The Bernie Sanders campaign is in the doghouse with the most powerful union of a key battleground state.
Leaders of the deeply influential Culinary Union in Nevada on Thursday accused Sanders staffers of posing as union employees in order to gain access to worker dining rooms in hotels along the Las Vegas strip.
"We are disappointed and offended. It's completely inappropriate for any campaign to attempt to mislead Culinary Union members, especially at their place of work," union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline said in a statement. "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 Local 226 support is seen as crucial. The union churns a massive political machine to mobilize their 57,000 members each election year. More than half of those members, in a collective of housekeepers, bartenders and cooks, are Hispanic, a major voting bloc in a state where the Latino vote can determine who wins the nomination.
But in one of few instances thus far in the campaign season in which silence makes a great deal of noise, union leaders pointedly decided this month not to endorse a presidential candidate ahead of the caucus. The union's lack of formal involvement leaves the campaigns scrambling to pick up union members individually and turn them out to caucus.
Thursday's dust-up is bound to cause headaches for the Sanders campaign as it approaches what will already be an uphill battle at the Nevada caucus next month. The union endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, which angered the Clintons so much that the former president reportedly called up a casino boss to complain. Hillary Clinton went on to carry the vote in Nevada as well as key precincts where the union is based. That the union did not alreadly move to formally back Clinton comes as a subtle snub in her efforts to engage Nevada Latinos. Now it's every candidate for themselves.
"The Culinary Union has not made an endorsement and is focused on a major citizenship and voter registration campaign while preparing for upcoming contract negotiations," Arguello-Kline's statement continued.
The Sanders campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.