(Bloomberg Politics) — Tuesday afternoon, Hillary Clinton will address leaders of Nevada’s labor unions—including the state’s largest, which blasted her as “shameless” during the heated 2008 caucus, but now wants her help repealing the so-called “Cadillac tax,” a creation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
“We don’t look backwards, and I don’t suspect the Clinton camp does either,” says Yvanna Cancela, political director of the 55,000 member Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a Nevada casino and hospitality worker group affiliated with the international union UNITE HERE. (Disclosure: I worked for UNITE HERE in California and Pennsylvania from 2006 to 2011).
In 2008, UNITE HERE was the first national union to back Barack Obama for president, and the Culinary Workers fought hard to help him try and defeat Clinton in Nevada’s Caucus, the first contest to follow Obama’s underdog win in Iowa and Clinton’s comeback victory in New Hampshire.
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Things quickly got hostile. Following UNITE HERE’s endorsement, the Nevada State Education Association and five party activists filed a lawsuit seeking (unsuccessfully) to shut down “at large” caucus sites the state Democratic Party planned to place at casinos so that people working that weekend could participate. The plaintiffs said those sites would violate the Constitution’s promise of equal protection; UNITE HERE and the Obama campaign said eliminating them would disenfranchise workers. Hillary Clinton didn’t weigh in on the lawsuit, but her husband fiercely defended it. Days before the caucus, UNITE HERE blasted her in a radio ad. “Hillary Clinton does not respect our people,” the union charged in Spanish. “Hillary Clinton should not let her friends attack the right of our people to vote on Saturday. It’s unforgivable.”
Asked if that’s how her union views Clinton now, Cancela told Bloomberg, “No, I don’t think anything from 2008 could be applicable to today.” As for that “unforgivable” comment, she says, “I think the caucus brought out a lot of emotion… I don’t think members have forgotten that, but I also think members know that this election is a new page, and they’re ready to learn where Senator Clinton is at today, and feel her out, without holding any grudges about what happened in 2008.”
The “starting point” for that assessment, says Cancela, is where she stands on repealing PPACA’s controversial excise tax, a 40 percent tax on expensive health care plans that’s meant to slow the growth in health care spending while raising revenue. “It’s the most important issue we’re looking at right now, and there’s an opportunity for real action and not carefully-worded promises.”
The Culinary, as the union is known, wants candidates to back a House bill introduced in April by Connecticut Democrat Joe Courtney—with support from the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—which would scrap the tax before it takes effect in 2018.