Los Angeles Review of Books   ·   Link to Article

The Nevada Turnaround: Immigrant Workers Build Political Power

NEVADA POLITICIANS FEAR the power of Culinary Workers Union Local 226, whose most underappreciated strength comes from first-generation Americans working in the food service and maintenance quarters of the Las Vegas Strip. And the man who helped organize them is D. Taylor, the international president of UNITE HERE, a union whose 300,000 members work in the hospitality industry as well as a variety of other sectors across the United States and Canada. 

A majority of Culinary members are women and people of color, and many are immigrants, coming from over 170 countries and speaking 40 languages. After a bruising strike and membership losses in the 1980s, Taylor helped to rebuild and restructure the Culinary Union as a rank-and-file union whose diverse and growing membership increasingly took the lead in its organizing and political work. Today, immigrant rights are at the center of the union’s political action.

Through its Citizenship Project, the union has helped more than 18,000 Nevadans become US citizens, and Culinary members have registered tens of thousands of voters and knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors to support pro-immigrant, pro-worker politicians and policies. The Culinary Union was the driving force behind Nevada’s march from red to blue, decisively supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016 and making Nevada one of only two states to flip a Senate seat to the Democrats in 2018. Now with serious talk of the Nevada Caucus going ahead of Iowa to become the first presidential test in the nation, Culinary’s clout is only going to grow.

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