Democrat Sherrod Brown brought a pro-worker message Saturday to Las Vegas casino workers who are members of what's considered Nevada's most powerful labor union, declaring that if he decides to run for president, he will be "the most pro-union candidate."
Brown, a U.S. senator from Ohio, said he's going to make a decision about 2020 in the next month. He addressed workers in the union hall of the Culinary Union as he kicked off a trip to the early Western caucus state, which is seen as a key test of a candidate's appeal to diverse demographics.
Brown is the first potential or announced 2020 candidate to hold an event this year with the housekeepers, bartenders and others in the heavily Latino union, though other contenders have had private meetings with union leaders in recent months.
The Culinary Union, which represents about 57,000 workers in casino-hotels in Las Vegas and Reno, helped Nevada Democrats deliver the state for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The union is so far staying neutral on the crowded Democratic primary field, but D. Taylor, the former Culinary Union president and current president of the union's national affiliate Unite Here, declared Brown to be "a great friend of workers" and noted that Brown drives a car and wears a suit made by union workers in Ohio.
The crowd of about 100 people, most wearing red Culinary Union T-shirts, chanted "We Vote, We Win!" before giving Brown a standing ovation as he came out to speak.
Brown, who is testing the waters in early voting states with his "Dignity of Work" tour, said his decision on whether to run is a personal one that he's still making while consulting with family. He said if he runs, he'll "be the most pro-union, pro-worker candidate in the group and I will know how to stand up to this president of the United States, President Trump, who betrays workers every day."
The senator said that if he were elected president, one of his first acts would be to meet with the leaders of the country's biggest banks and biggest high-rise buildings and urge them to pay their custodians, security guards and food service workers $15 an hour.
"We will have a government on the side of workers, not a government on the side of big corporations," Brown said.
Chad Neanover, a Culinary Union member and cook at the Margaritaville casino-restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip, said he isn't leaning toward backing any candidate yet but wants to hear from them all about what they can offer working people, including making sure health care is affordable and accessible for all and that good jobs are available.
"I just want to hear what everyone has to say because when it comes time to go knocking on doors to get people out to vote, I want to believe in the candidate that's chosen," Neanover said. "With what we've shown in the last eight years as a political powerhouse here in Nevada, and Unite Here in the United States, I think it's very important that they show up and let us hear what they have to say."
Brown later met with Nevada Democrats at a brewery in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson and participated in discussion about wages and prescription drug costs with a small group of voters.