Culinary Workers Union Local 226
Las Vegas, Nevada 

12:42 P.M. PST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  (Applause.)  Have a seat.  Have a seat.  Please have a seat.

Elena, I’m telling you, you just — you are just nothing but power.  You are just full-on power.  I mean, just so powerful.  And thank you. 

Well, it’s good to be in the house of labor.  (Applause.)  It’s good to be in the house of labor.  And it’s good to be back with the Culinary Workers.

Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you for your leadership.  (Applause.)  Thank you for your fight.  Thank you for your strength.  Thank you for all you do on behalf of the working people not only of Nevada but, by modeling what you do, working people all over our country.

It is my great honor to be back here with the Culinary Workers to — to rejoice with you in the accomplishments that you have achieved most recently but standing in a long line of accomplishments that have always taken place coming out of this very building on behalf of the working people of America.

I want to recognize my husband, who is here, the Second Gentleman of the United States.  (Applause.)  Also known as Doug.  (Laughs.)  We were here together on October 12th when we were last here. 

We also have Acting Secretary Julie Su.  Thank you for your leadership.  (Applause.)  She is always fighting.  Always fighting.  And I know her work from back when — when you were doing that work in California. 

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto — (applause) — a longstanding friend.  The senator and I served together as attorneys general of Nevada and California back in the day and then in the Senate together.  And you are always, always — Catherine — fighting for working people.  So, it’s good to be with you today.

Senator Jacky Rosen — (applause) — who I was honored to serve with in the United States Senate.  I will tell you, I see her when the cameras are on, when the cameras are off, and she is the same person — always talking about how we should care about and thinking about the working people of America and follow through. 

You know, Jacky is somebody who comes off as being very nice — and she is — but she is cutthroat too.  (Laughter.)  She is — she will not tolerate anything less than a fight when it is for the right reasons and for the right folks who are doing good work.  So, Jacky, it’s good to be with you today.  (Applause.)

Chairman Horsford, Congressman Hor- — Congressman Horsford; Representative Titus; and Representative Lee, I thank you all for what you do.  (Applause.) 

And then, of course, General Ford, thank you for always what you do on behalf of working people.  (Applause.)  Because the power of law can be very persuasive when necessary to talk about what is right and what is consistent with the values that we hold dear, as enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.  Thank you for your work.

And — and today, I think we should also acknowledge it was 41 years ago today that Senator Harry Reid was sworn in for his first term in the United States Congress.  (Applause.)  And knowing Harry, as we all did, personally, I think he’d be really proud — and he’s looking down in this room at this moment — to know that the fight continues. 

We always talk about that — right? — the fight will continue.  And the fight must continue.  Sí se puede.

So — so, there we are. 

So, let me start by saying this, and I say this as Vice President of the United States: I do strongly believe that the strength of our nation depends on the strength of working people.  The strength of working people is the backbone of the strength of our nation. 

Working people and, in particular, union members are the reason that anyone, whether you are a member of a union or not, get a weekend, get paid leave, get family leave, if you get it. 

It is union members and the working people who are members of organized labor who have always fought and continue to fight for the rights, for the dignity of working people and the dignity of work itself.

You know, my mother would always say to me, “I don’t” — she would say, “What is this business about unskilled, low-skill labor?  All labor, all work requires a skill.”  And with that and understanding that, then, one should understand the dignity that rightly comes with working hard and being productive and the need to then value that by way of wages and benefits, pensions, workplace safety — all of the things that this union has fought for traditionally and most recently has had a historic win on.

It is the work of understanding that, especially in these moments in time where, you know, a lot of people are feeling really alone, and when you feel alone, you feel powerless.

Well, that’s part of the essence of the strength of unions is to remind workers that you are not alone, that you come with people, that people have your back.

When we talk about collective bargaining, you know, for those who are trying to break unions around the country, understand this: If you just approach policy and your thoughts from the perspective of what is fair — okay? — so, we’re talking about all negotiations, then — don’t we all agree? — should have a fair outcome. 

All negotiations should have a fair outcome.  Let’s just use that as a baseline standard.  Who could disagree with that if they’re a reasonable person?  (Laughter.)  Okay?  Fair outcome.

So, is it going to be a fair outcome if one worker has to negotiate with a corporation for fair wages, for benefits, for safe working conditions?  Is that outcome of that negotiation going to be fair?  Probably not.  But organized labor, collective bargaining is about saying, “We’re not going to leave that one worker out there by himself/herself.  We’re going to organize around the collective to use the power of the collective to have an equal voice in a negotiation.  Because we know, then, yes, there will be a negotiation — some give-and-take on both sides — but the outcome will be fair.   

That’s the point of organized labor.  That’s the point of collective bargaining.  It’s about fairness.  It’s a fundamental value that we as a nation say we hold sacred.  (Applause.) 

With foundational principles: fairness, equality, giving people the freedom to live their best lives.  That’s what this is all about.  It’s basic, fundamental, foundational to who we say and believe we are as a country. 

So, when I look at the hard work and the sacrifices — the day of action, when I was last here, October 12th, and the members here were prepared to do some really hard work, in addition to the work you do every day, but to strike, which meant to be concerned in a very deep way about how you’re going to be able to pay rent; put food on the table; how long it might take, at what personal sacrifice, at what sacrifice for your children and your family and those who you take care of in your personal life.  And you were prepared to do it on behalf of all working people.

When I look at the accomplishments that came out of that day of action and the weeks that followed it — and we look — and the Acting Secretary talked about it: a 32 percent pay raise over five years.  That’s historic.  That’s historic.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, so many of you were on the frontlines forever and during the pandemic.  It is long overdue you got a pay raise — long overdue.  (Applause.)

I think about it in terms of the historic accomplishment through those negotiations, through your — your preparedness to strike that happened in terms of workplace safety. 

We’ve talked about this.  I’ve met over the years with members, here in this very hall, and had the conversations — most recently on October 12th — how you work long hours.  You work — often so many work by yourself at night.  You’re going into those rooms — what that means in terms of an exposure to harassment and abuse or just somebody just acting like a — (laughter).  You know how to fill in that blank.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s right.


And having to put up with that, because you’re working hard and you take your job seriously.

And so, what you have accomplished in these negotiations — to have the safety buttons now in place.  And I was saying to — to some of the leaders who are here: I think that it’s not only going to be about what you’ve done for your own members.  You guys are setting a new standard for workers across the board.  You’re setting a new standard.  (Applause.)

Because, you know, too often in these negotiations, if you are — as an individual, on an individual basis — trying to get what is just right and fair, somebody might be looking at you to say, “That’s not possible.  That’s not reasonable.  You don’t need that.” 

But by accomplishing what you have accomplished here, at Culinary 226, you are setting a new standard for workers everywhere of what they now know, because they know the story of what happened here — what they now know is possible, is reasonable, is right, and is achievable. 

So, I came back to say thank you — to say thank you, because the work that you have done is, yes, about the members of this storied union, but you in the larger movement for workers in America are setting new standards.  You are setting new standards.  (Applause.) 

And it is making a difference.  And it is making a difference in the lives of people who you may never meet, people who may never know your name.  But because of what you have done, they will benefit.

And I’ll close with another point.  You know, what has really kept me up at night, frankly, for the last few years is this weird kind of approach that some people are pushing about what is the measure of the strength of a leader.  And they’re pushing this stuff that suggests that the measure of the strength of a leader is based on who you beat down instead of what we know, which is that the stu- — true measure of the strength of a leader is based on who you lift up.  (Applause.)  Who you lift up.  That is the measure of the strength of a leader.  Who do you lift up?

There are people that would suggest that the character of leadership is to have no interest in the lives of other people, when we know the true character — character of a leader is to have some level of curiosity, concern, and care about the suffering of other people and then to do something about it.  (Applause.)

That’s who you are.  That’s who you are.  And so, I say thank you, Culinary 226.  Thank you and congratulations.

When we fight, we win!  (Applause.)

                        END                12:56 P.M. PST          

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