Major Nevada union, Sanders campaign resolve dispute

Story highlights

  • Nevada's powerful Culinary Union on Thursday accused Bernie Sanders' campaign staffers of posing as union workers in an attempt to gain access to their members
  • Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager, said Thursday that his understanding is that none of the staffers "ever misrepresented who they were."

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN)Nevada's powerful Culinary Union and the Bernie Sanders campaign say they've resolved their issues after a kerfuffle earlier Thursday had the group at odds with the Vermont senator's presidential operation in a key early voting state.

The union had accused Bernie Sanders' campaign staffers of posing as union workers in an attempt to gain access to their members, a charge the Sanders campaign denied.
    The union and Sanders campaigners later said the issue, which was first reported by Ralston Reports' Jon Ralston, had been settled.
    "We've talked with the campaign and the situation has been resolved," Bethany Kahn, Culinary spokeswoman said in a statement.
    Union representatives said earlier that multiple members of their union have reported Sanders' campaign staffers of "attempting and gaining access to employee dining rooms at Las Vegas Strip properties."
    "We are disappointed and offended," said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the union's secretary-treasurer. "It's completely inappropriate for any campaign to attempt to mislead Culinary Union members, especially at their place of work."
    Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager, said Thursday -- after the statement from culinary was released -- that his understanding is that none of the staffers "ever misrepresented who they were."
    He did, however, suggest that if it did happen, "That kind of conduct would not be condoned."
    "Obviously there was some confusion," Weaver said. "We would not want anyone making a misrepresentation of who they are. To the extent that happened, I am unhappy about that."
    Weaver confirmed that the Sanders staffers were wearing the culinary union button "in solidarity with people but they were also wearing Bernie paraphernalia."
    Emilia Pablo, Sanders's state communications director, told CNN on Thursday that no one from the campaign is misrepresenting who they are in casinos, but that they are wearing Culinary union buttons. What's more, Pablo said she was surprised the union came out so strongly against their campaign.
    "It is surprising because we have been building a positive relationship with them from the moment that we go to the ground," Pablo said. "We have always thought we have had a positive relationship with them and for them to come out so strongly against us and to go to the press first, that surprises me."
    At question is whether members of Sanders' staff did not disclose their campaign affiliation when they were wearing union buttons inside casinos.
    Sean Sabatini, a 57-year-old shop steward at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and member of the Culinary union, told CNN that he has not seen Sanders' staffers misrepresent themselves inside Caesars.
    However, Sabatini, a Sanders supporter, could not vouch for what Sanders staff did at other casinos.
    "Yes, that would offend me if that happened," said the 33-year member of the union. "It didn't happen in my casino."
    With 57,000 members, the group is by far the most powerful and important union in Nevada, and its endorsement is coveted in the state's February caucus.
    All three Democrats running for president have held events with Culinary in an attempt to win support. So far, however, the union has not made an endorsement.
    "The Culinary Union button that hundreds of thousands of union members have proudly worn to work every day represents 80 years of struggle and fighting for justice," Kline added. "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."
    Culinary has long been at the center of the Nevada caucuses. The union endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, a race where Clinton campaign staffers were accused of trying to infiltrate various casinos and resorts in Las Vegas.