LAS VEGAS – They all remember that moment, one day in September 1991, just after dawn when they left the Frontier Hotel and Casino. The song had music and songs. “Solidarity forever”. The atmosphere on that first day was more like a holiday than a work protest. But the strike would last six years, four months and 10 days, one of the longest working disputes in American history.
There were fights along the picket line, and tourists were throwing water and food at the strikers who were more than ready to back down. There are dozens of arrests. So long has passed that 107 babies were born picket and 17 people died in the strike.
They fought for salaries, job security, pensions and health. In many ways, these are the same key issues in the presidential campaign that comes to Nevada on Saturday, where health care has been a top priority in the competition. Bernie Sanders forcibly pushing for a Medicare for All program that would effectively abolish private health insurance. And talking about health in Las Vegas means talking about the Union of Cooks Workers, the largest and most powerful union in the state.
About 60,000 members of Union Local 226 rarely pay out of pocket for regular medical care. They can be operated on for months after receiving an unexpected unexpected bill. They can visit the same medical facility for emergency, vision, dental and pharmacy care. The clinic was a regular stop for many of the 2020 contenders.
So, in order to understand why the leadership of the Cook Union so much fights against all of Medicare’s recommendations, it goes back to the 1990s.
The Frontier, one of the first casinos now known as the Strip, was recently sold to new owners. The western themed casino was popular for making zero baked goods and food.
Gloria Hernandez knew it best for something else. Working there meant that she could become a member of the Kitchen Union, giving her medical benefits that were far better than her husband’s doing.
“You knew right away that when you started working there, you would get health insurance because this was a one-stop-shop,” Mrs Hernandez said. He knew what it was like to be a member of a union in Mexico, where he was part of a government workers’ union.
Today, frontier strikers have an almost fabulous presence inside the Cook Union for people who know how to fight effectively. Mrs Hernandez is now the organizer of the union. But as he enthusiastically slips to the side of maintaining their current health insurance plan, some of his alternative teams have come to the opposite conclusion.
59-year-old Terry Lemley has no other two Sanders lawn signs in front of his house. During the strike, Mrs Lemley’s case was on the line, helping to make sure there were enough people to keep it running around the clock. Any border worker who was on the picket line for 30 hours a week had a $ 200 strike. It wasn’t enough for the ends to be satisfied, so most people found a second job.
“I would do it again with a heartbeat,” said Mrs. Lemley, sitting at her kitchen table late this week. “But what we were fighting for, everyone should have. I don’t know why I wouldn’t want to give it to everyone. “
After the strike ended in 1998, Ms. Lemley returned to her job as a cocktail waitress, a position she held until the hotel closed a decade later. He said he only had health insurance through Obamacare for a short time, but has not been covered for the last several years.
“I have seen both. I know what to do, “he said. “Why would anyone in the union want it for anyone?”
Sonya Washington, 58, has been walking alongside Mrs. Lemley for years, first bringing her children to the picket line. However, after being arrested on the line, Mrs. Washington said she decided to leave the children at home. Those children, who are now adults, spent their childhood under the health care provided by the Cook Health Insurance Program, Ms. Washington said. And Mrs. Washington is treasuring her care.
“That’s scary, but why am I stopping there?” she said, sitting in Mrs. Lemley’s kitchen. “The union taught me how to fight. So I want to be there, fighting for everyone. “
As the organizer of the Strippy Union, Eldia Muniz also believes that her actions are more than her own. “We’re still there, and when we’re fighting, we’re not fighting for ourselves alone,” Ms Muniz said in an interview last week at the headquarters of the Culinary Union.
But Ms Munis is saddened to see health insurance just like Ms Lemley and Ms Washington. When Mr. Sanders came to speak with the union late last year, Ms. Muniz stood up and asked how she would protect their insurance. Mr. Sanders responded by suggesting that members would have more money to pay for their salaries if they did not negotiate with employers in the health sector. Mrs. Munis was not impressed.
“We love to preserve what we have, what is real, what is true,” he said. “Not what we do not know what it will be, it is a wish.”
Ms Munis and Ms Hernandez raise children in picket line. Mrs Hernandez’s younger son was born a few days after the strike began. As children grew older, they would often visit the picket line to learn the songs of the congregation and cross the street to ride an elevator for entertainment.
“It was 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what the weather,” Mrs. Hernandez recalled. “We must be there.”
The tickets they gave to their owners were signed, sold or closed, recalls Mrs. Hernandez.
“We wanted to have respect,” he said. “We knew we could have strength together. We want to understand that. ”
Although she feels happy about staying healthy, Mrs Hernandez looked at other members of her family struggling with their health needs. Her mother had Medicaid, and Mrs. Hernández watched in alarm as she struggled to find doctors and visit specialists.
“I don’t want that, no,” he said. “I want to have a choice. It looks like someone is giving you a car choice. You want Lexus, or you want something less. Of course, you want something better. That’s a big difference. You are betting that I will do my best to keep it because it is a big difference. “
Mrs Lemley has her passions linked to Sanders’ campaign directly with her time on the picket line. According to him, it was the union that taught him how to fight for others collectively. Having dropped the ballot early, Mrs Lemlin was planning to enjoy this weekend as a kind of honeymoon. On Friday, he married the man they met decades ago at the picket line.
Keith Bennett contributed to the research.