lead, and with early voting in Nevada's caucuses set to start Saturday morning, it's unclear how much backing and organizing power they can offer in a short time frame.

While the union is not tipping its hand in any one candidate's favor, it hasn't stayed out of the race. Last week and this week, the union distributed leaflets to its members warning that Bernie Sanders' and Elizabeth Warren's “Medicare for All” proposals would end the union's prized health insurance plans.

The most pointed leaflet, released Tuesday night and distributed to employee dining rooms at casinos, compared the Democratic field's stances on health care, saying that Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer would “Protect Culinary Healthcare." The leaflet says Sanders would “End Culinary Healthcare” and “Require ‘Medicare for All’” while Warren would “Replace Culinary Healthcare” after a three-year transition or the end of collective bargaining agreements.

A leaflet distributed last week did not name any candidates but said generally that "presidential candidates suggesting forcing millions of hard working people to give up their healthcare creates unnecessary division between workers, and will give us four more years of (President Donald) Trump."