Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary Workers(?)

It's still not as strongly sourced as it could be, but this morning a couple of the largest establishment media organizations -- The New York Times and ABC News -- seem to have the powerful Culinary Workers Union in Nevada backing Barack Obama in the state's upcoming caucuses. First The Times:

After suffering a setback in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Senate Barack Obama will get some good news at 11 a.m. today, eastern time, when Unite Here, the union representing 460,000 apparel, laundry, hotel and restaurant workers, announces that it is endorsing him, a union official said.

The union will make the announcement simultaneously at its New York headquarters and in Las Vegas, where its local, Culinary Local 226, representing more than 60,000 casino, hotel and restaurant workers, is by far the largest and most politically potent union in Nevada.


With its announcement, Unite Here will become the first national union to back Mr. Obama. Its leaders hope to help put him over the top in the Nevada caucuses on Jan. 19 and give him new momentum.

ABC News:

Despite losing Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, Sen. Barack Obama secured the endorsement of the Culinary Workers union.

The endorsement of the 60,000-member Culinary Workers union is seen as the biggest get in Nevada, a state which votes Jan. 19.


The backing of the 60,000-member union is seen as important because the state's Democratic Party is only expecting 40,000 Democrats to participate in the caucuses.

Not much to add to these stories except that, in the case that they do pan out as expected (and it seems from the writing that the decision has been made, not that it will be made), Nevada would be in play for Barack Obama in a way that I never before thought it would be. Coupled with the SEIU endorsement from the state, the backing of the culinary workers makes Obama more competitive than he previously was; polling has indicated that although Obama is seemingly on an upward trend in Nevada, he still trails (or rather trailed as of December when the last polling on the race was in the field) Clinton by more than 20 points.

This provides Obama with a real opportunity -- but also presents a real risk. Going into a contest in which he was trailing 20 points according to polling sets a pretty low bar, but going into election day with the backing of some of the most powerful unions in the state significantly raises expectations. Obama might not need a win now in Nevada, but with the backing of SEIU and seemingly also of Unite Here/the culinary workers, it would be awfully dampening to his momentum heading into South Carolina the following week were he to get defeated by a hefty margin. At the same time, if these two unions can help propel him to a victory, a win in South Carolina seven days later could be made that much easier (unless South Carolina does to Nevada what New Hampshire did to Iowa in bucking the trend of the previous state).

Update [2008-1-9 12:37:31 by Jonathan Singer]: FWIW, the Obama campaign is trumpeting the endorsement...

Update [2008-1-9 14:27:39 by Jonathan Singer]: The Associated Press has the story now, too, so it looks like this is something that has in fact happened.

Tags: Barack Obama, Culinary Workers, Democratic primaries, Endorsements, Nevada, Nevada Caucuses (all tags)



Re: Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

I had been fretting about this, but I think it comes too late. Union endorsements are good because of what they mean in on the ground organizing, ten days is not enough time to put together an effective organization.

by souvarine 2008-01-09 07:41AM | 0 recs
Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

It's not about ground organizing, the Obama team has been doing that for over six months.  It is about getting their own membership to the caucus for Obama.

by mboehm 2008-01-09 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

The union execs endorsement at this point is not going to change a lot of rank and file minds. It takes time to identify who people support and to persuade them to change their minds. Many of the members will caucus for Edwards, some will caucus for Clinton. Some will give Obama another look.

by souvarine 2008-01-09 07:53AM | 0 recs
another perspective...

dina titus mentioned that many union culinary members were waiting to see who got the endorsement before making up their mind.  the assumption was that they were going to follow their leadership's lead.  how many, i don't know.  but that was her comment...

by bored now 2008-01-09 09:35AM | 0 recs
This is the sound of me farting with my mouth

UNITE-Here and its affiliates as well as SEIU have to overlook Obama's insulting and misguided support for expanding the NAFTA model into South America via the Peru FTA, to which the Change to Win Unions were vehemently opposed.

And SEIU claims that universal health care coverage is its top priority but according to its own analysis Obama's plan falls short.

Unions want the support of pols? Maybe they should support the pols who support them.

by david mizner 2008-01-09 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: This is the sound of me farting with my mouth

On the other hand, if the goal is to support those who support you and stand up to those who oppose you, this endorsement can also be seen through the prism of trying to push back against the Clinton campaign and Mark Penn, in particular. As that Times piece I quote in the post above notes,

Unite Here has been in a dispute with Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign because its pollster and chief strategist, Mark Penn, heads a public relations firm that has represented the Cintas Corporation, a large industrial laundry company that has vigorously battled the union's efforts to organize 17,000 Cintas workers.

Sometimes people and organizations have to make strategic decisions in these things.

by Jonathan Singer 2008-01-09 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: This is the sound of me farting with my mouth

Right, good point. There was no way Clinton was going to get UNITE-here, and it would be nice if its endorsement statement it took a shot at Penn.

But I, of course, was squeezing my pro-Edwards sour grapes.

by david mizner 2008-01-09 08:03AM | 0 recs
the whole point of waiting...

was to check viability against actual votes.  edwards doesn't measure up in that department at this time...

by bored now 2008-01-09 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

I guess its a silver lining for Obama. Even though the polls were wrong, if they HADN'T been wrong, showing him poised for a landslide, it's less likely he would have gotten the endorsement.

by animated 2008-01-09 07:49AM | 0 recs
SEIU Endorsement

Does the SEIU endorsement mean that the Illinois SEIU local can help fund outreach into Nevada? Does the UNITE-HERE endorsement combined with the CWU local mean that the resources of the national union can be brought to bear in the caucuses?

by Obama08 2008-01-09 07:50AM | 0 recs
A lot of hispanic voters are in that union

Will be interesting to see how the rank and file breaks.  El Mundo endorsed Clinton and many have regarded her hispanic outreach as the best among all the campaigns.

by dpANDREWS 2008-01-09 07:52AM | 0 recs
Clinton scores a NV lawmaker

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), who represents the first congressional district, which includes Las Vegas.

by dpANDREWS 2008-01-09 08:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton scores a NV lawmaker

No surprise there:

http://nevadacaucus.blogspot.com/2007/04 /so-much-for-shelley-berkleys-neutrality .html

Unlike New Hampshire, endorsements mean little in Nevada because the political infrastructure in Nevada is immature and the population is highly mobile and largely disengaged.  Top down will not work in Nevada (if it works anywhere).  Of course, it can't hurt in any way.

by mboehm 2008-01-09 08:30AM | 0 recs
A little too late?

I don't see how endorsing someone only week before the election is going to change members minds. Edwards spents years working with members, walking picket lines and the like. Members knew him. Do they know Obama? Unless the union's leaders can square their endorsement with how the members actually feel, it won't guarantee votes, especially when it looks like the union is trying to play king maker. You can't educate members in one week.

The nature of the caucus system, which is dependent on organzing turnout might make the endorsement worth more, but they should have endoresed earlier if they really wanted to give Obama a boost.

There is also the question raised by John Judis about whether Latinos -- who make up most the Culinary Worker's membership -- will go for Obama.

by alexmhogan 2008-01-09 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: second choices

I wonder if Obama will benefit from second-choice votes in NV like he did in IA. These endorsements may be helpful in persuading Edwards supporters to go with Obama. Maybe not, but I wonder if pollsters will begin polling second choices in NV. Although, I'm not suggesting that polls are worth a shit or anything like that.

by DPW 2008-01-09 08:19AM | 0 recs
Yes, he will

Also, Richardson has some support in Nevada because of his actual positions on a few issues (read: guns) and perceived shared "mountain State sensibility."  In those precincts where he is not viable, not too many will be going to Clinton.  

As has been noted many times, reliable polling in Nevada is near impossible because of the extreme unpredictability of who will turn out to caucus.  The demographics of Nevada are somewhat favorable for Clinton but she will need killer GOTV to win.  

by mboehm 2008-01-09 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

Yes, its going to happen; D Taylor was on the radio this morning here saying so. Culinary is for Obama.

What will this mean? First, its going to create the impression that this state is now Obama's to lose. Those polls showing Clinton way ahead have always been meaningless; there's no historical model to use for comparison.

Second, in conjunction with SEIU, its going to give Obama real ground strength in the delegate rich precincts of central, eastern and north Las Vegas as well as a pool of reliable supporters across the valley to fill out his precinct captain program.

Yes, there are certainly members of both unions that have been for Edwards and for Clinton and may stay that way, and yes, the #s are inflated (only about 1/3 of Culinary's membership are registered Dems, and many will be working Saturday morning), but Culinary has been organizing its members for the caucus for quite a while and has a good sense of who is already committed to going.

Culinary much more so than SEIU has great loyalty of its membership and will be able to sway its members to back the union's pick.

What Culinary can do that no one else can is turn out marginal democrats, especially younger Hispanics and older, middle-income whites. These are the core of Clinton's strength but they are very soft in their support.

In my own precinct, where I had a strong feeling that Edwards could win prior to Iowa, I know now that there is a strong reserve of Culinary members who will be contacted multiple times on behalf of Obama and if they are not working will be at the caucus. And they won't be open for picking by Clinton.

I've long said that Culinary would not be the entire story of the caucus but make no mistake about how important this joint endorsement is for Obama. Combined with what I've written about for a while -- the very strong anti-Clinton sentiment among low and mid-level activists with grassroots experience -- there's likely to be a consolidation of support behind Obama now.

by desmoulins 2008-01-09 08:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

Thanks for an informative post.  Question, do you have any thoughts about Obama's ability to attract Hispanic support in general?  

I have heard conflicting theories.  Some have argued that power brokers within the hispanic community will endorse HRC because they see her as the "establishment" and they want to show their influence to the winner. Or that there is a lot of antipathy between hispanics and AAs.

On the other hand, I have spoken about this with several of my hispanic friends and acquaintences (I lived in Peru for a year and speak Spanish reasonably well). They say that many hispanics identify with AAs because they also experience racism and that there is a lot of interest but not a lot of knowledge about Obama in the hispanic community.  Any thoughts?  

by upper left 2008-01-09 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

As a data point, I'd take a look at the most recent SurveyUSA poll from California, which shows Obama leading Clinton 55-39 among blacks, but has Clinton leading Obama 66-20 among hispanics.  I think that's roughly comparable.  I've heard good things about Obama's outreach, though.

by Steve M 2008-01-09 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

It seems reasonable to theorize that most of that lead is based on greater familiarity with Clinton.  

Does anyone know of any focus group work in this area?

by upper left 2008-01-09 09:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Does Secure the Backing of the Culinary

I think Obama won the latino/hispanic vote in IA. The exit polls only include breakdowns for black, white, and other. But, Obama won "other" 49 to 26 (O v. C). Some of that includes asian-americans, among others. But, I would guess that the "other" category is predominantly latino/hispanic.

by DPW 2008-01-09 09:16AM | 0 recs
It's not going to make that much difference.

She has the backing of bunch of unions in NV and I suspect most members of the culinary are hispanic and or middle aged women. All her natural constituency. I also think there is a big misapprehension here about where Edwards votes go. Assuming he's the union favorite, in NH Clinton did very well with the unions. What the Obama fans don't get as some over at RCP is explaining she has put together the classic FDR coalition.

by ottovbvs 2008-01-09 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: It's not going to make that much difference.

As one who has already fallen prey to a bout of hubris, I would caution you about overinterpreting isolated results.

Obama got almost an equal share of union voters in Iowa, even with very limited institutional support.  NH may be an isolated case, the Clinton's have extremely deep roots in NH from 92, and had the support of the vat majority of the state party apparatus.

Don't jump to conclusions about Nevada.  None of the campaigns have very deep roots out here, and the soil is very different.  The outcome may also be very different.

Also, the FDR coalition included overwhelming support from minorities.  That vote is very much up for grabs.  If Obama can put together a coalition of ideological liberals, the young, and minorities, this could be a very interesting fight.

by upper left 2008-01-09 09:27AM | 0 recs

Also...45% of the culinary are immigrants...many many of those being illegals, hence, not able to vote.

by werd2406 2008-01-09 01:14PM | 0 recs

Also...45% of the culinary are immigrants...many many of those being illegals, hence, not able to vote.

by werd2406 2008-01-09 01:21PM | 0 recs


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